Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the differences, and I gained nothing from this beyond imprinting deeply in my memory the distances as assigned by Copernicus ; unless, perhaps, reader, this record of my various attempts may force your assent, backwards and forwards, as the waves of the sea; until fired at length, you will willingly repose yourself, as in a safe haven, on the reasons explained in this book. However, I was comforted in some degree, and my hopes of success were supported as well by other reasons which will follow presently, as by observing that the motions in every case seemed to be connected with the distances, and that where there was a great gap between the orbits, there was the same between the motions. And I reasoned, that if God had adapted motions to the orbits in some relation to the distances, it was probable that he had also arrayed the distances themselves in relation to something else.

"Finding no success by this method, I tried another, of singular audacity. I inserted a new planet between Mars and Jupiter, and another between Venus and Mercury, both of which I supposed invisible, perhaps on account of their smallness, and I attributed to each a certain period of revolution." I thought that I could thus contrive some equality of proportions, increasing between every two, from the sun to the fixed stars. For instance, the Earth is nearer Venus in parts of the terrestrial orbit, than Mars is to the Earth in parts of the orbit of Mars. But not even the interposition of a new planet sufficed for the enormous gap between Mars and Jupiter; for the proportion of Jupiter to the new planet was still greater than that of Saturn to Jupiter. And although, by this supposition, I got some sort of a proportion, yet there was no reasonable conclusion, no certain determination of the number of the planets either towardsthe fixed stars, till we should get as far as them, nor ever towards the Sun, because the division in this proportion of the residuary space within Mercury might be continued without end. Nor

* The following scrupulous note added by Kepler In 1621 to a subsequent edition of this work, deserves to be quoted. It shows how entirely superior he was to the paltriness of attempting to appropriate the discoveries of others, of which many of his contemporaries had exhibited instances even on slighter pretences than this passage might have afforded him. The note Is as follows: "Not circulating round Jupiter like the Mediciean stars. Be not deceived. I never had them in my thoughts, but, like the other primary planets, including the sun in the centre of the system within their orbits."

could I form any conjecture, from the mobility of particular numbers, why, among an infinite number, so few should be moveable. The opinion advanced by Rheticus in his Narrative is improbable, where he reasons from the sanctity of the number six to the number of the six moveable heavens ; for he who is inquiring of the frame of the world itself, must not derive reasons from these numbers, which have gained importance from things of later date.

"I sought again, in another way, whether, the distance of every planet is not as the residuum of a sine; and its motion as the residuum of the sine of the complement in the same quadrant.

[graphic]

"Conceive the square AB to be constructed, whose side A C is equal to the semidiameter of the universe. From the angle B opposite to A the place of the sun, or centre of the world, describe the quadrant D C with the radius B C. Then in A C, the true radius of the world, let the sun, fixed stars, and planets be marked at their respective distances, and from these points draw lines parallel to B C, meeting the quadrant. I imagined the moving force acting on each of the planets to be in the proportion of these parallels. In the line of the sun is infinity, because A D is touched, and not cut, by the quadrant: therefore the moving force is infinite in the sun, as deriving no motion except from its own act. In Mercury the infinite line is' cut off at K, and therefore at this point the motion is comparable with the others. In the fixed stars the line is altogether lost, and compressed into a mere point C; therefore at that point there is no moving force. This was the theorem, which was to be tried by calculation; but if any one will reflect that two thins?? were wanting to me, first, that I did not know the size of the Sinus Totus, that is, the radius of the proposed quadrant; secondly, that the energies of the motions were not thus expressed otherwise than in relation one to another: whoever, I say, well considers this, will doubt, not without reason, as to the progress I was likely to make in this difficult course. And yet, with unremitting labour, and an infinite reciprocation of sines and arcs, I did get so far as to be convinced that this theory could not hold.

"Almost the whole summer was lost in these annoying labours; at last, by a trifling accident, I lighted more nearly on the truth. I looked on it as an interposition of Providence, that I should obtain by chance, what I had failed to discover with my utmost exertions ; and I believed this the more, because I prayed constantly that I might succeed, if Copernicus had really spoken the truth. It happened on the 9th or 19th* day of July, in the year 1595, that, having occasion to show, in my lectureroom, the passages of the great conjunctions through eight signs, and how they pass gradually from one trine aspect to another, I inscribed in a circle

