« ПретходнаНастави »
use, before the time of Godfrey, a resident of the city of Philadelphia. He has, however, been robbed of the glory of affixing his name to this noble invention, by the partisans of Hadley, who was certainly, if original, subsequent in the date of his discovery ; but, against whom, strong presumptive evidences of plagiarism have been urged.
This instrument may, by the aid of an artificial horizon, be used for taking altitudes on land, as well as at sea ; and from its portability and handiness, is, perhaps, with the exception of the chronometer, from which its use is inseparable, the most useful in practice of all that have been invented since the origin of astronomy. Placed in the plane of any object whatsoever, it measures their angular distance ; and thus is the all-important agent in determining the longitude by lunar distances, the most valuable present, perhaps, that science has ever given to the practical purposes of life.
We have thus briefly touched, and in a manner far more coneise than their importance would demand, upon the most marked of the improvements made in astronomy during the eighteenth century. Many others remain, of less note, but still intrinsically valuable. For these, we must refer our readers to the work before us. In it, however, the author takes no notice of any additions made to astronomical science in this country. We have already stated, that there is every reason to consider Godfrey as the first inventor of the quadrant of reflexion. Of the usual reward of such a discovery, he has been deprived by the ascription of the name of a subsequent inventor, if not of a plaigiarist ; so also have we mentioned, that, among the observations of the transit of Venus in 1769, those by Rittenhouse and other members of the American Philosophical Society, are entitled to a high place. The remaining labours of that distinguished American, of Ellicott and a few others, show that the patronage of government has alone been wanting to have enabled us to add our full share to the completion of the system of modern astronomy. It is, in truth, to be felt as a most severe reproach, that, although our government has now existed for nearly forty years in a state of perfect organization, and free from any internal disturbance, the state of public knowledge is so far behind that of the countries of Europe in this science, that the erection and endowment of a national observatory, have not been called for in so imperative a tone, that the representatives of the people could not have dared to refuse the requisition. It was one of the last acts of the administration of the enlightened Jefferson, to provide, and, as he thought, effectually, for a survey of the coast, and the creation of an observatory. The former was commenced with instruments, methods, and skill of observation, that make the record of the little that was effected, rank before any thing that has, even up to the present time, been performed in Europe. * The merit of this work has been acknowledged by the highest scientific authorities of France and Englandt; in our country alone, and we confess it with regret, it is unappreciated. The survey itself was hardly commenced, when it was suspended, partly owing to jealousies, and partly because when attacked by an opposition on the score of useless expenditure, it was abandoned by the administration, because it gave no patronage, and therefore, exerted no direct influence on political questions.
The present chief magistrate has seen the subject with other eyes ; a national observatory was one of the earliest objects of public utility, recommended by him to the legislative bodies ; but this recommendation has been hitherto attended with no good result. More recently, an enlightened representatives has again called up the subject of the survey of the coast ; but this question, all-important to our character as a nation, is considered too trivial to be discussed, unless it could be made to bear upon the presidential question.
We fear the time will come, when some English critic, some Quarterly or Edinburgh reviewer, will exhibit to the world the mortifying fact, that for years after every petty German principality had its astronomic institution, supported at public expense; after the date of the establishment of an observatory in the convict land of Botany Bay,the people of the United States were so devoid of scientific intelligence, as to have made no provision for such a purpose.
Rather than let this severe truth be urged as a reproach by foreigners, we prefer to disclose it ourselves, and to call upon those who guide the councils of the nation, to deliver us from the reproach.
Were it consistent with our present intention, we might refer to various subjects of geodesy, of physical and of practical astronomy, that have been illustrated by citizens of the United States, within the present century. To these, however, we may have an opportunity of recurring, on some future occasion.
The eighteenth century, is an age, that will ever be noted, in the annals of the world, as one in which science, of all descriptions, made a progress unexampled in the whole previous annals of the world. It is also, in the branch we have under consideration, that this progress has been the most marked. The theory of
See Hassler's paper on the Survey of the Coast, in Transactions of American Philosophical Society, New Series, Vol. II.
See Reviews of this work in Brande's Journal, and in the Bulletin Universel of Ferusac.
Mr. Verplanck. SA committee of the Royal Society is at present engaged in noticing the oh. servations of 10,000 southern stars, made at Paramata. VOL. III. NO. 6.
gravitation, proposed by Newton, at its opening, has been pursued, and applied during its lapse, to all the known existing combinations of bodies and motions; and was, at its close, completed by Laplace. Proofs irrefragable and incontrovertible, have been obtained of the motion of the earth, both diurnal and annual. The dimensions of the solar system have been ascertained, and the sun and planets weighed as in a balance; while the discovery of a new and distant planet, at the close of this age, has doubled the bounds of the kingilom of the sun.
Instruments, and methods of observation, have been so far improved, from a comparatively imperfect state, as to leave little to desire or look for hereafter.
The astronomers of the early part of the present century, have made some few, but important discoveries, that probably complete our knowledge of the district of creation, in which our earth is situated ; and those of the present day, like Alexander, seek for other worlds to conquer. Unlike him, however, they have no cause to weep, for in the regions of immeasurable space, there exist within our ken, bodies, and systems, and motions, that may, for ages to come, task their utmost exertions.
