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the protection of the Cartesian, in consequence of the publication of a translation of Rohault's Physics, accompanied with notes, by Clarke, about 1718: the purport of the notes possibly escaping the notice of the learned doctors' who, the writer seems to have thought, had the principal direction of academical education. A belief is further expressed in a note, that the Universities of St. Andrew's and Edinburgh were the first in Britain where the Newtonian philosophy was made the subject of the academical prelections.'


I shall be as brief as possible in shewing how extremely inaccurate these statements are. One of the principal proofs adduced is an expression of Whiston's, in his memoirs, where he says that David Gregory was inculcating the Newtonian hypothesis at Edinburgh, while they (poor wretches,') at Cambridge were studying the Cartesian. Now it is curious enough that in the very page in Whiston's life in which this passage is found, he also speaks of setting himself" to the study of Sir Isaac Newton's wonderful discoveries, in his Philosophia Naturalis Principia Mathematica, one or two of which lectures," he says, "I had heard him read in the public schools, though I understood them not at all at that time." These

academical prelections' were probably previous to the publication of the Principia in 1687; and, at all events it seems a strange undertaking to set up a claim of priority for any other lectures, in opposition to those of Newton himself upon his own philosophy. And, little as the reader would suppose it from the statements above referred to, his successors in this professorship were as zealous promulgators of his doctrines as their contemporaries in any other place. The same Whiston became, in 1699 his deputy, and in 1703 his successor; in which capacities he delivered lectures, which he afterwards published (in 1707 and 1710,) under the titles, "Prælectiones Astronomicæ,' &c. and, Prælectiones Physico-Mathematica, Cantabrigiæ in Scholis Publicis habitæ, quibus Philosophia Illustrissimi NEWTONI Mathematica explicatius traditur et facilius demonstratur; à Gulielmo Whiston, A. M. et Matheseos Professore Lucasiano. In usum Juventutis Academica.' In 1707 the celebrated Saunderson, having acquired an extraordinary portion of Mathematical knowledge, came to Cambridge


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with the intention of fixing himself in the University by means of it. And though the subject was already occupied by Whiston, the blind geometer was encouraged, with the permission of the professor himself, to give a course of lectures on the Principia, Optics, and Arithmetica Universalis, of Newton' which lectures, we are informed by his biographers, became extraordinarily popular. In 1711 Saunderson succeeded to the Lucasian professorship; which he held till 1739; so that I presume I may here venture to break off the chain of evidence of an uninterrupted succession, from the time of Newton himself, of professors who have delivered his philosophy from the chair which he had occupied. And so much for the claim of its priority in the academical prelections of other places.

It is further asserted that though the professors in England might, at an early period, be Newtonians, as for instance David Gregory, who removed from Edinburgh to Oxford in 1690;


the real and efficient system of the Universities was not cast in that mould till long afterwards.' Now why we should suppose the lectures of the scholar at Edinburgh or St. Andrew's, to have been more efficient than the lectures either of the same person or of his master, at one of the English Universities, I am completely at a loss to discover. I do not however mean that the sublime system of our wonderful philosopher was universally adopted or understood as soon as it was delivered. I believe, that at that time the possession of the knowledge and qualifications requisite for the study of the Principia was very rare in any University: and the reception of that memorable work among the great continental geometers is a sufficient proof that it was not sure of finding favour even with men of eminent mathematical attainments and great love of truth. It must of necessity have required some time to pervade so great a number of persons, of such various talents and tastes, as are, in the English Universities, thought necessary for effectual instruction. Especially too when it is considered that the subject to which the discoveries referred, formed only a part, and at that time not a prominent part, of the course of academical studies. do however find very early indications of the Newtonian principles making their way into all parts of the system of the



