Category Archives: Hard Science

Item of the Day: Plinie’s Naturall Historie (1601)

Full Title:

The Historie of the World. Commonly called, the Naturall Historie of C. PLINIUS SECUNDUS. Translated into English by Philemon Holland Doctor of Physicke. Printed in London by Adam Islip, 1601.

Excerpt from the Eighth Booke, Chap. XVI. “Of Lions.”

The Lions are then in their kind most strong and courageous, when the haire of their main or coller is so long, that it covereth both necke and shoulders. and this commeth to them at a certaine age, namely, to those that are engendered by Lions indeed. For such as have Pards to their sires, never have this ornament, no more than the Lionesse. These Lionesses are very letcherous, and this is the very cause that the Lions are so fell and cruell. This, Affricke knoweth best, and seeth most: and especially in time of a great drought, when for want of water, a number of wild beasts resort by troups to those few rivers that be there, and meet together. And hereupon it is, that so many strange shaped beasts, of a mixt and mungrell kind are there bred, whiles the males either perforce, or for pleasure, leape and cover the females of all sorts. From hence it is also, that the Greekes have this common proverbe, That Affricke evermore bringeth forth some new and strange thing or other. The Lion knoweth by sent and smell of the Pard, when the Lionesse his mate hath plaied false, and suffered her selfe to be covered by him: and presently with all his might and maine runneth upon her for to chastise and punish her. And therefore when the Lionesse hath done a fault that way, shee either goeth to a river, and washeth away the strong and ranke savour of the Pard, or els keepeth aloofe, and followeth the Lion farre off, that hee may not catch the said smell. I see it is a common received opinion, that the Lionesse bringeth forth young but once in her lie, for that her whelpes in her kinling; teare her belly with their nailes, and make themselves roume that way. Aristotle writeth otherwise, a man whom I cannot name, but with great honour and reverence, and whome in the historie and report of these matters I meane for the most part to follow. And in very truth king Alexander the great, of an ardent desire that he had to know the natures of all living creatures, gave this charge to Aristotle, a man singular and accomplished in all kind of science and learning, to search into this matter, and to set the same downe in writing: and to this effect commanded certaine thousands of men, one or other, throughout all the tract, as well of Asia as Greece, to give their attendance, & obey him: to wit, all Hunters, Faulconers, Fowlers, and Fishers, that lived by those professions. Item, all Forresters, Park-keepers, and Wariners: all such as had the keeping of heards and flockes of cattell: of bee-hives, fish-pooles, stewes, and ponds: as also those that kept up foule, tame or wild, in mew, those that fed poultrie in barton or coupe: to the end that he should be ignorant of nothing in this behalfe, but be advertised by them, according to his commission, of all things in the world. By his conference with them, he collected so much, as thereof he compiled those excellent bookes de Annimalibus, i. of Living creatures, to the number of almost fiftie. Which being couched by me in a narrow roume, and breefe Summarie, which the addition also of some things els which he never knew, I beseech the readers to take in good worth: and for the discoverie and knowledge of all Natures workes, which that most noble & famous king that ever was desired so earnestly to know, to make a short start abroad with mee, and in a breefe discourse by mine owne paines and diligence digested, to see all. To return now unto our former matter. That great Philosopher Aristotle therfore reporteth, that the Lionesse at her first litter bringeth forth five whelpes, and every yeare after, fewer by one: and when she commeth to bring but one alone, she giveth over, and becommeth barren. Her whelpes at the first are without shape, like small gobbets of flesh, no bigger than weasels. When they are sixe months old, they can hardly go; and for the two first, they stirre not a whit. Lions there be also in Europe (onely betweene the rivers Achelous and Nestus) and these verily be farre stronger than those of Affricke or Syria. Moreover, of Lions there be two kinds: the one short, well trussed and compact, with more crisp and curled maines, but these are timerous and but cowards to them that have long and plaine haire; for thsoe passe not for any wounds whatsoever. The Lions lift up a legge when they pisse, as dogges doe: and over and besides that, they have a strong and stinking breath, their very bodie also smelleth ranke. Seldome they drinke, and eat but each other day: and if at any time they feed till they be full, they will abstaine from meat three daies after. In their feeding, whatsoever they can swallow without chawing, down it goes whole: and if they find their gorge and stomack too full, and not able indeed to receive according to their greedie appetite, they thrust their pawes downe their throats and with their crooked clees fetch out some of it againe, to the end they should not be heavie and slow upon their fulnesse, if haply they be put to find their feet and flie. Mine author Aristotle saith moreover, that they live verie long: and he prooveth it by this argument, That many of them are found toothles for very age. Polybius who accompanied [Scipio] Æmylianus in his voyage of Affrick, reporteth of them, That when they be grown aged, they will prey upon a man: the reason is, because their strength will not hold out to pursue in chase other wild beasts. Then, they come about the cities and good towns of Affrick, lying in await for their prey, if any folk come abroad: & for that cause, he saith, that whiles he was with Scipio he saw some of them crucified & hanged up, to the end that upon the sight of them, other Lions should take example by them, and be skared from doing the like mischiefe. The Lion alone of all wild beasts is gentle to those that humble themselves unto him, and will not touch any such upon their submission, but spareth what creature soever lieth prostrate before him. As fell and furious as hee is otherwhiles, yet he dischargeth his rage upon men, before that he setteth upon women, and never preyeth upon babes unlesse it be for extreame hunger. They are verily persuaded in Libya, that they have a certaine understanding, when any man doth pray or entreat them for any thing. I have hard it reported for a truth, by a captive woman of Getulia (which being fled was brought home againe to her master) That shee had pacified the violent furie of many Lions within the woods and forrests, by faire language and gentle speech; and namely, that for to escape their rage, she hath been so hardie as to say, shee was a sillie woman, a banished fugitive, a sickely, feeble, and weake creature, an humble suiter and lowly supplicant unto him the noblest of all other living creatures, the soveraigne and commaunder of all the rest, and that shee was too base and not worthie that his glorious majestie should prey upon her. Many and divers opinions are currant, according to the sundrie occurrences that have hapned, or the inventions that mens wits have devised. As touching this matter, namely, that savage beasts are dulced and appeased by good words and faire speech: as also that fell serpents may bee trained and fetched out of their holes by charmes, yea and by certaine conjurations and menaces restrained and dept under for a punishment: but whether it be true or no, I see it is not yet by any man set downe and determined. To come againe to our Lions: the signe of their intent and disposition, is their taile; like as in horses, their ears: for these two marks and tokens, certainly hath Nature given to the most couragious beasts of all others, to know their affections by: for when the Lion stirreth not his taile, hee is in a good mood, gentle, mild, pleasantly disposed, and as if hee were willing to be plaied withall; but in that fit he is seldome seene: for lightly hee is alwaies angrie. At the first, when hee entreth into his choller, hee beateth the ground with his taile: when hee groweth into greater heats, he flappeth and jerketh his sides and flanks withall, as it were to quicken himselfe, and stirre up his angry humor. His maine strength lieth in his breast: hee maketh not a wound (whether it be by lash of taile, scratch of claw, or print of tooth) but the bloud that followeth, is black.


