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been other than fiery in the beginning. Mayer first suggested that the heat of the Sun may be due to gravitation : but he supposed meteors falling in to keep always generating the heat which is radiated year by year from the Sun. Helmholtz, on the other hand, adopting the nebular hypothesis, showed in 1854 that it was not necessary to suppose the nebulous matter to have been originally fiery, but that mutual gravitation between its parts may have generated the heat to which the present high temperature of the Sun is due. Further he made the important observations that the potential energy of gravitation in the Sun is even now far from exhausted; but that with further and further shrinking more and more heat is to be generated, and that thus we can conceive the Sun even now to possess a sufficient store of energy to produce heat and light, almost as at present, for several million years of time future. It ought, however, to be added that this condensation can only follow from cooling, and therefore that Helmholtz's gravitational explanation of future Sun-heat amounts really to showing that the Sun's thermal capacity is enormously greater, in virtue of the mutual gravitation between the parts of so enormous a mass, than the sum of the thermal capacities of separate and smaller bodies of the same material and same total mass. Reasons for adopting this theory, and the consequences which follow from it, are discussed in an article “ On the Age of the Sun's Heat,” published in • Macmillan's Magazine' for March 1862.

For a few years Mayer's theory of solar heat had seemed to me probable ; but I had been led to regard it as no longer tenable, because I had been in the first place driven, by consideration of the very approximate constancy of the Earth's period of revolution round the Sun for the last 2000 years, to conclude that “The principal source, perhaps the sole appreciably effective “ source of Sun-heat, is in bodies circulating round the Sun at present inside " the Earth's orbit”*; and because Le Verrier's researches on the motion of the planet Mercury, though giving evidence of a sensible influence attributable to matter circulating as a great number of small planets within his orbit round the Sun, showed that the amount of matter that could possibly be assumed to circulate at any considerable distance from the Sun must be very small; and therefore “if the meteoric influx taking place at present is “ enough to produce any appreciable portion of the heat radiated away, it “must be supposed to be from matter circulating round the Sun, within very “short distances of his surface. The density of this meteoric cloud would “have to be supposed so great that comets could scarcely have escaped as “comets actually have escaped, showing no dise erable effects of resistance, “after passing his surface within a distance equal to one-eighth of his radius. “ All things considered, there seems little probability in the hypothesis that “solar radiation is compensated to any appreciable degree, by heat generated “ by meteors falling in, at present; and, as it can be shown that no chemical

theory is tenablet, it must be concluded as most probable that the Sun is “at present mere an incandescent liquid mass cooling " I.

Thus on purely astronomical grounds was I long ago led to abandon as very improbable the hypothesis that the Sun's heat is supplied dynamically from year to year by the influx of meteors. But now spectrum analysis gives proof finally conclusive against it.

Each meteor circulating round the Sun must fall in along a very gradual

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* “On the mechanical energies of the Solar System.” Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 1854 ; and Phil. Mag. 1854, second half year. + "Mechanical Energies" &c.

"Age of the Sun's Heat" (Macmillan's Magazine, March 1862).


spiral path, and before reaching the Sun must have been for a long time exposed to an enormous heating effect from his radiation when very near, and must thus have been driven into vapour before actually falling into the

Thus, if Mayer's hypothesis is correct, friction between vortices of meteoric vapours and the Sun's atmosphere must be the immediate cause of solar heat; and the velocity with which these vapours circulate round equatorial parts of the Sun must amount to 435 kilometres per second. The spectrum test of velocity applied by Lockyer showed but a twentieth part of this amount as the greatest observed relative velocity between different vapours in the Sun's atmosphere.