[graphic][merged small]

portion between these two circles struck the eye as almost identical with that between Saturn and Jupiter, and the triangle is the first figure, just as Saturn and Jupiter are the first planets. On the spot I tried the second distance between Jupiter and Mars with a square, the third with a pentagon, the fourth with a hexagon. And as the eye again cried out against the second distance between Jupiter and Mars, I combined the square with a triangle and a pentagon. There would be no end of mentioning every trial. The failure of this fruitless attempt was the beginning of the last fortunate one ; for I reflected, that in this way I should never reach the sun, if I wished to observe the same rule throughout; nor should I have any reason why there were six, rather than twenty or a hundred moveable orbits. And yet figures pleased me, as being quantities, and as having existed before the heavens; for quantity was created with matter, and the heavens afterwards. But if (this was the current of my thoughts), in relation to the quantity and proportion of the six orbits, as Copernicus has determined them among the infinite other figures, five only could be found having peculiar properties above the rest, my business would be done. And then again it struck me, what have plane figures to do among solid orbits? Solid bodies ought rather to be introduced. This, reader, is the invention and the whole substance of this little work; for if any one, though but moderately skilled in geometry, should hear these words hinted, the five regular solids will directly occur to him with the proportions of their circumscribed and inscribed spheres: he has immediately before his eyes that scholium of Euclid to the 18th proposition of his 13th Book, in which it is proved to be impossible that there should be, or be imagined, more than five regular bodies. "What is worthy of admiration (since I had then no proof of any prerogatives of the bodies with regard to their order) is, that employing a conjecture which was far from being subtle, derived from. the distances of the planets, I should at once attain my end so happily in arranging them, that I was not able to change anything afterwards with the utmost exercise of my reasoning powers. In memory of the event, I write down here for you the sentence, just as it fell from me, and m the words in which it was that moment conceived :—The Earth is the

[merged small][merged small][graphic]

"This was the cause, and such the success, of my labour: now read my propositions in this book. The intense pleasure I have received from this discovery never can be told in words. I regretted no more the time wasted; I tired of no labour; I shunned no toil of reckoning; days and nights I spent in calculations, until I could see whether this opinion would agree with the orbits of Copernicus, or whether my joy was to vanish into air. I willingly subjoin that sentiment of Archytas, as given by Cicero: • If I could mount up into heaven, and thoroughly perceive the nature of the world, and beauty of the stars, that admiration would be without a charm for me, unless I had some one like you, reader, candid, attentive, and eager for knowledge, to whom to describe it." If

you acknowledge this feeling, and are candid, you will refrain from blame, such as not without cause I anticipate; but if, leaving that to itself, you fear lest these things be not ascertained, and that I have shouted triumph before victory, at least approach these pages, and learn the matter in consideration: you will not find, as just now, new and unknown planets interposed; that boldness of mine is not approved, but those old ones very little loosened, and so furnished by the interposition (however absurd you may think it) of rectilinear figures, that in future you may give a reason to the rustics when they ask for the hooks which keep the skies from falling.— Farewell."

In the third chapter Kepler mentions, that a thickness must be allowed to

[merged small][merged small][table][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

It will be observed, that Kepler's results were far from being entirely satisfactory ; but he seems to have nattered himself, that the differences might be attributed to erroneous measurements. Indeed, the science of observation was then so much in its infancy, that such an assertion might be made without incurring much risk of decisive refutation.

Kepler next endeavoured to determine why the regular solids followed in this rather than any other order; and his imagination soon created a variety of essential distinctions between the cube, pyramid, and dodecahedron, belonging to the superior planets, and the other two.

The next question examined in the book, is the reason why the zodiac is divided into 360 degrees; and on this subject, he soon becomes enveloped in a variety of subtle considerations, (not very intelligible in the original, and still more difficult to explain shortly to others unacquainted with it,) in relation to the divisions of the musical scale; the origin of which he identifies with his five favourite solids. The twentieth chapter is appropriated to a more interesting inquiry, containing the first traces of his finally successful researches into the proportion between the distances of the planets, and the times of their motions round the sun. He begins with the generally admitted fact, that the more distant planets move more slowly; but in order to show that the proportion, whatever it may be, is not the simple one of the distances, he exhibits the following little Table :—

[table][merged small]

planet placed above it, and underneath the days due to the other inferior planets, if they observed the proportion of distance. Hence it appears that this proportion in every case gives a time greater than the truth; as for instance, if the earth's rate of revolution were to Jupiter's in the proportion of their distances, the second column shows that the time of her period would be 843 instead of 3651 days! s0 of the rest. His next attempt was to compare them by two by two, in which he found that he arrived at a proportion something like the proportion of the distances, although as yet far from obtaining it exactly. This process amounts to taking the quotients obtained by dividing the period of each

Elanet by the period of the one next eyond. ,

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

But if the distance of each planet in _ succession be taken to consist of '1000 equal parts, the distance of the next below will contain, according to Copernicus, in

From this table he argued that to make the proportions agree, we must assume one of two things, "either that the moving intelligences of the planets are weakest in those which are farthest from the Sun, or that there is one moving intelligence in the Sun, the common centre forcing them all round, but those most violently which are nearest, and that it languishes in some sort, and grows weaker at the most distant, because of the remoteness and the attenuation of the virtue."