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Filed under 1600's, Explorations, Geography, Greek/Roman Translations, Hard Science, History, Natural Science, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

Item of the Day: The Young Mathematician’s Guide (1740)

Full Title: The Young Mathematician’s Guide: Being a Plain and Easy Introduction to the Mathematicks. In Five Parts VIZ. I. Arithmetick, Vulgar and Decimal, with All the Useful Rules; and a General Method of Extracting the Roots of All Single Powers. II. Algebra, or Arithmetick in Species; wherein the Method of Raising and Resolving Equations is Rendered Easy; and Illustrated with a Variety of Examples, and Numerical Questions. Also the Whole Business of Interest and Annuities, &c, Performed by the Pen. III. The Elements of Geometry Contracted, and Analytically Demonstrated; with a New and Easy Method of Finding the Circle’s Periphery and Area to Any Assigned Exactness, by One Equation Only: Also a New Way of Making Sines and Tangents. IV. Conick Sections, wherein the Chief Properties, &c. of the Ellipsis, Parabola, and Hyperbola, are Clearly Demonstrated. V. The Arithmetick of Infinities Explained, and Rendered Easy; with it’s [sic] Application to Superficial and Solid Geometry. With an Appendix of Practical Gauging. By John Ward. The Seventh Edition, Carefully Corrected. To which is now first added, a Supplement, containing the History of Logarithms, and an Index to the whole Work. London: Printed for S. Birt, C. Hitch, E. Wicksteed, J. Hodges, and E. Comyns, 1740.

To the READER.

I Think it is needless (and almost endless) to run over all the Usefulness, and Advantages of Mathematicks in General; and shall therefore only touch upon those two admirable Sciences, Arithmetick and Geometry; which are indeed the two grand Pillars (or rather the Foundations) upon which all other Parts of Mathematical Learning depend.

