« PreviousContinue »
For NOVEMBER, 1788.
Art. I. Memoirs of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; to the
End of the Year 1783. Vol. I. 410. il. is. Boards. Printed at
apparent from the rapid advancement of philosophy, and 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 present volume is a proof, that even a country harafled with war is anxious to distinguish itself as the protectress of science and promotress of literature; for in the midst of its contests every part of philosophy seems to have been cultivated. The commonwealih of the States of New England was no rooner settled, 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 discoveries, mathematical disquifitions, philosophical enquiries and experiments ; astronomical, meteorological, and geographical observations; and improvements in agriculture, arts, manufactures, and commerce : and, in fine, to cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honour, dignity, and happiness, of a free, independent, and virtuous people.'
Here is an extensive field, which the sons of literature in America are called on to cultivate and improve: its foil is rich, its qualities are various; and it will doubtless be productive of the moft valuable fruits. Industry will here find abundant employment; and genius, in its utmost expanfion, has ample room for exercising all its faculties. · How far the one has been exercised, or the other employed, may appear from the following account of the volume. VOL. LXXIX. Сс
The papers are claffed under three diftinct heads; viz. ft, Astronomical and Mathematical; 2d, Phyfical; and 3d, Medical papers. A preliminary discourse on the nature of the Inftitution, delivered by James Bowdoin, Esq. when he was inducted into the office of President of the Society, is prefixed; in which he thews the general good that may result to the state by a proper cultivation of various kinds of knowlege, speculative or practical.
Part I. ASTRONOMICAL and MATHEMATICAL PAPERS. A Method of finding the Altitude and Longitude of the Nonagesimal
Degree of the Ecliptic. With an Appendix, containing Calculations from corresponding Observations, for determining the Difference of Meridians between Harvard Hall, in the University of Cambridge, in the Commonwealth of Massachujets, and the Royal Oblervatories 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 most laborious work, and fully evinces that the American aftro. nomer is industrious in his observations, and ingenious in applying them to useful purposes. The longitude of Cambridge in Massachusets is, from there observations, determined to be 4" 44' 31" west of Greenwich. On the Latitude of the University of Cambridge. By Samuel Wil
liams, F. A. A. * Profeffor of Mathematics and Nat. Phil.
The result of several solar and fidereal observations gives the latitude of the Observatory 42° 23' 28".46. To this paper is added a short table of the variation of the compass, as observed at Cambridge, from 1708 to 1783 inclusive. A Table of the Equations of equal Altitudes for the Latitude of Cam
bridge. By the Rev. Joseph Wiliard. Contains the equation for correcting the time of noon deduced from two o lervations of the fun's equal alitude; the error to be corrected arises from the sun's motion during the interval between the obiervations. Mr. Willard computes the equation which arises 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 astronomical observations of solar and lunar eclipies, ---tranfits, &c. in different parts of America.
On the Extraction of Roots. By Benjamin West, Esq. This does not vary from De Lagney's well-known method of approximating the required root.
• Fellow of the American Academy,
A new and concise Method of computing Interest at 6 per Cent. per
venture, that the whole Intereft may be covered. By Mercator.
These two memoirs are useful. The contrivances are such as naturally must suggest themselves to any person conversant with arithmetical operations.
Part II. PHYSICAL PAPERS.
with incidental Observations tending to sew the Heterogeneousness
Fixed Stars, occasioned by the confiant Eflux of Light from them,
&c. By the same.
Exiflence of an Orb which surrounds the whole visible material
These three memoirs are intimately connected with each other. They are the consequence of some objections to the Newtonian doctrine of light, which Dr. Franklin offered in his Letters on Philosophical Subjects. Dr. F.'s objections were merely conjectural, and his proposing them in the form of queries is a sufficient proof that they could not then be supported by the evidence of experiment or phenomena; nor does he attempt to demonstrate the truth of his doctrine.
He supposes universal space to be filled with a subtle elastic Auid, which when at reft, is not visible, but whose vibrations affect that fine sense in the eye, as those of the air do the grossec organs of the ear: in the case of sound, we do not suppole that any sonorous particles are thrown off, from a bell for instance, and fly in straight lines to the ear; why then must we believe that luminous particles leave the sun, and proceed to the eye?
Such is the summary of Dr. Franklin's hypothefis, which Mr. Bowdoin refutes with ability, and in a most satisfactory manner.
