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coherency in the parts of the original body must entirely cease, and be dissolved,
before it can be said to become a part of any other body whatever. Afterwards,
indeed, the space that was possessed by the parts of the original body, may be
supplied by those of the new one, so as to make in time a uniform stone, in the
shape of the original plant : but if this petrified plant be still kept in the place
where the same petrifying quality continues to act upon it, it will lose even that
shape, and become a part of the body it is contiguous to ; and so a great many
of these petrified plants, and other bodies united together, will compose large
masses, and whole strata of stone. This is clearly the case in the instance now
before us, and perhaps it might be carried so far as to strengthen our concep-
tion about the general formation of the strata of lime- stone or marble ; that
appearing to be every where, (notwithstanding Dr. Woodward dispatches them
much more expeditiously) but especially in the Peak of Derbyshire, such a
petrifaction as above described, quite finished. I could urge many reasons for
my supposition, but I will not trouble you with them here, the cou)pass of this
letter not permitting me ; nor do I know how far such conjectures are capable
of being used, with regard to the received opinion of the world's age; but if


we had as good authority to suppose it 60,000 years old, as we have 6000, it
would be worth the while to trace the origin and source of these petrifying ex-
halations a little deeper than seems to have been done by Dr. Woodward; and
might either perfect his history, or produce a more rational system of the earth,
than has yet appeared.

You will find, among the things now sent, some land-coral found in a lime-
pit, where is a great quantity of it, between two strata of lime-stone, of at
least 3 feet thick. Also some few pieces of pseudo-sapphirus, and other kinds
of spar ; such as were picked out of the fissures of the rocks, above-described.
There is a vast variety of these things in the peak, much greater than has been
noticed by any one.

Concerning the Smut of Corn. By the Jbbe Pluche* N° 456, p. 357.

The Abbe having passed some months in the country, where he had the satis-
faction to read in the great book, nature, which far exceeds all our libraries;
he made several observations, among which are the following:

1 . Having with the assistance of the microscope viewed the smut of corn,
he observed the stalks were all spotted and pricked with small burnings: now as
the smut happens after a fine rain, followed by a bright sun-shine, the cause of
this evil is, that the focus of those very small drops is just near them, and on
the stalks that supports them ; therefore the sun's rays, collected in this point,
must there burn ; which dries up the stalk, and prevents the ear from graining.

The second remark is on the corn that grows up into ears, the grains of
which are for the most part full of meal quite black. With the microscope he
saw, all round or above these black grains, small long bodies, rolled up, and
having each a pedicle; which he found to be the flowers, that could not reach
their due form, or come forth and ripen ; so that the grain, being deprived of
this help, could not develope its germ, but produced only a black meal, for
want of the unfolding of certain vessels.

The third remark is, the reason that invites thrushes or starlings under the
legs of black cattle grazing in a pasture. Not being able to get near them, he
observed them at a distance with a good glass. He saw all these birds thrust
their head and half their body down into the grass, in such manner that their
tails remained erect in the air, as that of a duck when diving; which made him
think, that those birds seek after worms in the earth; and that they gather
about the cattle, because as they are large animals, by trampling on the ground,
they oblige such worms to come forth, as happen to be pressed under the
weight of their hoofs.

* Author of the Spectacle de la Nature, and some other popular works. He died in 176I, aged 73.


Concerning a Cluster of small Teeth observed at the Boot of each Fang, or great
Tooth, in the Head of a Rattlesnake, on dissecting it. By John Bar tram,
M. D. of Philadelphia. N"* 456, p. 358.

Near German-town, about 6 miles from Philadelphia, Dr. B. found a rattle-
snake, which is now become a rarity so near our settlements. He took, it
home, and dissected it; in the head he met with what has not been observed
before by any, viz. a cluster of teeth on each side the upper jaw, at the root of
the great fangs, through which the poison is ejected. In the same case, that
the two main teeth were sheathed in, lay 4 others at the root of each tooth, in
a cluster together, of the same shape and figure with the great ones, and he
thinks for the same use and purposes, if by accident the main teeth happen to
be broken. May not these clusters of teeth be placed to supply such a defect
successively, for the support and defence of this creature?

