Page images

tating. But whoever diligently observed what fell | the prince some things obscure, and not to be disfrom him, either by way of question or remark, covered by the sagacity of any person, but by saw it to be full to the purpose, and expressive of time only, which was denied him; but what apno common genius. So that under that slowness peared were excellent, which is sufficient for his and infrequency of discourse, his judgment had fame. more the appearance of suspense and solicitude to determine rightly, than of weakness and want of apprehension. In the mean time he was wonderfully patient in hearing, even in business of the greatest length; and this with unwearied attention, so that his mind seldom wandered from the subject, or seemed fatigued, but he applied himself wholly to what was said or done: which (if his life had been lengthened) promised a very superior degree of prudence. There were indeed in

He died in the 19th year of his age of an obstinate fever, which during the summer, through the excessive heat and dryness of the season, unusual to islands, had been epidemical, though not fatal, but in autumn became more mortal. Fame which, as Tacitus says, is more tragical with respect to the deaths of princes, added a suspicion of poison: but as no signs of this appeared, especially in his stomach, which uses to be chiefly affected by poison, this report soon vanished.




Of the Division of Bodies, of Continuity, and a



powder, but an atom, as Democritus said himself, no one either has seen or can possibly see. But this dispersion of substance presents itself in a still more surprising light in odours. For if a little saffron can tinge and impregnate a whole cask of water, a little civet does so to a spacious chamber, and to a second, and a third successive

THE theory of Democritus relating to atoms is, if not true, at least applicable with excellent effect to the exposition of nature. For it is not easy, except on the hypothesis of atomic particles, ei-ly. And let none imagine that odours can be ther to grasp in thought, or express in words, the real exility of parts in nature, such as it is discoverable in objects themselves.

Now, the term atom is taken in two senses, not materially different from one another. It is taken either to signify the ultimate term, the minutest subdivision, in the section or breaking down of bodies; or a corpuscle containing in it no vacuum. As relates to the first, the two following principles may be safely and surely laid down. The first is, that there exists in objects an attenuation and minuteness of particles, far exceeding all that falls under ocular observation. The second is, that it is not carried to infinity, or endless divisibility. For if one heedfully attend, he will find that the corpuscles composing bodies which possess continuity, far transcend in subtility those which are found in broken and discontinuous


Thus we see a little saffron, intermixed and stirred in water, (a cask of water for instance,) impart to it such a tincture, that even by the eye it is easy distinguishable from pure water. The particles of the saffron thus disseminated through the water, certainly exceed in fineness the most impalpable powder. This will become still clearer, if you mingle with the water a small portion of Brazilian-wood ground to a powder, or of pomegranate flowers, or of any other very high coloured substance, yet which wants the susceptibility of saffron to diffuse itself in liquids, and incorporate with them.

It was therefore absurd to take atoms to be those minute particles which are visible by the aid of the sun's light. For these are of the nature of a This is the translation of my friend Wm. G. Glen.-[B. M.]

propagated like light, or heat and cold, without a stream of effluvia from the substance, since we may observe that odours are tenacious of solids, of woods, of metallic substances, and for no inconsiderable time, and that they can be extracted and cleansed away from these, by the process of rubbing and washing. But that in these and similar cases, the subtilization is not carried to infinity, no man in his senses will dispute, since this sort of radiation or diffusion is confined to certain spaces, and local boundaries, and to certain quantities of substance, as is very conspicuous in the abovementioned instances.

As relates to atom in its second sense, which presupposes the existence of a vacuum, and builds its definition of atom on the absence of the vacuum; it was an excellent and valuable distinction which Hero so carefully drew, when he denied the existence of a vacuum coacervatum, (or fully formed,) and affirmed a vacuum commistum (or interstitial vacuum.) For when he saw that there was one unbroken chain of bodies, and that no point of space would be discovered or instanced, which was not replenished with body; and much more, when he perceived that bodies weighty and massive tended upwards, and as it were repudiated and violated their natures rather than suffer complete disruption from the contiguous body; he came to the full determination that nature abhorred a vacuum of the larger description, or a vacuum coacervatum. On the other hand, when he observed the same quantity of matter compos ing a body in a state of contraction and coarctation, and again in one of expansion and dilatation, occupying and filling unequal spaces, sometimes