In the course of his argument, he considers the light of the electrical spark, and compares it with that of common fire, Thewing in what respects these two lights differ from, and agree with, each other : hence he concludes the heterogeneousness of light and electricity, and their mixture with each
other. The second memoir is a refutation of another objection to the Newtonian doctrine of light; viz. that the sun must waste, by the discharge of the immense quantity of light which it is continually throwing off with a swiftness so very great as that which Newton attributes to its particles. Tbis objection has been fre
quently made, and frequently removed, by several able philosoo phers. Among the chief defenders of the theory, the present Bilhop of Sr. David's claims a diftinguished rank. He gave an elaborate refutation of this objection in the Philof. Transact. vol. 1x. * Mr. Bowdoin follows nearly the same track with the learned Prelate ; but he proceeds much farther, and has advanced somewhat too far into the regions of conjeture and fancy. In order to prevent the decay of the fun, and the consequent ruin of the solar system, Mr. Bowdoin suggests his hypothesis in the following queries :
• Is it not conceivable, that round the solar system, and the several systems which compose the visible heavens, there might have been formed a hollow sphere, or orb, made of matter fui generis, or of matter like that of the planets, and surrounding the whole, have ing its inner or concave surface at a proper distance therefrom; be. yond which surface light could not pass, and between which and the particles of light there should be a mutual repulfion? And, might not the fun, or source of light, of each system, have been so placed, in respect of each other, and the concave surface of the surrounding orb, that there should be, by direct and repeatedly indirect reflections, an interchange of rays between them, in such a manner as that to each there Tould be restored the quantity it had emitted: and there. by the waste of its matter be prevented : and this, at the same time it dispensed its light to its particular system ?'
The third memoir shews the evidence of the above fuppofition from phenomena and Scripture. The phenomena are, the Milky-way,-luminous appearances in the heavens, and the blue expanse. The texts from Scripture are, Amos, ix. 6. Gen. j. 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. Professor of Mathematics and Philosophy in Cambridge.
The phenomenon was briefly as follows : The wind was SW. The darkness came on with the clouds, from that quarter, between 10 and up 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 so great, that people were unable to read common print-to determine the time of day by their clocks and watches-lo dine-or to manage their domeftic business without candles. The darkness was extended all over the States of New England. The birds disappeared, -the fowls retired to rooft--the cocks were crowing as at day-breakobjects could not be distinguished at a distance-and every thing bure the appearance and gloom of night.
After giving a general description of this phenomenon, the Professor adds a detail of the heights of the barometer and there * See Monthly Review, vol. xlvi. p. 430.
mometer, the direction and force of the wind, and other meteorological circumstances of which he had either obtained information from philosophers in different places, or which he had himself observed at Cambridge.
The cause of the darkness is attributed to the prodigious fires made in the woods for the purpose of clearing the lands in the new settlements. This may probably have been the cause, yet many of the appearances are not satisfactorily explained. It is on the whole a very curious
paper. An Account of the Effects of Lightning on two Houses in Philadel
phia. By the Hon. Arthur Lee, Esq. An Aicount of the Effects of Lightning on a large Rock at Gloucester.
By the Rev. Eli Forbes. These two memoirs are merely historical, and contain nothing uncommon. An Account of a very curious Appearance of the EleElrical Fluid,
produced by raising an Ele:Irical Kite during the Time of a Thunder Shower. By Loammi Baldwin, Esq.
The appearance here described was a fiery atmosphere, which surrounded Mr. Baldwin as he held the string of the kite in bis hand: he hath not given any reasons for the phenomenon, confining himself for the present to a mere recital of the case, and leaving the learned to make their own conclufions from it. Observations and Conjectures on the Earthquakes of New England.
By Professor Williams. The learned Professor first gives an ample historical account of all the earthquakes that have been felt in New England, from the first arrival of the English there, on November aith, 1628, to the present time. He then takes a suminary view of the agreement and disagreement of the phenomena that have actended 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 surface of the earth-ibey have all been of the same kind, confifting, not of a simple instantaneous vibration, like that of an electrical shock, but of a gradual heaving or undulation of the earth, which has moved lowly along. Mr. Williams supposes the effect to have been produced by a strong elastic vapour. This hypothesis is confirmed by the due consideration of all the concomitant circumftances, Such as the noise and roaring-the eruptions and effusions--the changes made in the springs and strata near the surface of the earth. The origin and production of this elastic vapour is also accounted for; and the memoir, which is a very valuable production, concludes with some excellent reflections on the present ftate of our globe, wbich bears so many marks of having under