Notices of some Meteors observed at Philadelphia, in North America. By
Joseph Breintnall. N" 456, p. 859.

The remarkable aurora borealis, that was seen in Europe the beginning of
December, 1737, was not seen here. But we had a visible aurora borealis the
ig\.h of December 1736. The day was clear, with a brisk cold north-west wind,
the evening calm and serene, and about 7 was a red aurora borealis.

On Nov. 17, 1737, about sun-set, many people in this town saw a fiery me-
teor in the air, large and bright; it seemed in the zenith, and so it seemed
to others some miles from town: it was observed to be higher than the lower

Dec. 7, 1737, a minute or two before 11 at night, were two shocks of an
earthquake, greater than ever felt here before. The second evening after, and
for several evenings in this month, a red vapour appeared to the south and south-
west, like the aurora borealis.

A Description of the Cave of Kilcorny, in the Barony of Burren in Ireland.
By Mr. C. Lucas, Apothecary, Dublin. N° 456, p. 36o.

The place where this cave lies, is called Kilcorny ; it is a pretty low valley,
in comparison to the hills that surround it; the entrance is by the east end, for
it lies east and west. There are the ruins of an old church, and, a little west-
ward of it, an even plain of about an acre of ground; on the north side of
which, under a steep rugged cliff, lies the cave.

The mouth of it is level with the plain, about 3 feet diameter; it has been

VOL. vm. 3 G



[anno 1740.

much larger, but was blocked up with lime and stone, which plainly appears
still, but to what purpose is not known. Within this narrow entrance, it grows
much wider and loftier. The floor is a pretty even rock, from 2 to 4 or 5
yards broad: the sides and top are rugged and unequal, from 6 to 12 or 14
feet high.

About 40 yards from the door, there is a pretty deep pit, 7 or 8 yards over;
but, when passed, the floor is plain and even, as before, for about 200 yards,
which is the farthest that any one known has ventured into it. Most people
that have gone into it, went by a thread or clue; others have carried a bundle
of straw, and dropped it by the way, to guide their return ; which seems alto-
gether unnecessary, there being no windings or chambers throughout of any
extent. It is all over, even in the depth of winter, as dry as any place of the
kind under ground can be ; and, what seems very strange, it often pours forth
such a deluge as covers the adjacent plain, sometimes with above 20 feet depth
of water.

The times of its overflowing are uncertain and irregular; sometimes it does
not happen above once in a year or two, but most commonly 3 or 4 times a
year; it is sometimes observed to succeed great rains and storms, though it
often happens without either. The neighbouring inhabitants are alarmed at its
approach, by a great noise, as of many falling waters at a distance ; which con-
tinues for some hours before, and generally all the time of the flood. The
water comes forth with extreme rapidity from the mouth of the cave, and like-
wise from some smaller holes in the low ground, attended with a surprising
noise; it flows for a day or two, and always returns into the same cave, and
partly into the small holes, from whence it was observed to come before, but
with a more slow and tardy course. The water is of a putrid quality, like
stagnated pond-water, insipid as spring- water. It always leaves a filthy muddy
scum on the ground it covered, which greatly enriches the soil. It has been
known sometimes to overflow and ebb in 6 or 8 hours time, but in a much less

There is neither river nor lake any where in that part of the country, and it
is above 6 miles from the sea. There are very near it several much lower
valleys, in which there is no appearance of water, unless a little rain-water
collected in a pit, in the fissure of a rock, or the like.

Of an extraordinary Tumour on the Thigh. By Mr. Mizael MaJfalguerat, Sur
geon, St. Edmund' 5-bury . N° 456, p. 365.