At the first Liverpool Meeting of the British Association (1854), in adFancing a gravitational theory to account for all the heat, light, and motions of the universe, I urged that the immediately antecedent condition of the matter of which the Sun and Planets were formed, not being fiery, could not have been gaseous; but that it probably was solid, and may have been like the meteoric stones which we still so frequently meet with through space. The discovery of Huggins, that the light of the nebulæ, so far as hitherto sensible to us, proceeds from incandescent hydrogen and nitrogen gases, and that the heads of comets also give us light of incandescent gas, seems at first sight literally to fulfil that part of the nebular hypothesis to which I had objected. But a solution, which seems to me in the highest degree probable, has been suggested by Tait. He supposes that it may be by ignited gaseous exhalations proceeding from the collision of meteoric stones that Nebulæ and the heads of comets show themselves to us; and he suggested, at a former meeting of the Association, that experiments should be made for the purpose of applying spectrum analysis to the light which has been observed in gunnery trials, such as those at Shoeburyness, when iron strikes against iron at a great velocity, but varied by substituting for the iron various solid materials, metallic or stony. Hitherto this suggestion has not been acted upon ; but surely it is one the carrying out of which ought to be promoted by the British Association.

Most important steps have been recently made towards the discovery of the nature of comets, establishing with nothing short of certainty the truth of a hypothesis which had long appeared to me probable, that they consist of groups of meteoric stones, accounting satisfactorily for the light of the nucleus, and giving a simple and rational explanation of phenomena presented by the tails of comets which had been regarded by the greatest astronomers as almost preternaturally marvellous. The meteoric hypothesis to which I have referred remained a mere hypothesis (I do not know that it was ever even published) until, in 1866, Schiaparelli calculated, from observations on the August meteors, an orbit for these bodies which he found to agree almost perfectly with the orbit of the great comet of 1862 as calculated by Oppolzer; and so discovered and demonstrated that a comet consists of a group of meteoric stones. Professor Newton, of Yale College, United States, by examining ancient records, ascertained that in periods of about thirty-three years, since the year 902, there have been exceptionally brilliant displays of the November meteors. It had long been believed that these interesting visitants came from a train of small detached planets circulating round the Sun all in nearly the same orbit, and constituting a belt analogous to Saturn's ring, and that the reason for the comparatively large number of meteors which we observe annually about the 14th of November is, that at that time the earth's orbit cuts through the supposed meteoric belt. Professor Newton concluded from his investigation that there is a denser part of 1871.


the group of meteors which extends over a portion of the orbit so great as to occupy about one-tenth or one-fifteenth of the periodic time in passing any particular point, and gave a choice of five different periods for the revolution of this meteoric stream round the sun, any one of which would satisfy his statistical result. He further concluded that the line of nodes (that is to say, the line in which the plane of the meteoric belt cuts the plane of the Earth's orbit) has a progressive sidereal motion of about 524 per annum. Here, then, was a splendid problem for the physical astronomer; and, happily, one well qualified for the task, took it up. Adams, by the application of a beautiful method invented by Gauss, found that of the five periods allowed by Newton just one permitted the motion of the line of nodes to be explained by the disturbing influence of Jupiter, Saturn, and other planets. The period chosen on these grounds is 334 years. The investigation showed further that the form of the orbit is a long ellipse, giving for shortest distance from the Sun 145 million kilometres, and for longest distance 2895 million kilometres. Adams also worked out the longitude of the perihelion and the inclination of the orbit's plane to the plane of the ecliptic. The orbit which he thus found agreed so closely with that of Temple's Comet I. 1866 that he was able to identify the comet and the meteoric belt*. The same conclusion had been pointed out a few weeks earlier by Schiaparelli, from calculations by himself on data supplied by direct observations on the meteors, and independently by Peters from calculations by Leverrier on the same foundation. It is therefore thoroughly established that Temple's Comet I. 1866 consists of an elliptic train of minute planets, of which a few thousands or millions fall to the earth annually about the 14th of November, when we cross their track. We have probably not yet passed through the very nucleus or densest part; but thirteen times, in Octobers and Novembers, from October 13, A.D. 902, to November 14, 1866 inclusive (this last time having been correctly predicted by Prof. Newton), we have passed through a part of the belt greatly denser than the average, The densest part of the train, when near enough to us, is visible as the head of the comet. This astounding result, taken along with Huggins's spectroscopic observations on the light of the heads and tails of comets, confirms most strikingly Tait's theory of comets, to which I have already referred ; according to which the comet, a group of meteoric stones, is self-luminous in its nucleus, on account of collisions among its constituents, while its “ tail” is merely a portion of the less dense part of the train illuminated by sunlight, and visible or invisible to us according to circumstances, not only of density, degree of illumination, and nearness, but also of tactic arrangement, as of a flock of birds or the edge of a cloud of tobacco-smoke! What prodigious difficulties are to be explained, you may judge from two or three sentences which