Of all the sciences, astronomy is the most elevated and sub. lime, as it is the most ancient, and the most perfect. It is susceptible of most numerous and important practical applications. It is the highest triumph of human intellect, and is calculated to give us the most exalted idea of the intelligence and penetration of man ; while on the other hand, this intelligence and penetration sink into insignificance, when compared with the wisdom and power of the great framer of the celestial machinery. It is, in truth, from astronomical studies, that we can more readily than from any other branch of human learning, reach a knowledge of the attributes of the Deity : of his goodness in the nice adaptation of all the parts of the Universe, to our own comfort and happiness ; of his wisdom in the perfect organization and machinery of the system, in which the most exact calculus can detect no
power, in the enormous masses of the bodies of our system, and in the vast space it occupies; a space, however, that dwindles to a point, when compared with the extent peopled by other planets, and other suns ; of eternal duration, in those motions that have for ages remained without change, and must so for ever remain, unless a power be interposed to stay them, equal to that which originally called them into existence.
Art. II. --Lectures on Physiology, Zoology, and the Natural
History of Man, delivered at the Royal College of Surgeons. By WILLIAM LAWRENCE, F. R. Š. Professor of Anatomy and Surgery to the College, Assistant Surgeon to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, Surgeon to Bridewell and Bethlem Hospitals, and to the London Infirmary for Diseases of the Eye. London:1819. Salem, (Mass.) Foote & Brown: 1828.
We have thought that a notice of the above work would not be unacceptable to our readers, considering the nature of the subjects of which it treats, and the high and well merited reputation of its author. The intimate connexion that necessarily exists, between the natural history of man, and almost every department of moral and natural science, furnishes a sufficient reason for its interest and importance. Manners, costume, and mode of living, nuptial and funeral ceremonies, laws, government and religion, language, style of thought and predominant passions, the influence of physical causes on the human form and character, the diversities and resemblances of different races, and in short, every moral and physical peculiarity, all come under the notice of the naturalist in this field of his researches, and cannot be more interesting to him, than to every general inquirer. Man himself, the most perfect and admirable of nature's works, is the subject of investigation, and certainly no new facts can be discovered, no new principles deduced, relative to his natural history, which will not carry additional light into all other inquiries which concern his character or his destiny. Though the importance of this branch of science be acknowledged in general terms, yet we believe it is but seldom that it has been rightly appreciated, or that its results have had that extensive application in which they might have been properly and advantageously employed. Few, we are constrained to say, are acquainted with the stores of curi. ous and novel facts which it embraces, the great and interesting questions it involves, and the certainty and originality of its conclusions. The knowledge afforded us by the natural history of our species, has been too often considered as enclosed within the narrow pale of professional science, into which none but the initiated could enter, without being repulsed at the very threshold, by the chilling array of technical phraseology and unintelligible allusions. We confess, that the display of anatomical and other scientific detail, which so frequently meets the eye of the unpractised inquirer, has had its influence in deterring many from a more familiar acquaintance with a science attended with so many dry and repulsive accompaniments. This may be considered as a cause of the neglect of this branch of knowledge ; but
instead of furnishing an excuse for it, it rather proves the necessity of that preliminary information, requisite to the proper understanding of any subject.
Ignorance of a science so rich in new and interesting results, and with such numerous and intimate relations, is inexcusable in any one engaged in enlarged philosophical inquiries relating to the moral or physical nature of man. To the zoologist, every fact in the natural history of our species must be doubly valuable, for it concerns that creature who stands at the head of the countless multitudes of the animal world, and whom nature has distinguished from his grovelling companions by every good and perfect gift. Our knowledge of the scale of being, generally, must in some measure be modified by our views of that species which occupies its highest and noblest rank. In him more than in any other being, the vital functions have been observed, and their relative importance estimated ; the harmony and beauty of organization unfolded ; the workings of passion and those higher phenomena of the mind studied and reduced to system, and the relations of the species, with surrounding objects, traced and understood. Not to the zoologist alone, who spends his peaceful existence in stuffing the skins of beasts or chasing the painted butterfly, and who confines his reasonings to the immediate objects of his observations, would we recommend an acquaintance with this subject, but even to those engaged in speculations higher, more refined, and, if you please, more closely connected with the interests of their species. We can assure the politician, that if he feels any curiosity to investigate the history, and trace the progress, of his science, he may see it in its most simple rudiments, and in various stages of advancement, in the laws and systems of polity of savage tribes. He will there find, unobscured by an infinity of complicated and conflicting interests, the germs of those deeply rooted principles, which bind together in harmony the discordant elements of civil society. And if the metaphysician ever hopes to obtain any successful results from his investigations of the mental phenomena, let him go where the human mind exists in its simplest conditions, where the passions burst forth spontaneous and unchecked by artificial restraints, and where the character is developed by the impulse of its own native energies. Let him see the mind, as it was in the beginning, unchanged by improvement or degradation, presenting in its bold rough outlines, varying in different races, and under different circumstances, an analysis ready made of those phenomena the most difficult of all others to analyze. Where can a particular passion be better studied than where it forms the peculiar features of the moral man, and exists free and unperverted by the influence of civilized life? It is where the elements of society remain in one rude chaotic mass, before the spirit of improvement has breath