|Henry Craik, ed. English Prose. 1916.|
Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
|By John Arbuthnot (16671735)|
From An Essay on the Usefulness of Mathematical Learning
BUT though the industry of former ages had discovered the periods of the great bodies of the universe, and the true system and order of them, and their orbits pretty near; yet was there one thing still reserved for the glory of this age and the honour of the English nation, the grand secret of the whole machine; which, now it is discovered, proves to be (like the other contrivances of infinite wisdom) simple and natural, depending upon the most known and most common property of matter, viz.: gravity. From this the incomparable Mr. Newton, has demonstrated the theories of all the bodies of the solar system, of all the primary planets and their secondaries, and among others, the moon, which seemed most averse to numbers; and not only of the planets, the slowest of which completes its period in less than half the age of a man, but likewise of the comets, some of which it is probable spend more than 2000 years in one revolution about the sun; for whose theory he has laid such a foundation, that after ages, assisted with more observations, may be able to calculate their returns. In a word, the precession of the equinoctial points, the tides, the unequal vibration of pendulous bodies in different latitudes, etc., are no more a question to those that have geometry enough to understand what he has delivered on those subjects: a perfection in philosophy that the boldest thinker durst hardly have hoped for; and, unless mankind turn barbarous, will continue the reputation of this nation as long as the fabric of nature shall endure. After this, what is it we may not expect from geometry joined to observations and experiments?