* Signor Schiaparelli, Director of the Observatory of Milan, who, in a letter dated 31st December 1866, pointed out that the elements of the orbit of the August Meteors, calculated from the observed position of their radiant point on the supposition of the orbit being a very elongated ellipse, agreed very closely with those of the orbit of Comet II. 1862, calculated by Dr. Oppolzer. In the same letter Schiaparelli gives elements of the orbit of the November meteors, but these were not sufficiently accurate to enable him to identify the orbit with that of any known comet. On the 21st January, 1867, M. Leverrier gave more accurate elements of the orbit of the November Meteors, and in the 'Astronomische Nachrichten 'of January 9, Mr. C. F. W. Peters, of Altona, pointed out that these elements closely agreed with those of Temple's Comet (I 1866), calculated by Dr. Oppolzer; and on February 2, Schiaparelli having recalculated the elements of the orbit of the meteors, himself noticed the same agreement. Adams arrived quite independently at the conclusion that the orbit of 33} years period is the one which must be chosen out of the five indi. cated by Prof. Newton. His calculations were sulliciently advanced before the letters




I shall read from Herschel's Astronomy, and from the fact that even Schiaparelli seems still to believe in the repulsion. “ There is, beyond question, some “ profound secret and mystery of nature concerned in the phenomenon of “ their tails. Perhaps it is not too much to hope that future observation, “ borrowing every aid from rational speculation, grounded on the progress of “physical science generally (especially those branches of it which relate to " the ethereal or imponderable elements), may enable us ere long to penetrate “this mystery, and to declare whether it is really matter in the ordinary " acceptation of the term which is projected from their heads with such “extraordinary velocity, and if not impelled, at least directed, in its course, “ by reference to the Sun, as its point of avoidance ” *.

" In no respect is the question as to the materiality of the tail more for“ cibly pressed on us for consideration than in that of the enormous sweep “ which it makes round the sun in perihelio in the manner of a straight and "rigid rod, in defiance of the law of gravitation, nay, even, of the received laws “ of motion”*.

“ The projection of this ray .. to so enormous a length, in a single day, “conveys an impression of the intensity of the forces acting to produce such “a velocity of material transfer through space, such as no other natural phe“nomenon is capable of exciting. It is clear that if we have to deal here with matter, such as we conceive it (viz. possessing inertia), at all, it must be under " the dominion of forces incomparably more energetic than gravitation, and “ quite of a different nature” f.

Think, now, of the admirable simplicity with which Tait's beautiful “ bird analogy,” as it has been called, can explain all these phenomena.

