« PreviousContinue »
versities, and in the Faculties of Divinity and of Canon Law; and forbids the writing or teaching of the contrary to all and every one, whether secular or regular. It was also ordained, that the articles should be subscribed by all professors of the ecclesiastical sciences; that no bachelor should receive a doctor's degree, who had not in one of his theses maintained the doctrine inculcated in the declaration; and that the bishops should cause it to be taught throughout all their dioceses.
The above-mentioned letter to Innocent was written only ten years after the date of this Edict: but the conscience of Louis was then directed by a set of men who were totally devoted to the See of Rome, and supporters' of papal infalli bility!
We scarcely think that the French clergy of the present day will thank this writer, for his unseasonable assault on those liberties which their ancestors so ably defended against the encroachments of ambitious pontiffs, who wished to enslave the Christian world, and aspired at universal dominion.-The author assures us that he is neither a Protestant nor a Jansenist ; and to this declaration we give full credit.
ART. V. Exposition du Système du Monde, &c. i. e. An Illustration
The design of the author, who, to acute penetration and the most profound knowlege of analysis, joins no inconsiderable share of eloquence, may be understood from his introduction:
There is a wide interval (he observes) between the first view of the heavens, and the comprehensive view of modern times which embraces both the past and future states of the system of the world. To arrive at a prospect so comprehensive, it has been necessary to observe the heavenly bodies during a great number of ages; to distinguish, in their appearances, the real motions of the earth; to ecend to the laws of planetary motions, and from these laws to the principle of universal gravitation; and finally to descend from this principle to the full explanation of the heavenly phenomena, even in their minutest details. This bas human genius effected in astronomy. The explanation of the discoveries, and of the most simple manner by which
M in 2
which they were produced, the one from the other, will have the twofold advantage of presenting a grand totality of important truths, and the true method to be pursued in the investigation of the laws of nature: this is the object which I propose to myself in the present undertaking.'
The work is divided into chapters. The 1st discusses the diurnal motions of the heavens; in which the phenomena that ordinarily present themselves are noted and explained. This chapter merits the highest praise for the ease of its style, for its perspicuity, and for its arrangement. Chapter II. treats on the Sun, and his proper motion, and is equally meritorious. Chapter III. on Time, and its measure. Here the author treats of the new division; and, speaking of the necessity of fixing a proper æra, he says
It is desirable that all people should adopt one and the same zra, independant of moral revolutions, and founded solely on astronomical phænomena. The origin of this ara might be fixed in the year is which the apogee of the solar o bit coincided with the solar solstice, which ascends as high as the year 1250. This origin might be taken in the instant of the mean vernal equinox, which in this year an
swers to the 5th of March, 5. 3676, at Paris. The universal meridian, where the origin of the terrestial longitudes might be fixed, would be that of the place which reckoned midnight at the same int stant, and which is to the east of Paris 135°. 2965. If, after a long series of years, the origin of the æra became uncertain, it would be difficult to find it by the sole movement of the apogee, on account of the slowness and the inequalities of this movement: but all uncettainty respecting this origin, and the position of the universal meridian, will be removed when it is remembered that, at the moment of the mean equinos, the mean longitude of the moon was 143 7714 Thus what is arbitrary in the origin of time, and in that of the ter restial longitudes, might be made to disappear. In adopting afterward the intercalation, and the preceding division of the year, and that of the month and day, the calendar would be formed in the most natural and most simple manner that can be devised, for inhabitants on this side of the equator.'
Chap. IV. On the Moon's mean motion; her phases and eclipses.
Chap. V. Of the planets; particularly Mercury and Venus. Chap. VI. Of Mars. VII. Of Jupiter and his satellites. VIII. Of Saturn, his satellites and ring. IX. Of Uranus and his satellites. X. Of Comets. XI. Of Stars, and their motions. XII. Of the figure of the Earth, and the variation of gravity at its surface. In this chapter, the new system of weights and measures is explained with great perspicuity, and 'justified; and we only omit to give an extract of the author's clear and forcible reasoning, because we recollect that the system
system has already been presented to the public in Mr. Nichol-
Now, shall we suppose the sun to be accompanied by planets and satellites in motion round the earth; or shall we make the earth move, as the planets, round the sun? The appearances of the heavenly motions are the same in the two hypotheses: but the second ought to be preferred, for the following considerations.
The masses of the sun, and of several of the planets, being considerably greater than the mass of the earth; it is much more simple to make the latter revolve about the sun, than to put in motion round ft the whole solar system. What complication in the heavenly motions does the immobility of the earth induce? How rapid must be the motion which we must then attribute to Jupiter, to Saturn almost ten times more distant from the sun, to the planet Uranus still more distant; when they are made to move, each year, about us, and at the same time about the sun? This complication, and this rapi, dity of motion, disappear by the motion of the earth's translation; a motion conformable to the general law, according to which the small heavenly bodies revolve round the large bodies to which they are near, The analogy of the earth to the planets confirms this motion. As to Jupiter, it revolves round itself, and is accompanied by a satellite. An observer, at the surface of Jupiter, would deem the solar system in motion round him; and the greatness of this planet would render this illusion less improbable than in the case of the earth. Is it not natural to think that the motion of this system, about us, is probably only an appearance? Let us in imagination transport ourselves to the surface of the sun, and thence contemplate the earth and the planets. All these bodies will to us appear moving from west to cast; and this identity of direction indicates the motion of the earth: but what proves it evidently, is the law which exists between the times of the planets' revolutions and their distances from the sun. They revolve round him so much the more slowly, as they are more removed and regulated by this law, that the squares of the times of their revolutions are as the cubes of their mean distances, According to this remarkable law, the duration of the earth's revolution, when it is supposed to move round the sun, ought to be precisely that of the sidereal year. Is not this an incontestable proof that the earth revolves like all the planets, and is subjected to the same laws?
