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CHAPTER I.-Origin of Astronomy-Improvements in that fascinating Science-and peculiar advantages resulting from the study of it.
page 1 CHAP. II.—Of the Solar System-Fixed Stars, Ecliptic, &c.
CHAP. III.—Of the Figure of the Earth-its diurnal and annual Motions,-Different length of Days and Nights-and vicissitudes of the Seasons.
CHAP. IV.—Of the Reformation of the Calendar.
CHAP. V.—Of the Equation of Time. CHAP. VI.-Of the Latitude and Longitude, with the methods of ascertaining them. CHAP. VII.—Of the Moon, its Size, Phases, changes in its Orbit, Libration, Harvest Moon, &c.
CHAP. VIII.—Of Eclipses of the Sun and Moon.
CHAP. IX-Of the Phenomena of the Tides,
Origin of Astronomy.....Improvements in that fascinating science... And peculiar advantagés resulting from the study of it.
IN the early ages of the world, when the attention of mankind was principally devoted to pastoral or agricultural concerns, the return of particular seasons was an object which they naturally wished to ascertain; and though their first observations were few, and extremely limited, their importance was sufficiently obvious to stimulate to new and deeper researches.
The Chaldean husbandman perceived that the cheering influences of the sun were more VOL. L. 2
amply afforded at some periods than at others, and attentively observed their effects, in retarding or accelerating the growth of his corn, and the wished-for day of harvest: and the contemplative shepherd, while keeping watch over his flock by night, acquired the most interesting knowledge, from viewing the regular changes of the moon, and the different situations in which she rose and set to the horizon.
Equally incited by necessity and the dictates of curiosity, the ancient astronomers next turned their attention to the starry heavens; and began to group the shining orbs into constellations, under such names as seemed best adapted to the respective seasons when the sun was in those signs; thus endeavouring to ascertain the time of the sun's apparent revolution.
The zodiac, or circle of animals, was divided into twelve parts, whose names and characters were as follows:
Aries, the ram; 8 Taurus, the bull; II Gemini, the twins; 5 Cancer, the crab; Leo, the lion; y Virgo, the virgin Libra, the balance; m Scorpio, the scorpion; ↑ Sagittarius, the archer; V Capricorn, the goat; Aquarius, the waterer; and Pisces, the fishes.
By Aries, Taurus, and Gemini, the latter of which were anciently represented by kids, is implied the spring, all these animals being produced at that season; Cancer, or the crab,
was intended to denote the retrograde motion of the sun, after his arrival at a certain height above the horizon; the figure of Leo, or the lion, was introduced as emblematic of the extreme heat and raging sensations experienced while the sun was passing under the next constellation; Virgo, or the virgin, evidently alluded to the period when the maiden gleaners were busied in gathering the refuse of the harvest; Libra, or the balance, afforded a striking hieroglyphic of the equal division of day and night; the venomous qualities of the Scorpion alluded to the diseases which usually ensue on the fall of the leaf; Sagittarius, or the archer, was an apt symbol of the sporting season; Capricorn, or the goat, which delights in climbing rocks, &c. served to express the circumstance of the sun ascending again to its highest situation: and Aquarius and Pisces were symbolical of the rainy
The observation of the polar star enabled the Phoenicians to extend that commerce, which rendered them such an opulent and respectable nation: and Thales the Milesian, having become acquainted with the important secret, communicated it to the Ionians, by whom the knowledge of astronomy was gradually diffused over all parts of Greece. The same celebrated character discovered the solstices and equinoxes; divided the globe into five zones; and also divided the year into three hundred and sixty-five days.