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completely beyond the reach of our senses and the ordinary resources of human intelligence, that the philosophers of antiquity, who supposed that they could explain everything mechanically according to the simple evolutions of atoms, excepted gravity from their speculations.

Descartes attempted what Leucippus, Democritus, Epicurus, and their followers thought to be impossible. He made the fall of terrestrial bodies depend upon the actiou of a vortex of very subtle matter circulating around the earth. The real improvements which the illustrious Huygbens applied to the ingenious conception of our couutryman were far, bowever, from imparting to it clearness and precision, those characteristic attributes of truth.

Those persons form a very imperfect estimate of the meaning of one of the greatest questions which have occupied the attention of modern inquirers, who regard Newton as having issued victorious from a strug. gle in wbich his two immortal predecessors had failed. Newton did not discover the cause of gravity any more than Galileo did. Two bodies placed in juxtaposition approach each other. Newton does not inquire into the nature of the force which produces this effect. The force exists. He designates it by the term attraction; but, at the same time, be warns the reader that the term, as thus used by hiin, does not imply any definite idea of the physical process by which gravity is brought into existence and operates.

The force of attraction being once admitted as a fact, Newton studies it in all terrestrial phenomena, the revolutions of the moon, the planets, satellites, and connets; and, as we have already stated, he deduced from this incomparable study the simple, universal, mathematical characteristics of the forces which preside over the movements of all the bodies of which our solar system is composed.

The applause of the scientific world did not prevent the immortal author of the Principia from hearing some persons refer the principle of graritation to the class of occult qualities. This circumstance induced Newton and his most devoted followers to abandon the reserve which they bad bitherto considered it their duty to maintain. Those persons were then charged with ignorance who regarded attraction as an essential property of matter, as the mysterious indication of a sort of charm; who supposed that two bodies may act upon each other without the intervention of a third body. This force was then either the result of the tendency of an ethereal fluid to move from the free regions of space, where its density is a maximum, toward the planetary bodies, around which there exists a greater degree of rarefaction, or the consequence of the impulsive force of some fluid medium.

Newton never expressed a definitive opivion respecting the origin of the impulse which occasioned the attractive force of matter—at least in our solar system. But we have strong reasons for supposing, in the present day, that, in using the word impulse the great geometer was thinking of the systematic ideas of Varignon and Fatio de Duillier, subsequently re-invented and perfected by Lesage. These ideas, in effect, had been communicated to him before they were published to the world.

According to Lesage, there are in the regions of space bodies moving in every possible direction, and with excessive rapidity. The author applied to these the name of ultramundane corpuscules. Their totality constituted the gravitative fluid, if indeed the designation of a fluid be applicable to an assemblage of particles having no mutual connection.

A single body placed in the midst of such an ocean of movable particles would remain at rest although it were impelled equally in every direction. On the other hand, two bodies ought to advance toward each other, since they would serve the purpose of mutual screens, since the surfaces facing each other would no longer be hit in the direction of their line of junction by the ultra-mundane particles, since there would then exist currents, the effect of which would no longer be neutralized by opposite currents. It will be easily seen, besides, that two bodies plunged into the gravitative fluid would tend to approach each other with an intensity which would vary in the inverse proportion of the square of the distance.

If attraction is the result of the impulse of a fluid, its action ought to employ a finite time in traversing the immense spaces which separate the celestial bodies. If the sun, then, were suddenly extinguished, the earth, after the catastrophe, would, mathematically speaking, still con. tinue for some time to experience its attractive influence. The contrary would happen on the occasion of the sudden birth of a planet: a certain time would elapse before the attractive force of the new body would make itself felt on the earth.

Several geometers of the last century were of opinion that the force of attraction is not transmitted instantaneously from one body to another; they even assigned to it a comparatively inconsiderable velocity of propagation. Daniel Bernoulli, for example, in attempting to explain how the spring-tide arrives upon our coasts a day and a half after the syzygies, that is to say, a day and a half after the epochs when the sun and moon are most favorably situated for the production of this magnificent phenomenon, assumed that the disturbing force required all this time (a day and a half) for its propagation from the moon to the ocean. So feeble a velocity was inconsistent with the mechanical explanation of attraction, of which we have just spoken. The explanation, in effect, necessarily supposes that the proper motions of the celestial bodies are insensible, compared with the motion of the gravitative fluid. After having discovered that the diminution of the eccentricity of the terrestrial orbit is the real cause of the observed acceleration of the motion of the moon, Laplace, on his part, endeavored to ascertain whether this mysterious acceleration did not depend on the gradual propagation of attraction.

The result of calculation was at first favorable to the plausibility of the hypothesis. It showed that the gradual propagation of the attractive force would introduce into the movement of our satellite a perturbation proportional to the square of the time which elapsed from the commencement of any epoch ; that in order to represent numerically the results of astronomical observations, it would not be necessary to assign a feeble relocity to attraction ; that a propagation eight millions of times more rapid than that of light would satisfy all the phenomena.

Although the true cause of the acceleration of the moon is now well known, the ingenious calculation of which I have just spoken does not the less on that account maintain its place in science. In a mathematical point of view, the perturbation depending on the gradual propa. gation of the attractive force wbich this calculation indicates has a certain existence. The connection between the velocity of perturbation and the resulting inequality is such that one of the two quantities leads to a knowledge of the numerical value of the other. Now, upon assigning to the inequality the greatest value which is consistent with the observations after they have been corrected for the effect due to the variation of the eccentricity of the terrestrial orbit, we find the velocity of the attractive force to be fifty millions of times the velocity of light.

If it be borne in mind that this number is an inferior limit, and that the velocity of the rays of light amounts to 77,000 leagues (192,000 English miles) per second, the philosophers who profess to explain the force of attraction by the impulsive energy of a fluid, will see what prodigious velocities they must satisfy.