We stop here to insert a note added by Kepler to the later editions, and shall take advantage of the same interruption to warn the reader not to confound this notion of Kepler with the theory of a gravitating force towards the Sun, in' the sense in which we now use those words. According to our theory, the effect of the presence of the Sun upon the planet is to pull it towards the centre in a straight line, and the'effect of the motion thus produced combined with the motion of the planet, which if undisturbed would be in a straight line inclined to the direction of the radius, is, that it describes a curve round the Sun. Kepler considered his planets as perfectly quiet and unwilling to move when left alone; and that this virtue supposed by him to proceed in every direction out of the Sun, swept them round, just as the sails of a windmill would carry round anything which became entangled in them. In other parts of his works Kepler mentions having speculated on a real attractive force in the centre; but as he knew that the planets are not always at the same distance from the Sun, and conceived erroneously, that to remove them from their least to their greatest distance a repulsive force must be supposed alternating with an attractive one, he laid aside this notion as improbable. In a note he acknowledges that when he wrote the passage just quoted, imbued as he then was with Scaliger's notions on moving intelligences, he literally believed " that each planet was moved by a living spirit, but afterwards came to look on the moving cause as a corporeal though immaterial substance, something in the nature of light which is observed to diminish similarly at increased distances." He then proceeds as follows in the original text. "Let us then assume, as is very probable, that motion is dispensed by the sun in the same manner as light. The proportion in which light emanating from a centre is diminished, is taught by optical writers: for there is the same quantity of light, or of the solar rays, in the small circles as in the large; and therefore, as it is more condensed in the former, more attenuated in the latter, a measure of the attenuation may be derived from the proportion of the circles themselves, both in the case of light and of t he moving virtue. Therefore, by how much the orbit of Venus is greater than that of Mercury, in the same proportion will the motion of the latter be stronger, or more hurried, or more swift, or more powerful, or by whatever other word you like to express the fact, than that of the former. But a larger orbit would require a proportionably longer time of revolution, even though the moving force were the same. Hence it follows that the one cause of a greater distance of the planet from the Sun, produces a double effect in increasing the period,

and conversely the increase of the periods will be double the difference of the distances. Therefore, half the increment added to the shorter period ought to give the true proportion of the distances, so that the sum should represent the distance of the superior planet, on the same scale on which the shorter period represents the distance of the[ inferior one. For instance, the period of Mercury is nearly 88 days; that of Venus is 224j, the difference is 136J: half of this is 68J, which, added to 88, gives 156 J. The mean distance of Venus ought, therefore, to be, in proportion to that of Mercury, as 156j to 88. If this be done with all the planets, we get the following results, taking successively, as before, the distance of each planet at 1000.

The distance lnvl| 574 But accordr(572

parte of which £ 274 inS to Co" 1230

the distance of 1. Rod pernlcus JBo

the next superior Pf OJ* they are ) ~°

planet contalnsi? '62 respectively 1719

11)00, is at J 5 563 150O

As you see, we have now got nearer the truth."

Finding that this theory of the rate of diminution would not bring him quite close to the result he desired to find, Kepler immediately imagined J another. This latter occasioned him a great deal of perplexity, and affords another of the frequently recurring instances of the waste of time and ingenuity occasioned by his impetuous and precipitate temperament. Assuming the distance of any planet, as for instance of Mars, to be the unit of space, and the virtue at that distance to be the unit of force, he supposed that as many particles as the virtue at the Earth gained upon that of Mars, so many particles of distance did the Earth lose. He endeavoured to determine the respective positions of the planets upon this theory, by the rules of false position, but was much astonished at finding the same exactly as on his former hypothesis. The fact was, as he himself discovered, although not until after several years, that he had become confused in his calculation; and when half through the process, had retraced his steps so as of course to arrive again at the numbers from which he started, and which he had taken from his former results. This was the real secret of the identity of the two methods; and if, when he had taken the distance of Mars at 1000, instead of assuming the distance of the earth at 694, as he did, he had taken any other number, and operated upon it in the same manner, he would

« AnteriorContinuar »