As to the Usefulness of Arithmetick, it is well known that no Business, Commerce, Trade, or Employment whatsoever, even from the Merchant to the Shop-keeper, &c. can be managed and carried on, without the Assistance of Numbers.
And as to the Usefulness of Geometry, it is as certain, that no curious Art, or Mechanick-Work, can either be invented, improved, or performed, without it’s assisting Principles; tho’ perhaps the Artist, or Workman, has but little (nay, scarce any) Knowledge in Geometry.

Then, as to the Advantages that arise from both these Noble Sciences, when duly joined together, to assist each other, and then apply’d to Practice, (according as Occasion requires) they will readily be granted by all who consider the vast Advantages that accrue to Mankind from the Business of Navigation only. As also from that of Surveying and Dividing of Lands betwixt Party and Party. Besides the great Pleasure and Use there is from Timekeepers, as Dials, Clocks, Watches, &c. All these, and a great many more very useful Arts, (too many to be enumerated here) wholly depend upon the aforesaid Sciences.And therefore it is no Wonder, That in all Ages so many Ingenious and Learned Persons have employed themselves in writing upon the Subject of Mathematicks; but then most of those Authors seem to presuppose that their Readers had made some Progress in that Sort of Learning before they attempted to peruse those Books, which are generally large Volumes, written in such abstruse Terms, that young Learners were really afraid of looking into those Studies.

These Considerations first put me (many years ago) upon the Thoughts of endeavouring to compose such a plain and familiar Introduction to the Mathematicks, as might encourage those that were willing (to spend some Time that Way) to venture and proceed on with Chearfulness [sic]; tho’ perhaps they were wholly ignorant of it’s [sic] first Rudiments. Therefore I began with their first Elements or Principles.

That is, I began with an Unit in Arithmetick and a Pint in Geometry; and from these Foundations proceeded gradually on, leading the young Learner Step by Step with all the Plainness I could, &c.

And for that Reason I published this Treatise (Anno 1707) by the Title of the Young Mathematician’s Guide; which has answered the Title so well, that I believe I may truly say (without Vanity) this Treatise hath proved a very helpful Guide to near five thousand Persons; and perhaps most of them such as would never have looked into the Mathematicks at all but for it.

And not only so, but it hath been very well received amongst the Learned, and (I have been often told) so well approved on at the Universities, in England, Scotland, and Ireland, that it is ordered to be publickly[sic] read to their Pupils, &c.

The Title Page give a short Account of the several Parts treated of, with the Corrections and Additions that are made to this fifth Edition, which I shall not enlarge upon, but leave the Book to speak for it self; and if it be not able to give Satisfaction to the Reader, I am sure all I can say here in it’s [sic] Behalf will never recommend it; But this may be truly said, That whoever reads it over, will find more in it than the Title doth promise, or perhaps he expects: it is true indeed, the Dress is but Plain and Homely it being wholly intended to instruct, and not to amuse or puzzle the young Learner with hard Words, and obscure Terms: However, in this I shall always have the Satisfaction; That I have sincerely aimed at what is useful, tho’ in one of the meanest ways; it is Honour enough for me to be accounted as one of the Under-Labourers in clearing the Ground a little, and removing some of the Rubbish that lay in the Way to this Sort of Knowledge. How well I have performed That, must be left to the proper Judges.

To be brief; as I am not sensible of any Fundamental Error in this Treatise, so I will not pretend to say it is without Imperfections, (Humanum est errare) which I hope the Reader will excuse, and pass over with the like Candour and Good-Will that it was composed for his Use; by his real Well-wisher,


London October 10th, 1706.
Corrected, &c. at Chester, January 20th, 1722.

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Filed under 1740's, Hard Science, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

Item of the Day: Oliver’s Essay on Comets (1772)

Full Title:

An Essay on Comets, in Two Parts. Part I. Containing an Attempt to explain the Phænomena of the Tails of Comets, and to account for their perpetual Opposition to the Sun, upon philosophical Principles. Part II. Pointing out some important Ends for which these tails were probably designed: Wherein it is shewn, that, in Consequence of these curious Appendages, Comets may be inhabited Worlds, and even comfortable Habitations; notwithstanding the vast Excentricities of their Orbits. The Whole interspersed with Observations and Reflections on the Sun and Primary Planets. By Andrew Oliver, Jun. Esq.

Written by Andrew Oliver, Jr. Printed and sold in Salem, New-England by Samuel Hall, near the Exchange, 1772.