The reader cannot fail again to remark the sagacity with which Laplace singled out the phenomena which were best adapted for throwing light upon the most obscure points of celestial physics ; nor the success with which be explored their various parts, and deduced from them numerical conclusions in presence of which the mind remains confounded.

The author of the Mécanique Céleste supposed, like Newton, that light consists of material molecules of excessive tenuity and endued in empty space with a velocity of 77,000 leagues in a second. However, it is right to warn those who would be inclined to avail themselves of this imposing authority that the principal argument of Laplace in favor of the system of emission consisted in the advantage which it afforded of submitting every question to a process of simple and rigorous calcu. lation; whereas, on the other hand, the theory of undulations has always offered immense difficulties to analysts. It was natural that a geometer who had so elegantly connected the laws of simple refraction which light uudergoes in its passage through the atmosphere, and the laws of double refraction wbich it is subject to in the course of its passage through certain crystals, with the action of attractive and repulsive forces, should not have abandoned this route, before he recognized the impossibility of arriving by the same patb at plausible explanations of the phenomena of diffraction and polarization. In other respects, the care which Laplace always employed in pursuing his researches, as far as possible, to their numerical results will enable those who are disposed to institute a complete comparison between the two rival theories of light to derive from the Mécanique Céleste the materials of several interesting relations.

Is light an emanation from the sun? Does this body launch out incessantly in every direction a part of its own substance! Is it gradually diminishing in volume and mass? The attraction exercised by the sun upon the earth will, in that case, gradually become less and less considerable. The radius of the terrestrial orbit, on the other hand, cannot fail to increase, and a corresponding effect will be produced on the length of the year.

This is the conclusion which suggests itself to every person upon a first glance at the subject. By applying analysis to the question, and then proceeding to numerical computations, founded upon the most trustworthy results of observation relative to the length of the year in different ages, Laplace bas proved that an incessant emission of light, going on for a period of two thousand years, has not diminished the mass of the sun by the two-millionth part of its original value.

Our illustrious countryman never proposed to himself anything vague or indefinite. His constant object was the explanation of the great phenomena of nature, according to the inflexible principles of mathematical analysis. No philosopher, no mathematician, could have maintained himself more cautiously on bis guard against a propensity to basty speculation. No person dreaded more the scientific errors which the imagination gives birth to, when it ceases to remain within the limits of facts, of calculation, and of analogy. Once, and once only, did Laplace launch forward, like Kepler, like Descartes, like Leibnitz, like Buffon, into the region of conjectures. His conception was not then less than a cosmogony.

All the planets revolve around the sun, from west to east, and in planes which include angles of inconsiderable magnitude. The satellites revolve around their respective primaries in the same direction as that in which the planets revolve around the sun, that is to say, from west to east.

The planets and satellites which have been found to have a rotatory motion, turn also upon their axes from west to east. Finally, the rotation of the sun is also directeil from west to east. We have here, then, an assemblage of forty-three movements, all operating in the same direction. By the calculus of probabilities, the odds are four thousand millions to one that this co-incidence in the direction of so many movements is not the effect of accident.

It was Buffon, I think, who first attempted to explain this singular feature of our solar system. Haviug wished in the explanation of phe. nomena to avoid all recourse to causes wbich were not warranted by nature, the celebrated academician investigated a physical origiu of the system in wbat was common to the movements of so many bodies differ. ing in magnitude, in form, and in distance from the principal center of attraction. He imagined that he discovered such an origin by making this triple supposition: A comet fell obliquely upon the sun ; it pushed before it a torrent of fluid matter; this substance transported to a greater or less distance from the sun, according to its mass, formed by concentration all the known planets.

The bold hypothesis of Buffon is liable to unsurmountable difficulties. I proceed to indicate, in a few words, the cosmogonic system which Laplace substituted for that of the illustrious author of the Histoire Naturelle.

According to Laplace, the sun was at a remote epoch the central nucleus of an immense nebula, which possessed a very high temperature, and extended far beyond the region in which Uranus revolves in the present day. No planet was then in existence.

The solar nebula was endued with a general movement of revolution directed from west to east. At it cooled it could not fail to experience a gradual condensation, and, in consequence, to rotate with greater and greater rapidity. If the nebulous matter extended originally in the plane of the equator as far as the limit at which the centrifugal force exactly counterbalanced the attraction of the nucleus, the molecules situate at this limit ought, during the process of condensation, to separate from the rest of the atmospheric matter, and form an equatorial zone, a ring revolving separately and with its primitive velocity.

We may conceive that analogous separations were effected in the higher strata of the nebula at different epocbs, that is to say, at different distances from the nucleus, and that they give rise to a succession of distinct rings, included almost in the same plane and endued with different velocities.

This being once admitted, it is easy to see that the indefinite stability of the rings would have required a regularity of structure throughout their whole contour which is very improbable. Each of them accordingly broke in its turn into several masses, which were plainly endued with a movement of rotation, coinciding in direction with the common movement of revolution, and which in consequence of their fluidity assumed spheroidal forms.

In order, then, that one of those spheroids might absorb all the others belonging to the same ring, it will be sufficient to assign to it a mass greater than that of any other spheroid.

Each of the planets, while in the vaporous condition to which we have just alluded, would manifestly have a central nucleus gradually increasing in magnitude and mass, and an atmosphere offering, at its successive limits, phenomena entirely similar to those which the solar atmosphere, properly so called, bad exhibited. We here witness the birth of satellites, and that of the ring of Saturn.

The system of which I have just given an imperfect sketch has for its object to show how a nebula endued with a general movement of rotation must eventually transform itself into a very luminous central nueleus (a sun) and into a series of distinct spheroidal planets, situate

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