smaller, sometimes greater, he did not see in what | in these and similar investigations, none be overmanner this going out and in of corpuscles, in re- powered or despair, because of the surpassing ference to their position in that body, could exist, subtilty of nature. Let him reflect that things, except in consequence of an interspersed vacuum, in their units and their aggregates, are equally contracting on the compression, and enlarging on mastered by calculation. For, one expresses or the relaxation, of the body. For it was clear that conceives with the same facility a thousand years this contraction of necessity was produced in one and a thousand moments, though years are comof three ways; either in that which we have spe- posed of multitudes of moments. And, again, cified, namely, the expulsion of a vacuum by let no one think that such studies are matter of means of pressure, or the extrusion of some other speculative curiosity, rather than connected with body previously incorporated, or the possession by practical effects and uses. For, it is observable, bodies of some natural virtue (whatever it might that almost all the philosophers and others, who be) of concentration and diffusion within them- have most intensely busied themselves, who have selves. As relates to the extrusion of the rarer probed nature to the quick, as it were, in the probody, it is a mode of reasoning that involves us in cess of experiment and practical detail; have an endless series of such expulsions. For true it been led on to such investigations, though unforis, that sponges and the like porous substances, tunate in the mode of conducting them. Nor contract by the ejection of the air. But with re- does there exist a more powerful and more certain spect to air itself, it is clear from manifold experi- cause of that utter barrenness of utility which ments that it can be condensed in a known space. distinguishes the philosophy of the day, than its Are we then to suppose that the finer part of air ambitious affectation of subtilty about mere words itself may be thus eliminated by compressure, or vulgar notions, while it has neither pursued and of the eliminated part another part, and so on nor planned a well supported investigation of the to infinity? For it is a fact most decidedly ad-subtilty of nature. verse to such an opinion, that, the rarer bodies are,


they are susceptible of the more contraction; when Of the equality or inequality of Atoms, or seminal the contrary ought to be the fact, if contraction was performed by expressing the rarer portion of the substance. As to that other mode of solution, namely, that the same bodies without farther al- The theories and maxims of Pythagoras were, teration undergo various degrees of rarity and for the most part, better adapted to found a pecudensity, it is not worthy of elaborate attention. It liar order of religionists, than to open a new seems to be an arbitrary dictum, depending on no school in philosophy, as was verified by the cognisable reason, or intelligible principle, like event. For, that system of training prevailed the generality of the dogmas of Aristotle. There and flourished more under the sway of the Maniremains then the third way, the hypothesis of a chæan heresy and Mahomedan superstition, than vacuum. Should any one object to this, that it among philosophic individuals. Notwithstanding appears a difficult and even impossible supposi- this, his opinion that the world was composed of tion, that there should exist an interspersed vacu-numbers, may be taken in a sense in which it ity, where body is everywhere found; if he will goes deep into the elementary principles of naonly reflect calmly and maturely on the instances ture. For, there are (as indeed there may be) we have just adduced, of water imbued with saf-two doctrines with respect to atoms or seminal fron, or air with odours, he will readily discover particles; the one that of Democritus, which that no portion of the water can be pointed out ascribes to atoms inequality one to another, figure. where there is not the saffron, and yet it is mani- and, in virtue of figure, position; the other, that fest, by comparing the saffron and the water pre-of Pythagoras, perhaps, which affirms them to be vious to their intermixture, that the bulk of the all precisely equal and alike. Now, he who water exceeds by many times the bulk of the saf- ascribes to atoms equality, necessarily makes fron. Now, if so subtile an interspersion is found all things depend on numbers; while he who to take place in different bodies, much more is clothes them with other attributes, admits, in such interspersion possible in the case of a body addition to mere numbers, or modes of assemand a vacuum. blage, certain primitive properties inherent in single atoms. Now, the practical question collateral to the theoretical one, and which ought to determine its limits, is this, which Democritus proposes: whether all things can be made out of all? To me, however, this question appears not to have been maturely weighed, if it be understood as referring to an immediate transmutation of bodies. It is, whether all things do not pass through an appointed circuit and succession of

Yet the theory of Hero, a mere experimentalist, fell short of that of the illustrious philosopher, Democritus, in this particular point, namely, that Hero, not finding in this our globe a vacuum coacervatum, denied it, therefore, absolutely. Now, there is nothing to hinder the existence of a complete vacuity in the tracts of air, where there are, undoubtedly, greater diffusions of substances.