University. About 1694, the celebrated Samuel Clarke, then an undergraduate, defended in the schools a question taken from the philosophy of Newton: a step which must have had the approbation of the moderator who presided at the disputations: and his translation of Rohault, with references, in the notes, to the Principia, was first published in 1697; and not in 1718, as Professor Playfair has strangely asserted. It was republished in 1702 with more copious additions from the principles of Newton, which could hardly escape the notice' of any body who saw the book, since they are mentioned in the title page'. Public exercises, or acts as they are called, founded on every part of the Newtonian system, are spoken of by Saunderson's biographers as very common about 1707. By this time these studies were extensively diffused in the University; and it is mentioned that the Principia rose to above four times its original price3. In 1709-10, when Dr. Laughton of Clare Hall, a zealous Newtonian, was proctor, instead of appointing a moderator, he discharged the office himself; and by the most active exertions, stimulated still farther the progress of mathematical science. He had previously published a paper questions on the Newtonian Philosophy, apparently as theses for the disputations. He had been tutor in Clare Hall from 1694.-The lectures of persons in that capacity Professor Playfair considers as the only effective part of the University system; and according to him, these instructions were very late in receiving the impression of Newtonianism. Dr. Laughton's had probably been on Newtonian principles for the whole or the greater part


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1A third edition appeared in 1710, with mathematical investigations, by Mr. Charles Morgan, of the laws of falling bodies, the rainbow, &c.; which contained as good an elementary exposition of those parts of applied mathematics, as, I believe, existed at that time: so that the book might probably, as Professor Playfair asserts, be in use at a later period. What misled Professor Playfair so far as to induce him to assign 1718 as the date of Clarke's translation, I am at a loss to imagine; except it were that he took his information from Hutton's Mathematical Dictionary, under the word Rohault, where the edition of 1718, (the fourth) is the only one mentioned.

See Preface to his Algebra.

3 From ten or twelve shillings to two guineas. For these particulars see Nichols' Literary Anecdotes, Vol. III. p. 322.

of his tutorship; but it is certain that for some years he had been diligently inculcating those doctrines, and that the credit and popularity of his college had risen very high in consequence of his reputation. It may be remarked also, that Cotes, the friend and disciple of Newton, and Bentley, who first made his philosophy known to the readers of general literature, resided in Cambridge during the time of which we are speaking; the one as Plumian Professor, and the other as Master of Trinity College; and it can hardly be supposed that their influence would not be exerted in favour of the system which they admired. This indeed might be the less necessary, as there is not, so far as I have discovered, the slightest circumstance which indicates any opposition to its introduction.

It is unnecessary to make any separate answer to the observations of Mr. Stewart'; as even if we allow his assertions, they will not imply any thing very disgraceful to us. They amount to this; that the philosophy of Newton was publicly taught at Edinburgh and St. Andrew's before it was generally adopted at Cambridge. That this was after it had been publicly taught here, I think I have proved. The Scotch were fortunate in possessing in the Gregorys men of great mathematical talents, of minds open to conviction, and of industry and capacity to master in a short time a new system of the universe; but even they, we may suppose, could not transfuse these qualifications at once into the whole body of their pupils. After what time the Newtonian doctrines had been studied in Scotland to the extent which the facts above mentioned indicate with respect to Cambridge, the very different constitution of their


It would be exceedingly interesting, and might throw some light upon the question, to see a copy of the Compend of Newton's Principia' of which mention is made in Hutton's Dictionary, and quoted by Mr. Stewart. The interval between the publication of the Principia and the date of this document is extraordinarily short: the candidates for degrees, who could, in 1690, defend such a series of positions, must have begun to study that work the moment it issued from the press; except we suppose that then, when the ideas it contained were so new, and when the preparatory mathematics were so much more laborious than they are now, it occupied a shorter time than it is found to require from a modern student.

academical establishments from ours, gives us no means of judging.

Without attempting to trace farther the history and progress of that philosophy which is now so zealously cultivated in the University of Cambridge, I have, I trust, sufficiently shewn that the assertions with respect to the tardy influence of Newtonianism, have been hazarded with great inattention to facts and I may be allowed to add, that it seems very doubtful whether evidence equally strong can be produced of its early prevalence in any other academical institution. The respect and admiration which is attached to the names with whose authority the assertions in question have come to us, feelings in which I sincerely participate, make it highly desirable that their inaccuracy should be exposed. In reply to misrepresentatious so extraordinary, I have not allowed myself to go beyond a plain statement of facts.

Trin. Coll.

Oct. 25, 1821.

I am, Sir,

Your obedient Servant

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