Hamlet’s Universe Part 4 of 9
This post brings excerpts from Bacon’s writings on his and other’s astronomical observations and his philosophizing about them. It shows that he had a deep interest and understanding of the astronomy of his time, the terminology it used, and the questions being asked or that he was asking, for further research to be done. A deep understanding of a subject should make it easier to think of it in terms of metaphors and allegories.
Much, or maybe all, of these quotations come from either Bacon’s Novum Organum (1620) and from his De Augmentis Scientiarium (1623). Shakespeare had several revisions of Hamlet, just as Bacon kept revising his works. Unfortunately, I don’t think we have Bacon’s earliest drafts of his major works to see how they changed over time. Bacon was a latecomer to accepting the sun centered solar system as he was working on his own theory that he thought for some time had greater explanatory power. Though he clearly spent time pondering the various models being discussed.
Some quotations from Bacon’s writings:
“By the tradition of astronomers some stars are hotter than others. Of planets, Mars is accounted the hottest after the sun; then comes Jupiter, and then Venus. Others, again, are set down as cold; the moon, for instance, and above all Saturn. Of fixed stars, Sirius is said to be the hottest, then Cor Leonis or Regulus, then Canicula, and so on.”
“Again, let the nature investigated be the Spontaneous Motion of Rotation; and in particular, whether the diurnal Motion, whereby to our eyes the sun and stars rise and set, be a real motion of rotation in the heavenly bodies, or a motion apparent in the heavenly bodies, and real in the earth. We may here take for an Instance of the Fingerpost the following. If there be found in the ocean any motion from east to west, however weak and languid; if the same motion be found a little quicker in the air, especially within the tropics, where because of the larger circles it is more perceptible; if the same motion be found in the lower comets, but now lively and vigorous; if the same motion be found in planets, but so distributed and graduated, that the nearer a planet is to the earth its motion is slower, the further a planet is distant from the earth its motion is quicker, and quickest of all in the starry sphere; then indeed we should receive the diurnal motion as real in the heavens, and deny such motion to the earth; because it will be manifest that motion from east to west is perfectly cosmical, and by consent of the universe; being most rapid in the highest parts of the heavens, and gradually falling off, and finally stopping and becoming extinct in the immoveable, that is, the earth.”
“Again, let the nature in question be that other Motion of Rotation so much talked of by philosophers, the Resistent and Contrary Motion to the Diurnal, from west to east; which old philosophers attribute to the planets; also to the starry sphere; but Copernicus and his followers to the earth as well; and let us inquire whether any such motion be found in nature, or whether it be not rather a thing invented and supposed for the abbreviation and convenience of calculation, and for the sake of that pretty notion of explaining celestial motions by perfect circles. For this motion in the heavens is by no means proved to be true and real, either by the failing of a planet to return in its diurnal motion to the same point of the starry sphere, or by this, that the poles of the zodiac differ from the poles of the world; to which two things we owe this idea of motion. For the first phenomenon is well accounted for by supposing that the fixed stars outrun the planets,”
“Again, if there be any magnetic power which operates by consent between the globe of the earth and heavy bodies, or between the globe of the moon and the waters of the sea (as seems highly probable in the semi-menstrual ebbs and floods), or between the starry sphere and the planets, whereby the latter are attracted to their apogees ; all these must operate at very great distances.”
[In the above, Bacon seems to be anticipating Newton’s theory of universal gravitation, though I’m not saying he was the first to do so].
“…no more than if a man should hope by force of memory to retain and make himself master of the computation of an ephemeris.”
“But whether the distances at which these powers act be great or small, it is certain that they are all finite and fixed in the nature of things, so that there is a certain limit never exceeded; and a limit which depends either on the mass or quantity of matter in the bodies acted on……….all which things should be observed and brought to computation.” [as Newton did]
[And then he contemplates variation in the speed of light]
“…This fact, with others like it, has at times suggested to me a strange doubt; viz. whether the face of a clear and starlight sky be seen at the instant at which it really exists, and not a little later; and whether there be not, as regards our sight of heavenly bodies, a real time and an apparent time, just like the real place and apparent place which is taken account of by astronomers in the correction for parallaxes.”
“…which of the planets is swifter, which slower; which of them move in the ecliptic, and which deviate to right or left of it; which of them may be retrograde, and which cannot; which of them may be at any distance from the sun, and which of them are confined to a certain limit; which of them move swifter in perigee, which in apogee; finally the anomalies of Mars, the wandering of Venus, the labours and wonderful passions which have been detected more than once both in the Sun and Venus.”
“Now distances are discovered either from parallaxes, or eclipses, or calculations of motions, or differences in apparent magnitude.”
“Hence that there are four coessential and conjugate natures, and those of two kinds, preserving the respective order I have mentioned (for the source is heat and cold, the rest are emanations.)”
“…but by reason of her elevation towards the perpendicular and approximation to the larger stars, in the same manner as the sun. Thirdly, let there be received the apogees and perigees of the planets,”
“…all the remaining accidents of the motions of planets; what are the accelerations and retardations of each in its course; what their progressions, actions, and regressions; what their distances from the sun, combustions, increases and diminutions of light, eclipses and the like;”
“…as their size, their colour and aspect, their twinkling and vibration of light, their situation with reference to the poles or the equinox, their asterisms;”
“which of them move in the ecliptic, and which deviate to right or left of it; which of them may be retrograde, and which cannot…”
More of his thoughts and language related to astronomy will be included in later postings.