And let me give this once the admonition, that,

And this lays open one way to overturn the theory of Democritus, with respect to the diversity of seminal particles or atoms; a way, I say, I in the process of investigating nature herself: in opinion, indeed, there is another way to overturn it, much more smooth and easy, as the received philosophy assumes its phantasmal matter to be common to the forms of nature, and equally sus ceptible of them all.

Of the Remissness of the Ancients in investigating
Motion and moving Principles.


transformations, that is the legitimate subject | but after the ignition, and is, so to speak, the of inquiry. For, there is not a doubt that the corpse of the flame, not a deposition of the oil elementary particles, though they were originally or tallow. equal, become, after having been cast into certain assemblages and knots, entirely impregnated with the nature of the dissimilar bodies they compose, till the several assemblages or knots of matter undergo solution; so that the properties and affections of things in concretion, offer no less resistance and impediment to immediate transmutation, than of things in their simplest elements. But Democritus, acute as he is in tracing the principles of quiescent body, is found unequal to himself, and deficient in knowledge of his subject, when he comes to examine the principles of motion; a common failing of all the philosophers. And, I know not but the investigations we are now handling, of the primary character of seminal To place the investigation of nature chiefly in and atomic particles, is of a utility greatly supe- the consideration and examination of motion, is rior to all others whatsoever, as forming the the characteristic of him who has an eye to pracsovereign rule of action and of power, and the tical effect as his object. And to indulge in metrue criterion of hope and operation. Another ditation and revery, respecting the principles of inquiry, also, proceeds from it, less comprehensively useful, indeed, in its scope, but more immediately connected with practice and use ful works. It is respecting separation and alteration, that is, what operations are the effect of separation, and what of the other process. For, it is an error habitual to the human mind, and which has derived great force and depth from the philosophy of the alchymists, to ascribe those appearances to separation which look quite the other way. For instance, when water passes into the state of vapour, one would readily suppose that the more subtile part of the fluid was extricated, and the grosser remained, as is seen in wood, where part flies off in flame and smoke, part is left in the form of ashes. One might infer that something analogous to this takes place in the water also, though not so discernible to observation. For, though the whole mass of water is observed to bubble up and waste away, yet it might occur, that a sort of sediment of it, its ashes, as it were, still remained in the vessel. Yet, such an impression is delusive; for it is most certain, that the entire body of water may be converted into air, and if any portion still continues in the vessel, that does not happen in consequence of its separation and segregation as the grosser part, but because a certain quantity of the fluid, though of precisely the same sub-himself in poring over the dissection of the dead stance with the part which evaporates, remains in carcass of nature, rather than to set himself to contact with the internal surface of the vessel. ascertain the powers and properties of living The same thing is distinctly visible in the case nature. Indeed, the examination of the princiof quicksilver, the whole of which is volatilized ples of motion is generally looked upon as a and then condensed again without the subtraction matter by the way, so that it passes admiration of the smallest particle. In the oil of lamps, too, in what a perfunctory and remiss manner, a suband in the tallow of candles, the whole of the fat ject of all others the most momentous and most is sublimated, and there is no incineration, useful, has been investigated and treated. For, to for the fuliginous matter is formed, not before, I turn our attention for a moment to the themes

nature viewed as quiescent, belongs to such as desire to spin out dissertations, or supply matter of argumentative subtlety. Now those principles I call quiescent, which inform us of what elements things are compounded, and consist; but not by what energy or in what way they effect these coalitions. For it is not enough, with a view to action and the enlargement of the power and operation of man, nor does it in fact bear materially on these ends at all, to know what are the constituent parts of things, if you are ignorant of the modes and processes of their transformations and metamorphoses. For to take an example from the mechanical adepts, (in whose heated imagination those famous speculations regarding the first principles of nature appear to have had their origin,) is the man who knows the simples that enter into the composition of an alexipharmic, (or antidote,) necessarily able in consequence, to prepare an alexipharmic? Or is he who has got a correct analysis of the ingre dients of sugar, glass, or canvass, to be therefore supposed a master of the art of their preparation and manufacture? Yet it is in speculating and inquiring with respect to this description of dead principles, that the meditations of men have been hitherto principally absorbed as if one were, of set purpose and resolution, to employ

