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A History of the Growth of the Steam-Engine

Was worthily matched by Newton


[104] "History of Civilization in England," vol. i., p. 208. London, 1868.

Another great social revolution thus occurred, following another period of centuries of intellectual stagnation. The Saracen invaders were driven from Europe; the Crusaders invaded Palestine, in the vain effort to recover from the hands of the infidels the Holy Sepulchre and the Holy Land; and intestine broils and inter-state conflicts, as well as these greater social movements, withdrew the minds of men once more from the arts of peace and the pursuits of scholars. It is not, then, until the beginning of the seventeenth century--the time of Galileo and of Newton--that we find the nations of Europe sufficiently quiet and secure to permit general attention to intellectual vocations, although it was a half-century earlier (1543) that Copernicus left to the world that legacy which revolutionized the theories of the astronomers and established as correct the hypothesis which made the sun the centre of the solar system.

Galileo now began to overturn the speculations of the deductive philosophers, and to proclaim the still disputed principle that the book of Nature is a trustworthy commentary in the study of theological and revealed truths, so far as they affect or are affected by science; he suffered martyrdom when he proclaimed the fact that God's laws, as they now stand, had been instituted without deference to the preconceived notions

of the most ignorant of men. Bruno had a few years earlier (1600) been burned at the stake for a similar offense.

Galileo was perhaps the first, too, to combine invariably in application the idea of Plato, the philosophy of Aristotle, and the methods of modern experimentation, to form the now universal scientific method of experimental philosophy. He showed plainly how the grouping of ascertained facts, in natural sequence, leads to the revelation of the law of that sequence, and indicated the existence of a principle which is now known as the law of continuity--the law that in all the operations of Nature there is to be seen an unbroken chain of effect leading from the present back into a known or an unknown past, toward a cause which may or may not be determinable by science or known to history.

Galileo, the Italian, was worthily matched by Newton, the prince of English philosophers. The science of theoretical mechanics was hardly beginning to assume the position which it was afterward given among the sciences; and the grand work of collating facts already ascertained, and of definitely stating principles which had previously been vaguely recognized, was splendidly done by Newton. The needs of physical astronomy urged this work upon him.

Da Vinci had, in the latter half of the fifteenth century, summarized as much of the statics of mechanical philosophy as had, up to his time, been given shape; he also rewrote and added very much to what was known on the subject of friction, and enunciated its laws. He had evidently a good idea of the principle of "virtual velocities," that simple case of equivalence of work, in a connected system, which has done such excellent service since; and with his mechanical philosophy this versatile engineer and artist curiously mingled much of physical science. Then Stevinus, the "brave engineer of Bruges," a hundred years later (1586), alternating office and field work, somewhat after the manner of the engineer of to-day, wrote a treatise on mechanics, which showed the value of practical experience and judgment in even scientific work. And thus the path had been cleared for Newton.


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