Grace Lowdell, a woman of the parish of St. James, in Bury St. Edmund's,


Suffolk, aged 6o, was naturally of a gross, fat, and relaxed constitution, and
constantly given to drinking strong liquors; she laboured for many years under
an ill habit of body, as the rheumatism, which had caused a contraction of
some of her fingers, with some nervous affections in her head, often causing
some fits of vertigo, &c. And though she had formerly some child-bearing
weakness, viz. a procidentia uteri, yet there could not be found any other
scrophulous symptoms, than that she observed, when about 30 years of age,
soon after her delivery of a son, a little hard swelling on the muscle biceps,
and posterior, inferior and external lateral part of the thigh, a little above the
ham, without her knowing any cause of it; which at first went on slowly, but
after proceeding more quickly, till it increased to the bulk of near a foot in
circumference, being somewhat of a globulous and a little longish figure from
its basis, which was lax, like a peduncle, or stalk, and about half the circum-
ference of the tumour, like a neck to the head of a child hanging down.

From the first appearance of this tumour to the excision of it, there were •
more than 30 years; she had excessive pains and uneasiness in it, and at last
its bulk and weight had in some measure intercepted the nourishment to it, so
that an ulcer had affected the inferior part of it, very putrid and sinuous, of
about 6 months standing.

Mr. M. wished to have made a total extirpation of this excrescence; but
being near large vessels, and among the tendons of the muscles, he was content,
as Dr. Turner advises, " To level it, by escharotics, repeated as the sloughs
throw off, till as much of the gland or substance shall have been consumed as
may be safely adventured : when some powerful desiccative may induce a cica-
trix," &c. &c.

Therefore, July 7, 1735, Mr. M. made a ligature about its basis, with a
slip-knot, which he gradually constringed once or twice a day, as the patient
could suffer it, without causing any ill symptoms, till the 17th of the same
month, when she was taken with strong convulsions, a slow fever, syncope,
her teeth set in her head, and a loss of her senses, which lasted that whole day
and the night following; from which time he did no more constringe the
tumour, but prescribed cordials, volatile drops, a purging enema, and a pare-
goric draught at night, which had so good an effect, that by the next day she was
much recovered, and came to her senses. The ligature began to make a sepa-
ration in the neck of this preternatural sprouting excrescence; and on the 20th
he extirpated the whole outer tumour, without any great haemorrhage. He
was induced to use the ligature, in order to prevent the too great effusion of
blood, which might otherwise have happened, thinking it not very safe to make
a ligature of the body of so large an artery as is in the ham, from fear of iu-

3 g2


tercepting afterwards the nourishment to the leg, as happens often after the
operation of the aneurisma.

The remains, though sordid at first, by a peculiar method of dressing, and
proper applications of strong digestives, detersives, &c. cleansed, and the ulcer
soon digested, the substance came even to the skin, and, September the 2ist
it was all perfectly cured, without any hardness, or any inconvenience to her
walking, and was likely always to remain so.

On a Remarkable Aurora Borealis. By Mr. James Short, College, Edin-
burgh. N° 456, p. 368.

On Saturday last, Nov. 13, 1736, about 6 o'clock, there was one of the
most remarkable aurorae boreales that ever Mr. S. saw. At first there appeared
the ordinary luminous arch, the vertex of which was about 30° above the ho-
rizon, and had its centre somewhere in the meridian circle. After this was per-
fectly well formed, there appeared little or none of the purple and red colours
which are usually in that arch ; but immediately there broke out, from the
western extremity, a great deal of that northern light which formed this arch,
and, rushing along with rays directed to the zenith, formed another aurora
borealis above the first, the centre of which was to the east of the meridian.
After this was formed, there followed, from the same extremity, a great deal
of purple and red-coloured light, quivering and shaking towards the zenith
with a flapping noise in rushing along, till it formed a third aurora borealis
above the second, the centre of which was somewhere on the east-side of the
meridian. Looking again to the western source of these arches, he perceived,
as it were, a huge pillar of a dull red-coloured light, rising out of the same
place whence the arches took their beginning, extending in a direction towards
the zenith, till it rose almost 60° high. These arches and the pillar lasted very
near an hour ; the 2 uppermost arches were continually quivering apd shaking,
and the pillar always turning to a paler red.

