lating, with a rapidity unparalelled in the annals of science. But no Newton has yet arisen to grapple with contending theories—to concentrate with superhuman intelligence the scattered elements—to mould with Promethean skill the inflexible materials, and impart perfection and immutability at once to a system. This circumstance peculiarly recommends Geology as a subject of popular study. Where a high degree of excellence has been attained by an individual, in any art or science, emulation the main-spring of exertion is checked: men are dissatisfied with the result of their efforts: the ardour which would have carried to the goal had the race been equal, subsides into despair.

Who, in geometry, during the long interval of two thousand years, has attempted to improve upon Euclid ? In the vain attempt to imitate the immortal productions of Greece and Rome, how many an artist has laid down his pencil in disgust! Who has ever dared to entertain the thought of displacing Newton from the pinnacle of glory, on which he proudly stands, and bids defiance to emulation? The mere acquisition of his ideas, the comprehension of his complex deductions, requires an effort which ordinary minds are scarcely equal to. In Geology, however, the ground is unoccupied : a wide field is open to emulation, and results of the highest importance await a patient and attentive examination. The sphere of observation is co-extensive with the world itself, and every locality is replete with information-accessible, and intelligible to all, without the preliminary acquirements essential to the study of Astronomy, and other abstract sciences.

It is a singular feature in the history of the human

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mind, that while with comprehensive grasp it had measured the heavens, and weighed all the planets of the solar system, and with telescopic eye was exploring the confines of the universe, the earth and all the interesting phenomena which it has since disclosed, were disregarded. Elated by their splendid discoveries in space, Astronomers seem to have looked with contempt upon the earth beneath their feet, or at most to have regarded it merely as a station from which their observations upon surrounding objects were made, for which purpose a knowledge of its form and position was all that was necessary.

Nothing satisfactory can be gathered from the opinions of the ancients on this interesting branch of the physical sciences. Aristotle, the master-spirit of his age, seems to have been aware that sea and land had frequently changed their relative positions: but he also contended that the earth had volition, and a better specimen of his syllogistic philosophy, which during twenty centuries held dominion over men's minds, and which at a period not very remote from our own times it was a penal offence to controvert, can scarcely be adduced

Everything which has self-motion has volition :

The earth is endowed with self-motion :
Ergo the earth has volition.”

Thales, an ancient Greek philosopher, suggested that all things had their origin in water; and the Pythagoreans generally seem to have had some indefinite notions on the subject of the changes which the surface

of the globe had undergone from the operation of this agent.

It was at a late period in modern times that speculations as to the origin and structure of the earth were re-introduced. And as Astronomy was preceded by Astrology, so Geology was introduced by Cosmogonythe early geologists being world-builders upon a most splendid scale. I shall only allude briefly to a few of these theories, the most remarkable for their whimsicality, as illustrative of the extraordinary vagaries into which the mind relapses in philosophical speculation, when it forsakes the plain and simple path of induction in order to make phenomena coincide with preconceived ideas.

Burnet, the author of a “Sacred Theory of the Earth,” (a work of great merit as a literary composition) which appeared in the sevententh century, conceived that the globe was originally invested with a light crust, which being broken up to produce the deluge, formed the mountains of its fragments.

Woodward, to account for the embedding of marine shells in rocky strata, imagined the principle of cohesion, which holds the particles of matter together, to have been momentarily suspended, which gave rise to the deluge, and permitted the pasty materials which it left to be penetrated with shells.

The boldest idea, perhaps, was that of a philosopher to whom Leicestershire had the honour of giving birth-William Whiston, the learned translator of Josephus. In his “Theory of the Earth” he creates this globe from the atmosphere of a comet, and then most unceremoniously deluges it with the tail of another; and

not content with explaining these great physical events, he thought he had discovered the connection between the physical and moral world, and proposed the solution of an enigma which in all ages had puzzled theologians and divines--the introduction of moral evil into the world. He argued that it was the heat retained in the earth from its origin, that inflamed the unruly passions of mankind, and impelled the whole human race to sin! These were the principles of a man who, only a century ago, occupied the mathematical chair at Cambridge, which had been previously filled by Sir Isaac Newton ! It is true that the same restless spirit of speculation led him into heretical notions on the subject of religion, for which he was expelled and persecuted.

Many philosophers, from the great Kepler down to those of recent times have imagined the earth to be possessed of vital faculties, and some have endeavoured to point out the analogy in its constitution with organized beings.

Demaillet, a modern French philosopher of considerable reputation, imagined the whole earth to have been at one period covered with water, in which all the various tribes of living beings had their origin; even man himself, commenced his career as a fish, and had been by degrees transformed into the biped, of which he argued there were unequivocal proofs in the animals inhabiting the ocean (mermaids), which had only undergone half the process of conversion, but which in time would become perfect human beings. His proofs however, required a degree of credulity which his contemporaries were not disposed to give. Leibnitz, Descartes, and afterwards Buffon, main

tained that the earth was an extinguished star, originally in a state of fusion. Buffon, however, in enlarging upon

the idea, which he does most ingeniously, got into hot water with the theologians of the day. It was urged that his theory of the formation of mountains and valleys by the subsidence of the circumfused waters, and the gradual refrigeration of the mass of the earth, was highly reprehensible, as it was contrary to the creed of the church. He was therefore required by the Sorbonne, an inquisitorial assembly of ecclesiastics at Paris, to recant all the notions he had promulgated on the subject, and to append a declaration to the subsequent edition of his works, that he abandoned all that he had said as to the formation of the earth. But as in the case of Galileo, who under similar circumstances abjured his discovery of the motion of the earth upon its axis, the earth still continued to whirl round, so the

accuracy of Buffon's conclusions was undisturbed by his recantation-his theory is now in substance generally adopted: and the spirit of enquiry which these bigots would have suppressed, so far from invalidating, has actually thrown light upon the sacred records.

To allude to all the various theories which since this period have been evulgated, would be incompatible with the object and exceed the limits of my sketch: but two eminent characters must not pass unnoticedWerner and Hutton, the champions of the rival elements

-fire and water. Werner asserting the supremacy of Neptune, and Hutton that of Pluto, they for a long time divided the scientific world on the comparative merits of their respective systems. They both erred in

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