which are actually discoursed of; will the im- in the progression of their motion, (of whatever pulse communicated to matter by privation, the character the motion be ) have reached that point formation of matter on mind, (or archetypal at which they assume a new form, or lay aside ideas,) the coalition of like particles, the fortuitous play of atoms in vacancy, the enmity and friendship supposed to exist in substances, the mutual action of heaven and earth on one another, the commerce of the elements by the intermediation of consenting properties, the influence of the celestial bodies, occult and specific medicinal powers and properties of drugs, fate, fortune, necessity; will, I say, such vague generalities as these, which are nothing but phantasms and spectral illusions, floating about and playing on the surface of things, as in water, really advance the blessings, or effectually augment the powers of man? They indeed occupy or rather inflate the imagination, but contribute absolutely nothing to establish new methods of working nature, to the power of altering her forms, or commanding her motions. And, again, all their attempts to reason and subtilize regarding motion, natural and violent, motion self-determined or impressed exteriorly, the limitations of motion, these too do not enter to any depth the trunk of nature, but show rather like figures inscribed in the bark. Wherefore dismissing such speculations, or condemning them to exile among the theatres of popular display, we must make it our business to trace those affections and tendencies of things, by which that surprising multiplicity of effects and of changes, visible alike in the works of art and of nature, grows up and emerges into view. We must thus endeavour to bind nature as a Proteus; for the various species of motions, duly discovered and methodically discriminated, may be regarded as the true bonds to tie this Proteus withal. For according as the just impulses and restraints of motion, that is, of matter stimulated to activity or restrained in it, are invented and applied, there follows the capacity of modifying and transmuting matter itself.

the old, (forming a sort of full break, and the completion of a regular stage of that motion,) this is termed the motion of generation and corruption. Again, if, the configuration remaining the same, they acquire only a new quantity or measure of dimension, this is called the motion of increase and diminution; so also, if the mass and the outline of the object remain unaltered, yet its quality, operations, and properties, undergo change, this is said to be the motion of alteration; lastly, if the body continue unmodified in figure, matter, and quantity, but change its place, and that only, this is indicated by the words, motion of removal. But to him who looks into this matter with something more of penetration and accuracy, these phrases will appear to represent only points in the measurement of motion, pauses and breaks in it, or, as it were, the successive courses motions have to run, and tasks they have to perform, but to convey no real distinctions; as they only point to that which has been done, but scarcely even hint at the mode of doing it. Words of this description are required for the purpose of giving information, and adjusted to the forms of the scholastic logic, but they are utterly unproductive of physical knowledge. For they all signify motions combined, re-combined, and in manifold ways still further combined; whereas men of more acute meditation ought to penetrate to simpler principles. For the principles, the sources, the causes, and the modes of motion, that is, the tendencies and appetencies of every form of matter, are the proper field of philosophy; and so in their order the modes of communicating and stimulating motion, its restraints, retardations, lines, impediments, its reactions and combinations, its indirect paths and concatenations, in short, the entire progression of motions. For of little avail are windy disputations, or specious discourses, or vague meditaOf the common Division of Motion, that it is tions, or, lastly, plausible maxims. The busiequally deficient in point of Utility and Dis-ness is, by well digested methods, and a manage



ment adapted to nature, to acquire a capacity to control, to intensify, to remit, to combine with other motions, to let gently down, to bring to a The division of motion in the philosophy in pause the motion of every portion of susceptible vogue appears to be superficial and without foun-matter, and so to accomplish the conservation, dation, as it forms its distribution of it only by the modification, and the transformation of bodies. its effects, and does not at all conduce to our We must, however, direct our inquiries princiknowledge of it by its causes. For generation, pally to those motions which are uncompounded, corruption, increase, diminution, alteration, re-original, ultimate, of which the rest are constitumoval to place, are only the operations and effects ted. For it is most unquestionable, that in proof motions, which having attained to the production of a visible transmutation of things, palpable to vulgar observation, are (in the inertness of common apprehension) distinguished by these appellations. We have no doubt that the meaning of the terms stands thus:—that when bodies, VOL. I.-52

portion as simpler motions are discovered, in the same proportion will the power of man be augmented, delivered from the trammel of using only specific and elaborated substances, and invigorated to strike out new lines of operation. And, assuredly, since the words or vocables of 2 M

« PreviousContinue »