Imatges de pÓgina


where the Doctor appears to be “ almost a stranger," as in “ Mathematics," and " Mechavical Philosophy," the information actually presented is too often slight and obscure, while the omissions of important results are most vexatiously frequent. We shall specify only a few instances.

1. In the Philosophical Transactions for 1768, there is an ingenious paper on the theory of circulating decimals, by Mr. John Robertson. This is omitted because, says Dr. Thomson, the subseqrent publications of Dr. Hutton have deprived this paper of all its interest.' Now it happens that amidst the great variety of subjects treated by Dr. H. in his excellent publications, he has not a single word on that of circulating, decimals, except the little, amounting to scarcely any thing more than definitions, in his Mathematical Dictionary

2. The late Dr. Waring, was, as is universally acknowledged, one of the greatest mathematicians England could

boast. According to his own account, in his " Essay on the Principles of Human Knowledge," (and he was far too modest a man to deal in exaggeration) he discovered between three and four hundred new propositions of one kind or other; considerably more than have been given by any English writer; and in novelty and difficulty not inferior.' Several of these are to be found in different volumes of the Philosophical Transactions; but our author attempts no detail of their contents, nor even enumerates all their titles. The reason he adduces is this: "Waring was one of the profoundest mathematicians of the 18th century ; but the inelegance und obscurity of his writings prevented him from obtaining that reputation to which he was entitled. Except Emerson, there is scarcely any writer whose works are so revolting as those of Waring! If obscurity and abstruseness be synonymous, and if those works on mathematics could be revolting which Euler delighted to study, and which D'Alembert and Lagrange cha. racterise as full of excellent and interesting discoveries,' then may Dr. Thomson be excused for so speaking of such an author.

3. Among the contributions to the Royal Society by Mr. Geo. Atwood, are two on the equilibrium of Aoating bodies, and on the stability of ships. These Dr. Thomson characterises as “ excellent papers;" but we conceive the subjects to which they relate are much too important, and Mr. Atwood's mode of treating them_far too admirable and perspicuous, to allow us to think Dr. T. justifiable in thus passing them over.

4. The subject of Porisms is only once introduced, as far as we recollect, in the whole series of the Philosophical Transactions; and that is in a very ingenious paper by Mr. Brougham, in the volume for 1798. This valuable article Dr. Thomson has not even named; an omission which we cannot but consider as very extraordinary, when it is recollected that notwithstanding the attention which has been paid to the subject by Fermat, David Gregory, Halley, R. Simson, Playfair, and others, among the moderns, it is still a matter of doubt what was the exact kind of proposition the ancients designated by this name ;* and it is, therefore, the more desirable that light should be drawn from every quarter.

This catalogue might be almost indefinitely extended; as might also a kindred one of inadvertencies, such, as when he calls the same person Mr. and Dr. Mudge in two successive pages-or when he calls fluxions, fluctions, or when he names Maupertuis, Moupertuis,-or when he affirms that we have no history of mathematics in the English language'-or when he ascribes the fundamental principles of hydrostatics to Mr. Boyle in one page, and to Archimedes in the next. But the enumeration of such oversights would be an ungracious task: and it is but an act of simple justice to acknowledge that this volume, with all its errors, will be found to contain much that is both amusing and instructive. We have said enough to show that the work is very far from perfect; but it is in great measure constituted of selections from the Philosophical Transactions, and therefore cannot but be in many respects extremely useful.

The lists which Dr. T. has given of the successive Presidents, Secretaries, &c. of the Royal Society, are preceded by an observation which we cannot pass unnoticed. Whoever will examine the Transactions with care, will easily satisfy . himself that by far the most valuable volumes of that work are the 32 which have been published during the Presidente ship of Sir Joseph Banks; and fortunately for the progress of science, he has enjoyed that situation for a much longer period than any of his predecessors.' Now, we are well aware that Sir Joseph Banks is a very ingenious naturalist, and a very hospitable baronet, and farther, we believe he has no great aversion

Though I admire the ingenuity, and fully admit the soundness of Professor Playfair's definition, and also the utility of the principle on which it is founded, in the discovery of Porisma ; I must acknowledge my doubt of that particular notion of a Porism having ever been adopted or even proposed, among the ancient geometricians.' Dr. Trail, in his Life of R. Simson, just published.

to any department of science except that which includes Cardan's Rules,' and other equally obscure and revolting' particulars. We are also anxious to assign their due share of praise to the brilliant discoveries of Dr. Herschel, Sir Humphry Davy, and a few other pbilosopbers of the present day. Yet whether it be that we poor reviewers have not so frequently partaken of the abundant repasts in Soho-Square, as' some of our contemporaries, or to whatsoever cause it may be attributable, we certainly do not think the Philosophical Transactions of the last 32 years, any way comparable in point of richness and value to those which were published between the years 1695 and 1727; when the volumes teemed with communications from Wallis, David Gregory, Cassini, Demaiore, Homberg, Woodward, Bernoulli, Pitcairn, Boerhaave, Cheselden, Arbuthnot, Ditton, Keill, Garth, Mead, Loche, Brook Taylor, Desaguliers, Cotes, Huxham, Juriul, Maclaurin, Halley, Newton, Pemberton, R. Sinson, Stirling, Stukely, Whiston, Bradley, Hales, &c.—as bright a constellation of genius, as ever illuminated the sciences of any country or any period.