From Part II:

AS ancient geographers imagined the polar and equatorial regions, or the frigid and torrid zones of the earth, were uninhabitable, in consequence of the extremes of heat and cold, to which those climates are exposed: So, modern astronomers have passed a similar judgment upon the superior and inferior Planets, especially on Saturn and Mercury; concluding, that our water would always boil upon the latter, and be frozen upon the former; and that merely in consequence of their different distances from the Sun. Whence it has been naturally concluded, that the textures of their various fluids, and of their inhabitants, to whose uses these fluids are adapted, are very different from what they are found to be upon our Earth: And, considering the near approaches of most Comets to, and the vast elongations of all their orbits from the Sun, it has been generally supposed, that no material race of beings could subsist under such amazing vicissitudes of heat and cold, as those bodies must, from their different situations, necessarily be exposed to; consequently that they are uninhabited.

BUT the conclusiveness of this reasoning depends upon the truth of the following Proposition; advanced indeed by Sir Isaac Newton; but not supported by experiments, which were, with him, the criterion veritatis; viz. that, “The heat of the Sun is as the density of his rays, that is reciprocally as the squares of the distances from the Sun.”

HERE, we are again reduced to the disagreeable necessity, of dissenting from the opinion of the greatest GENIUS that ever dignified human reason; which, considering the justly celebrated fame of that illustrious author, may be stigmatized as ignorance or vanity: But it is hoped that the reader will wave that imputation, if he shall judge, upon the whole, that Sir Isaac himself would have altered his opinion, upon the evidence which we shall produce in support of the contrary position: We may, however, lay down this as a maxim, that, in the prosecution of any science, the progress of the mind must necessarily be retarded, in proportion to the implicit assent we give to the decisions of any man, however great. We shall therefore, without further apology, endeavour to prove that the heat of the Sun, as perceived by us, and as discoverable by its effects upon other substances exposed to his rays, does not depend upon the density of those rays only, though they are necessary to the very existence of heat; but, equally upon the concurrent operation of another cause, which we shall presently consider; from whence it will follow, that these causes, wherever they coexist, whether upon the Earth, or upon the heavenly bodies, will naturally produce similar effects.

IN the mean time, before we engage in the discussion of planetary heat, as depending upon the several distances of the Planets from the Sun; it may throw some light upon this subject if we consider the portion of that heat which falls to our own share, and the distribution of it throughout the various climates of the Earth. […]

AS a Comet approaches its perihelion, that hemisphere of its atmosphere which is next to the Sun, being more immediately exposed to his rays, will feel the effects of his neighbourhood sooner than the opposite hemisphere, and consequently will be warmed, rarefied, and thrown off behind the Comet by the repulsion of the Sun’s atmosphere, sooner than the other; the colder and denser parts of the fluid will of course continually flow in from the other side of the Comet to supply its place, in order to preserve, as near as may be, an equilibrium; in consequence of which there will be a constant succession of the cooler air from thence; whereby the inhabitants on the hemisphere next the Sun may be continually refreshed with gales of wind during that vicinity, which would increase till the Comet arrived at its perihelion, when their velocity would be greatest of all; but even then they would not (from this cause) blow in sudden violent gusts like our hurricanes, but steadily, unless disturbed by causes from within the Comet’s atmosphere; besides, as the velocity of the current increased, the density of the fluid would lessen from the increasing rarefaction, whereby its momentum might continue nearly the same; for this momentum would be in a ration compounded of the velocity of the fluid and its density together; and as the violence of our high winds, and their consequent effects depend, not upon the velocity, merely, but upon the momentum of the current, this brisk circulation of the cometic air may, (however great we suppose its velocity) be rather grateful than injurious to the Cometarians: And how unfit their use, if stagnant, yet, when thus put in motion, it may be rendered sufficiently active to answer all the purposes of respiration. This reasoning is confirmed by daily experience: For it is not an uncommon thing for people of tender frames to faint in a close hot and rarefied air; and as the fan is generally near at hand, it is as common for the by-standers to apply it to their faces, which, by giving a brisk motion to the air, without any alteration of its density, generally revives them, in a short time, even when no other remedy is at hand. — This brisk motion of the air would also remove or prevent the disagreeable sensations of heat which the cometary inhabitants might otherwise suffer from an exposure to the Sun’s rays at their perihelia: For, if a person sit with his face uncovered before the scorching blaze of a common fire, the motion of the air excited by a common fan, even without hiding the blaze from the face, is suggicient, not only to make the situation comfortable, but to change the painful sensation to an agreaable coolness: As any one will find upon trial.

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Filed under 1770's, Hard Science, Journal, Natural Science, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt