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For NOVEMBER, 1788.

ART. I. Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; to the
End of the Year 1783. Vol. I. 4to. il. Is. Boards. Printed at
Bofton, 1785; and fold by Dilly in London.

HE utility of Literary and Scientific Societies is fufficiently


the great improvement of the arts, fince the period of their eftablishment. The advantages accruing from them, to those states in which they have been founded, have excited other nations to follow the laudable example. The prefent volume is a proof, that even a country haraffed with war is anxious to diftinguish itself as the protectress of fcience and promotrefs of literature; for in the midst of its contefts every part of philofophy feems to have been cultivated. The commonwealth of the States of New England was no fooner fettled, than it established, by an act of the legislature, A Society for the Cultivation and Promotion of Arts and Sciences. The end and defign of this inftitution are fully declared in the act for its incorporation, viz.


To promote and encourage the knowledge of the antiquities of America, and of the natural history of the country: to determine the uses to which the various natural productions of the country may be applied: to promote and encourage medical difcoveries, mathematical difquifitions, philofophical enquiries and experiments; aftronomical, meteorological, and geographical obfervations; and improvements in agriculture, arts, manufactures, and commerce: and, in fine, to cultivate every art and fcience which may tend to advance the intereft, honour, dignity, and happiness, of a free, independent, and virtuous people.'

Here is an extenfive field, which the fons of literature in America are called on to cultivate and improve: its foil is rich, its qualities are various; and it will doubtlefs be productive of the moft valuable fruits. Induftry will here find abundant employment; and genius, in its utmoft expanfion, has ample room for exercifing all its faculties. How far the one has been exercised, or the other employed, may appear from the following account of the volume.




The papers are claffed under three diftinct heads; viz. ft, Aftronomical and Mathematical; 20, Phyfical; and 3d, Medical papers. A preliminary difcourfe on the nature of the Inftitution, delivered by James Bowdoin, Efq. when he was inducted into the office of Prefident of the Society, is prefixed; in which he fhews the general good that may refult to the ftate by a proper cultivation of various kinds of knowlege, speculative or practical.


A Method of finding the Altitude and Longitude of the Nonagefimat Degree of the Ecliptic. With an Appendix, containing Calculations from correfponding Obfervations, for determining the Dif ference of Meridians between Harvard Hall, in the University of Cambridge, in the Commonwealth of Maffachujets, and the Royal Obfervatories at Greenwich and Paris. By the Rev. Joseph Willard.

No part of this memoir furnishes any thing which we can, with propriety, extract for the use of our Readers. The Appendix is a moft laborious work, and fully evinces that the American aftronomer is induftrious in his obfervations, and ingenious in applying them to useful purpofes. The longitude of Cambridge in Maffachufets is, from thefe obfervations, determined to be 4h 44′ 31" weft of Greenwich.

On the Latitude of the University of Cambridge. By Samuel Williams, F. A. A. Profeffor of Mathematics and Nat. Phil.

The refult of feveral folar and fidereal obfervations gives the latitude of the Obfervatory 42° 23′ 28′′.46. To this paper is added a fhort table of the variation of the compaís, as obferved at Cambridge, from 1708 to 1783 inclufive.

A Table of the Equations of equal Altitudes for the Latitude of Cambridge. By the Rev. Jofeph Willard.

Contains the equation for correcting the time of noon deduced from two oblervations of the fun's equal altitude; the error to be corrected arifes from the fun's motion during the interval between the observations. Mr. Willard computes the equation which arifes from the difference of the fun's declination only, not regarding the difference of its right afcenfion, at the two times of obfervation.

The eleven following memoirs contain various aftronomical obfervations of folar and lunar ecliptes,-tranfits, &c. in different parts of America.

On the Extraction of Roots. By Benjamin Weft, Esq. This does not vary from De Lagney's well-known method of approximating the required root.

* Fellow of the American Academy.

A new

A new and concife Method of computing Intereft at 6 per Cent. per ann. By Philomath.

Several Ways of determining what Sum is to be infured on an Adventure, that the whole Intereft may be covered. By Mercator. These two memoirs are ufeful. The contrivances are fuch as naturally muft fuggeft themfelves to any perfon converfant with arithmetical operations.


Obfervations upon an Hypothefis for folving the Phænomena of Light: with incidental Obfervations tending to fhew the Heterogeneou/nefs of Light, and of the Electric Fluid, by their Intermixture, or Union, with each other. By James Bowdoin, Efq. Prefident of the Academy.

Obfervations on Light, and the Wafle of Matter in the Sun and
Fixed Stars, occafioned by the conflant Efflux of Light from them,
&c. By the fame.
Obfervations tending to prove by Phænomena, and Scripture, the
Exiflence of an Orb which furrounds the whole vifible material
Syftem. By the fame.

These three memoirs are intimately connected with each other. They are the confequence of fome objections to the Newtonian doctrine of light, which Dr. Franklin offered in his Letters on Philofophical Subjects. Dr. F.'s objections were merely conjectural, and his propofing them in the form of queries is a fufficient proof that they could not then be fupported by the evidence of experiment or phenomena; nor does he attempt to demonftrate the truth of his doctrine.

He fuppofes univerfal fpace to be filled with a fubtle elaftic fluid, which when at reft, is not vifible, but whofe vibrations affect that fine fenfe in the eye, as thofe of the air do the groffer organs of the ear: in the cafe of found, we do not fuppole that any fonorous particles are thrown off, from a bell for inftance, and fly in ftraight lines to the ear; why then must we believe that luminous particles leave the fun, and proceed to the eye?