The biographical sketches in Dr. Thomson's work, are by no means such as the advertisements with which it was ushered into the world gave us reason to expect. One of the best is the account of Newton, taken , avowedly from « Turnor's collections for the Town and Soke of Grantham.' But even this occupies only eight pages,-a narrow space to be assigned, in such a work, to the greatest philosopher that ever lived. It contains, however, a few amusing particulars; and among others, the following piece of poetry, written by Newton, when a boy at school, under the portrait of Charles I.

A secret art my soul requires to try,
If prayers can give me what the wars deny.
Three crowns distinguished here in order do
Present their objects to my knowing view:
Earth's crown thus at my feet I can disdain,
Which heavy is, and, at the best, but vain.
But now a crown of thorns I gladly greet :
Sharp is this crown, but not so sharp as sweet.
The crown of glory that I yonder, see,

Is full of bliss, and of eternity.' To this we shall take the liberty of subjoining a quotation relating to the moral character of Newton.

• Notwithstanding the extraordinary honours that were paid him, he had so humble an opinion of himself, that he had no relish for the applause which he received. He was so little rain and desirous of glory


to man


any of his works, that he would have let others run away with the glory of those inventions which have done so much honour to human Dature, if his friends and countrymen had not been more jealous than he was of his own glory, and the honour of his country. He was exceedingly courteous and affable, even. 10. the lowest, and never despised any man for want of capacity ; but always expressed freely his resentment against any immorality or impiety. He not only showed a great and constant regard to religion in general, as well by an exemplary life as in all his writings, but was also a firm believer of revealed religion; as appears by the many papers which he left behind him on the subject. But his notion of the Christian Religion was not founded on a narrow bottom, por his charity and morality so scanty, as to show a coldness to those who thought otherwise than he did in matters indifferent; much less to admit of persecution, of which he always expressed the strongest abhorrence and detestation. He had such a mildness of temper that a melancholy story would often draw tears from him, and he was exceedingly shocked at any act of cru

beast; mercy to both being the topic that he loved to dwell upon. An ionate modesty and -simplicity showed itself in all his actions and expressions. His whole life was one continued series of labour, patience, charity, generosity, temperance, pietý, goodness, and all other virtues, without a mixture of any known vice whatsoever.'

This is such a character as a Christian philosopher should have. Let the reader contrast it with the lives of such men as Voltaire, d'Alembert, Diderot, Condorcet, and many other philosophers on the continent, and if he feel something like “ honest pride" at being the countryman of Newton we can readily forgive him. Dr. Thomson adds in a note," Newton's religious opinions were not orthodox; for example, he did not believe in the Trinity.' We ask, wliere is the evidence of this? It is a well-known fact that he was so angry with Whiston for having said he was an Arian, that Whiston was not sure he had thoroughly forgiven bim for years after. Is it probable, is it possible, that an Antitrinitarian, of the mildest and most placable disposition should be long and seriously angry with another for calling him an Arian? Newton was not likely to embrace any opinion, but upon the maturest deliberation; but when once his opinion was formed, although he was far too modest to be often adverting to it, yet he was infinitely too upright to vent his anger upon the person who represented bim as holding that, or any kindred sentiments, But we need say no more respecting this often repeated charge. As yet, it has been adduced completely unsubstantiated by evidence'; and so long as that is the case we hold ourselves justified in disregarding it altogether.

Here we must terminate our account of Dr. Thomson's his. tory. As we proceeded we have, we confess, been free in our




censures; but not more so than the occasion seemed imperiously to demand. If the instances we have alledged (and the multitude of similar ones we forbore to expose) of misinformation and inaccuracy, had been only secondary oversights, such as are incident to all writers in undertakings of grcat extent, we should have thought it uncandid to disparage a work in which they happened to occur. But they are of such a nature, as indicate either extreme carelessness, or entire incompetency to execute accurately and faithfully the labour undertaken. In the present hook-making age this is the besetting sin of authors. We are sorry to find a man of Dr. Thomson's reputation seduced by it. It would have been easy for him to have obtained adequate assistance in those departments of science to which he had paid but slight attention : and in that case we should most probably have found it our duty to recommend warmly, a work which we now hesitate in recomiending at all.

Art. IV. Memoires de Frédérique Sophie Wilhelmina de Prusse, Margrace

de Bareith, Saur de Frederic le Grand; Ecrits de sa main. Deux tomes.

pp. 757. Price One Guinea. Colburn, 1812. WE are seldom displeased with an addition made to the

stock of works of this class. They afford almost the only inlet through which vulgar eyes are enabled to penetrate into the mysteries and manners of courts;—and by disclosing, in their genuine colours, the characters of princes, ministers, and favourites, and the trifling impulses in which the far greater part of their counsels originate, they enable the historian, instead of the vague conjectures in which he is otherwise tempted to indulge, to trace to their true and proper sources the most important political transactions. It has been by the help of such disclosures that we have become possessed of so accurate a detail of the reign of Louis XIV.; and however some persons may lament this rude intrusion upon the privacy of royalty, we are inclined to think that the St. Şinions and Montpensiers have upon the whole rendered good service to their country and mankind—though at the same time we are well aware that it is not every mind which can rise uncontaminated from the participation of their secrets.

The very interesting work before us, narrates with the utmost apparent candour and simplicity, and in considerable minuteness of detail, the domestic history of the Princess Sophia, sister of the Great Frederic, during a period of thirty-six years. She was the daughter of William 1. King of Prussia'; and it may bespeak the interest of the English reader the more strongly in her favour, when it is recollected, that on her mother's side, she was grandaughter of George I.,

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