In other respects, would it not be strange to suppose the ter restial globe scarcely sensible to sight from the sun, fixed in the Mm 3
midst of planets moving round this star, which itself would revolve with them about the earth? Ought not the force, which, in order to retain the planets in their respective orbits round the sun, balances their centrifugal force,-ought it not to act equally on the earth, and the earth to oppose to this action the same centrifugal force? Thus the consideration of the heavenly motions observed from the sun leaves no doubt of the earth's real motion :-but the observer, placed on it, has an additional sensible proof of this motion, in the phænomenon of the aberration of light, which is a necessary consequence of it.We now proceed to develope this phænomenon.'
The author then gives the history of the discovery of the propagation of light, and of the aberration of the fixed stars; after which, he thus continues his argument for the truth of the Copernican system:
The consideration of the celestial motions conducts us then to displace the earth from the centre of the world, where we suppose it to be, misled by appearances, and by the propensity which man has to consider himself as the principal object in Nature. The globe which he inhabits is a planet moving round an axis of its own, and round the sun. In viewing it under this aspect, all the phænomena are explained in the most simple manner; the laws of the heavenly motions are uniform; and all analogies are observed. Like Jupiter, Saturn, and Uranus, the earth is attended with a satellite; it revolves round itself, as do Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and probably the other planets; it borrows, as they do, its light from the sun, and revolves round the sun, observing the same direction and laws. In fine, the idea of the motion of the earth unites in its favour, simplicity, analogy, and generally all that characterises the true system of Nature. In following it in its consequences, we shall see the celestial phænomena referred, even in their minutest details, to one law alone, of which they become the necessary developements. Thus will the earth's motion acquire all the certainty of which physical truths are susceptible; and which results, whether we consider the great number and variety of the phænomena explained, or the simplicity of the laws from which they are made to depend. No branch of natural knowlege unites in a higher degree these advantages, which the system of the world, grounded on the earth's motion, possesses. This motion enlarges the universe in our eyes; to measure the distances of the heavenly bodies, it affords us an immense base, the diameter of the earth's orbit. By its means, the dimensions of the planetary orbit have been exactly determined. Thus, the earth's motion, which by the illusions. to which it gave rise, during a long period, retarded the knowlege of the real motions of the planets, has at lenge made them known to us, with greater precision than if we had been placed in the focus of these motions. Nevertheless, the annual parallax of the stars, or the angle under which the diameter of the earth's orbit would be seen from their centre, is insensible, and does not amount to six seconds, even in those stars which by their superior bright ss appear most near to us: these stars are then at the least a hundred thousand times more distant than the sun. So
prodigious a distance, joined to their brightness, is a sufficient proof that they do not, like the planets and the satellites, derive their light from the sun, but that they shine with their own light, and are as so many suns scattered in the immensity of space, which may be the foci of planetary systems. In fact, it is sufficient to place ourselves on the nearest of these stars, in order to see the sun only as a luminous star, whose diameter is less than the thirtieth part of a second.
It results from the immense distance of the stars, that their mo tions in right ascension and declination are only appearances produced by the motion of the earth's axis of rotation :-but some stars appear to have real and proper motions; and it is probable that they are all in motion, as the sun is; which carries along with him, through space, the entire system of planets, comets, and satellites; in the same manner in which each planet draws his satellites along with him in his motion round the sun.'
Chap. IV. Of the appearances which belong to the motion of the Earth. V. Of the figure of the orbits of the Planets, and the laws of their motion about the Sun. VI. Of the figure of the orbits of the Comets, and the laws of their motion about the Sun. VII. Of the laws of the motions of Satellites about their Planets.
In the Third Book, we have the author's comment on the laws of motion; and here again we think it proper to give an extract but it will be short:
From amid the infinite variety of phænomena, which follow one another on the earth in continual succession, philosophers have at length discovered the small number of general laws which matter obeys in its motions. To these laws, every thing in Nature is submissive; from them, every thing is derived, as necessarily as the return of seasons; and the curve described by the lightest atom, which the winds seem to carry at the caprice of chance, is regulated as certainly as the planetary orbits. It should seem that the importance of these laws, on which we perpetually depend, ought to have excited curiosity in every period of time: but that indifference, which is too common to the human mind, kept them concealed until the commencement of the last century; an epoch in which Galileo laid the foundations of the science of motion, by his discoveries concerning the fall of bodies. Geometricians, in following the route of this great man, have at length reduced all mechanics to certain general formulas, so exact and comprehensive, that nothing is wanting to them except the perfection of analysis.'
We have next a chapter on Forces, and their composition. 'This is followed by another on the motion of a material point; a chapter pregnant with just observations and luminous reasoning. We come then to remarks on the equilibrium of a system of bodies; and a chapter on the Equilibrium of Fluids. Here the author, speaking of the Forces vives, and the principle of the least action, is led to offer the following remarks on the doctrine of final causes :
M m 4