Such is the fummary of Dr. Franklin's hypothefis, which Mr. Bowdoin refutes with ability, and in a moft fatisfactory manner. In the courfe of his argument, he confiders the light of the electrical spark, and compares it with that of common fire, fhewing in what refpects thefe two lights differ from, and agree with, each other: hence he concludes the heterogeneoufnefs of light and electricity, and their mixture with each other.

The fecond memoir is a refutation of another objection to the Newtonian doctrine of light; viz. that the fun muft wafte, by the discharge of the immenfe quantity of light which it is continually throwing off with a swiftnefs fo very great as that which Newton attributes to its particles. This objection has been freCc 2


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quently made, and frequently removed, by feveral able philofo phers. Among the chief defenders of the theory, the prefent Bishop of St. David's claims a diftinguished rank. He gave an elaborate refutation of this objection in the Philof. Tranfact. vol. lx. Mr. Bowdoin follows nearly the fame track with the learned Prelate; but he proceeds much farther, and has advanced fomewhat too far into the regions of conjecture and fancy. In order to prevent the decay of the fun, and the confequent ruin of the folar fyftem, Mr. Bowdoin fuggefts his hypothefis in the following queries:

Is it not conceivable, that round the folar fyftem, and the feveral fyftems which compofe the visible heavens, there might have been formed a hollow fphere, or orb, made of matter fui generis, or of matter like that of the planets, and furrounding the whole, having its inner or concave furface at a proper diftance therefrom; beyond which furface light could not pafs, and between which and the particles of light there fhould be a mutual repulfion? And, might not the fun, or fource of light, of each fyftem, have been so placed, in respect of each other, and the concave furface of the furrounding orb, that there fhould be, by direct and repeatedly indirect reflections, an interchange of rays between them, in fuch a manner as that to each there fhould be restored the quantity it had emitted: and thereby the wafte of its matter be prevented and this, at the fame time it difpenfed its light to its particular fyftem ?'

The third memoir fhews the evidence of the above fuppofition from phenomena and Scripture. The phenomena are, the Milky-way,-luminous appearances in the heavens, and the blue expanfe. The texts from Scripture are, Amos, ix. 6. Gen. i. 14, 17. Pf. xix. 1. Job, xxxvii. 18. Jer. li. 15. Deut, x. 14. Neh. ix. 6. Pf. cxlviii. 3, 4.

An Account of a very uncommon Darkness in New England, May 19, 1780. By Samuel Williams, A. M. Profeffor of Mathematics and Philofophy in Cambridge.

The phenomenon was briefly as follows: The wind was S. W. The darkness came on with the clouds, from that quarter, between 10 and 11 in the morning, and continued to the middle of the next night. It was different in different places; in most parts of the country it was fo great, that people were unable to read common print-to determine the time of day by their clocks and watches-to dine-or to manage their domeftic bufinefs without candles. The darkness was extended all over the States of New England. The birds difappeared,-the fowls retired to rooft-the cocks were crowing as at day-breakobjects could not be diftinguished at a diftance-and every thing bore the appearance and gloom of night.

After giving a general defcription of this phenomenon, the Profeffor adds a detail of the heights of the barometer and ther

*See Monthly Review, vol. xlvi. p. 430.


mometer, the direction and force of the wind, and other meteorological circumftances of which he had either obtained information from philofophers in different places, or which he had himself obferved at Cambridge.

The caufe of the darkness is attributed to the prodigious fires made in the woods for the purpose of clearing the lands in the new fettlements. This may probably have been the cause, yet many of the appearances are not fatisfactorily explained. It is on the whole a very curious paper.

An Account of the Effects of Lightning on two Houses in Philadelphia. By the Hon. Arthur Lee, Efq.

An Account of the Effects of Lightning on a large Rock at Gloucefter. By the Rev. Eli Forbes.

These two memoirs are merely hiftorical, and contain nothing


An Account of a very curious Appearance of the Electrical Fluid, produced by raising an Electrical Kite during the Time of a Thunder Shower. By Loammi Baldwin, Efq.

The appearance here defcribed was a fiery atmosphere, which furrounded Mr. Baldwin as he held the ftring of the kite in his hand he hath not given any reasons for the phenomenon, confining himself for the prefent to a mere recital of the cafe, and leaving the learned to make their own conclufions from it. Obfervations and Conjectures on the Earthquakes of New England. By Profeffor Williams.

The learned Profeffor firft gives an ample hiftorical account of all the earthquakes that have been felt in New England, from the first arrival of the English there, on November 11th, 1628, to the prefent time. He then takes a fummary view of the agreement and difagreement of the phenomena that have attended the earthquakes, and thence draws conclufions concerning their causes.

It appears that all the earthquakes have been produced by fomething which has moved along under the furface of the earth-they have all been of the fame kind, confifting, not of a fimple inftantaneous vibration, like that of an electrical fhock, but of a gradual heaving or undulation of the earth, which has moved flowly along. Mr. Williams fuppofes the effect to have been produced by a strong elaftic vapour. This hypothefis is confirmed by the due confideration of all the concomitant circumftances. Such as the noife and roaring-the eruptions and effufions-the changes made in the fprings and ftrata near the surface of the earth. The origin and production of this elaftic vapour is alfo accounted for; and the memoir, which is a very valuable production, concludes with fome excellent reflections on the present ftate of our globe, which bears fo many marks of having underCc 3


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