The essence of science, as is well illustrated by astronomy and cosmical physics, consists in inferring antecedent conditions, and anticipating future evolutions, from phenomena which have actually come under observation. In biology the difficulties of successfully acting up to this ideal are prodigious. The earnest naturalists of the present day are, however, not appalled or paralyzed by them, and are struggling boldly and laboriously to pass out of the mere “ Natural History stage” of their study, and bring zoology within the range of Natural Philosophy. A very ancient speculation, still clung to by many naturalists (so much so that I have a choice of modern terms to quote in expressing it), supposes that, under moteorological conditions very different from the present, dead matter may have run together or crystallized or fermented into “germs of life," or “ organic cells," or " protoplasm.” But science brings a vast mass of inductive evidence against this hypothesis of spontaneous generation, as you have heard from my predecessor in the Presidential chair. Careful enough scrutiny has, in every case up to the present day, discovered life as antecedent to life. Dead matter cannot become living without coming under the influence of matter previously alive. This seems to me as sure a teaching of science as the law of gravitation. I utterly repudiate, as opposed to all philosophical uniformitarianism, the assumption of " different meteorological conditions"that is to say, somewhat different vicissitudes of temperature, pressure, referred to appeared, to show that the other four orbits offered by Newton were inadmissible. But the calculations to be gone through to find the secular motion of the node in such an elongated orbit as that of the meteors were necessarily very long, so that they were not completed till about March 1867. They were communicated in that month to the Cambridge Philosophical Society, and in the month following to the Astronomical Society.

* Herschel's Astronomy, $ 599. † Herschel's Astronomy, 10th edition, $ 589.



moisture, gaseous atmosphere--to produce or to permit that to take place by force or motion of dead matter alone, which is a direct contravention of what seems to us biological law. I am prepared for the answer, “our code of

biological law is an expression of our ignorance as well as of our know“ ledge." And I say yes: search for spontaneous generation out of inorganic materials ; let any one not satisfied with the purely negative testimony, of which we have now so much against it, throw himself into the inquiry. Such investigations as those of Pasteur, Pouchet, and Bastian are among the most interesting and momentous in the whole range of Natural History, and their results, whether positive or negative, must richly reward the most careful and laborious experimenting. I confess to being deeply impressed by the evidence put before us by Professor Huxley, and I am ready to adopt, as an article of scientific faith, true through all space and through all time, that life proceeds from life, and from nothing but life.

How, then, did life originate on the Earth? Tracing the physical history of the Earth backwards, on strict dynamical principles, we are brought to a red-hot melted globe on which no life could exist. Hence when the Earth was first fit for life, there was no living thing on it. There were rocks solid and disintegrated, water, air all round, warmed and illuminated by a brilliant Sun, ready to become a garden. Did grass and trees and flowers spring into existence, in all the fulness of ripe beauty, by a fiat of Creative Power? or did regetation, growing up from seed sown, spread and multiply over the whole Earth? Science is bound, by the everlasting law of honour, to face fearlessly every problem which can fairly be presented to it. If a probable solution, consistent with the ordinary course of nature, can be found, we must not invoke an abnormal act of Creative Power. When a lava stream flows down the sides of Vesuvius or Etna it quickly cools and becomes solid; and after a few weeks or years it teems with vegetable and animal life, which for it originated by the transport of seed and ova and by the migration of individual living creatures. When a volcanic island springs up from the sea, and after a few years is found clothed with vegetation, we do not hesitate to assume that seed has been wafted to it through the air, or floated to it on rafts. Is it not possible, and if possible, is it not probable, that the beginning of vegetable life on the Earth is to be similarly explained ? Every year thousands, probably millions, of fragments of solid matter fall upon the Earth—whence came these fragments ? What is the previous history of any one of them ? Was it created in the beginning of time an amorphous mass ? This idea is so unacceptable that, tacitly or explicitly, all men discard it. It is often assumed that all, and it is certain that some, meteoric stones are fragments which had been broken off from greater masses and launched free into space. It is as sure that collisions must occur between great masses moving through space as it is that ships, steered without intelligence directed to prevent collision, could not cross and recross the Atlantic for thousands of years with immunity from collisions. When two great masses come into collision in space it is certain that a large part of each is melted; but it seems also quite certain that in many cases a large quantity of débris must be shot forth in all directions, much of which may have experienced no greater violence than individual pieces of rock experience in a land-slip or in blasting by gunpowder. Should the time when this Earth comes into collision with another body, comparable in dimensions to itself, be when it is still clothed as at present with vegetation, many great and small fragments carrying seed and living plants and animals would undoubtedly be scattered through space. Hence and because we all confidently believe that there are at present, and have been from tim


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