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This Work, undertaken at His Lordship's request, is inscribed as a testimony of the Author's esteem and regard.

Although it has unavoidably exceeded the limits of the Publications of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, for which it was originally intended, his Lordship still thinks it may tend to promote the views of the Society in its present form. To concur with that Society in the diffusion of useful knowledge, would be the highest ambition of the Author,


Royal Hospital, Chelsea,

21st July, 1831.


In order to convey some idea of the object of this work, it may be useful to offer a few preliminary observations on the nature of the subject which it is intended to investigate, and of the means that have already been adopted with so much success to bring within the reach of our faculties, those truths which might seem to be placed so far beyond them.

All the knowledge we possess of external objects is founded upon experience, which furnishes a knowledge of facts, and the comparison of these facts establishes relations, from which, induction, the intuitive belief that like causes will produce like effects, leads us to general laws. Thus, experience teaches that bodies fall at the surface of the earth with an accelerated velocity, and proportional to their masses. Newton proved, by comparison, that the force which occasions the fall of bodies at the earth's surface, is identical with that which retains the moon in her orbit; and induction led him to conclude that as the moon is kept in her orbit by the attraction of the earth, so the planets might be retained in their orbits by the attraction of the sun. By such steps he was led to the discovery of one of those powers with which the Creator has ordained that matter should reciprocally act upon matter.

Physical astronomy is the science which compares and identifies the laws of motion observed on earth with the motions that take place in the heavens, and which traces, by an uninterrupted chain of deduction from the great principle that governs the universe, the revolutions and rotations of the planets, and the oscillations of the fluids at their surfaces, and which estimates the changes the system has hitherto undergone or may hereafter experience, changes which require millions of years for their accomplishment.

The combined efforts of astronomers, from the earliest dawn of civilization, have been requisite to establish the mechanical


theory of astronomy: the courses of the planets have been observed for ages with a degree of perseverance that is astonishing, if we consider the imperfection, and even the want of instruments. The real motions of the earth have been separated from the apparent motions of the planets; the laws of the planetary revolutions have been discovered; and the discovery of these laws has led to the knowledge of the gravitation of matter. On the other hand, descending from the principle of gravitation, every motion in the system of the world has been so completely explained, that no astronomical phenomenon can now be transmitted to posterity of which the laws have not been determined.

Science, regarded as the pursuit of truth, which can only be attained by patient and unprejudiced investigation, wherein nothing is too great to be attempted, nothing so minute as to be justly disregarded, must ever afford occupation of consummate interest and of elevated meditation. The contemplation of the works of creation elevates the mind to the admiration of whatever is great and noble, accomplishing the object of all study, which in the elegant language of Sir James Mackintosh is to inspire the love of truth, of wisdom, of beauty, especially of goodness, the highest beauty, and of that supreme and eternal mind, which contains all truth and wisdom, all beauty and goodness. By the love or delightful contemplation and pursuit of these transcendent aims for their own sake only, the mind of man is raised from low and perishable objects, and prepared for those high destinies which are appointed for all those who are capable of them.

The heavens afford the most sublime subject of study which can be derived from science: the magnitude and splendour of the objects, the inconceivable rapidity with which they move, and the enormous distances between them, impress the mind with some notion of the energy that maintains them in their motions with a durability to which we can see no limits. Equally conspicuous is the goodness of the great First Cause in having endowed man with faculties by which he can not only appreciate the magnificence of his works, but trace, with precision, the operation of his laws, use the globe he inhabits as a base wherewith to measure the magnitude and

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