The night before the aurora borealis, there was an amazing hurricane of wind,
which lasted till the Saturday morning ; and all that day it continued to blow,
though not so hard. The arch from whence the wind blew, was from the north-
west, the same quarter from whence the arches took their rise. To the 1 8th, ever
since the hurricane of wind, there has been a most intense frost. It froze so
hard, that in less than 24 hours after it began, the lake on the north-side of
this city was so strong, as to bear people on it.


Of an Extraordinary Exostosis on the Back of a Boy. By Mr. John
Freeke, F. R.S. N° 456, p. 369.

There came to St. Bartholomew's Hospital a boy of a healthy look, and
about 14 years old, to ask. what should be done to cure him of many large
swellings on his back, which began about 3 years since, and had continued to
grow as large on many parts as a penny-loaf, particularly on the left side.
They arose from all the vetebrae of the neck, and reached down to the os
sacrum ; they likewise arose from every rib of his body, and joining together
in all parts of his back, as the ramifications of coral do, they made, as it were,
a fixed bony pair of bodice. Mr. F. considered this as an extraordinary case of
exostosis. It is added that the boy had no other symptoms of the rickets on any
joint of his limbs.

An Account, by John Eames, F. R. S. of a Dissertation, containing Remarks on
the Observations made in France, to ascertain the Figure of the Earth, by Mr.
Celsius, entitled, De Observationibus pro Figura Telluris determinanda, in
Gallia habitis, Disquisitio. Auct. And Celsio, Upsal, 1738, 4to. N°. 457,
p. 371-

That the figure of the earth is spheroidical is agreed on by all : but whether
it be an oblong or oblate spheroid, i. e. whether the axis be longer or shorter
than a diameter at the equator, has been for some time a matter of doubt.
Three several methods have been proposed to determine this controversy by ex-
periments ; as, by the different lengths of pendulums vibrating seconds, in dif-
ferent latitudes ; by the figure of the earth's shadow in lunar eclipses; and by
the actual measurement of the lengths of a degree on the meridian in different

It is certain, if the lengths of the degrees of latitude decrease as we go from
the equator towards the poles, then the axis is greater, and the figure an ob-
long spheroid; but, on the contrary, if these lengths increase as we remove
towards the poles, the axis is less than s diameter at the equator, and conse-
quently an oblate spheroid.

Mr. Cassini and others, judge the earth to be of an oblong spheroidical figure;
and the observations made in France, if entirely to be depended on, prove
this hypothesis to be a matter of fact. Our late illustrious president. Sir Isaac
Newton, Mr. Huygens, and others, make the earth to be an oblate spheroid,
higher at the equator than at the poles ; and this figure of the earth is undoubt-
edly the true one, if the observations lately made near the arctic circle be ad-
mitted as certain and exact. So that since both sets of observations have been


taken by persons of known skill, dexterity, and integrity, it is now become
absolutely necessary to inquire into this matter, to find out the occasion of so
great a difference in their conclusions.

Mr. Celsius, in the treatise before us, proposes to consider this matter more
closely, and begins with a defence of the observations made at Tornea, near
the north polar circle ; and then takes notice of some things, proper to be con-
sidered, relating to the instruments, astronomical observations, and trigonome-
trical operations, performed in France ; which, in his judgment, render the
observations uncertain ; at least so far as not to be accurate enough to be de-
pended on, in determining the niatter in question.

To begin with the defence of the observations made at Tornea : perhaps it
may not be improper to premise a short account of them. They were under-
taken at the charge of the king of France, by 5 skilful gentlemen ; three of
them members of the Royal Academy at Paris, who were joined by Mr. Celsius
and the Abbe Authier. The trigonometrical part of the work was performed
near the river of Tornea, which is in the direction of the meridian of Tornea ;
the coasts of the gulph of Bothnia being found very inconvenient for that pur-
pose. By the favourable situation of five mountains, they formed 8 triangles,
which took in space enough for their design. All the 5 gentlemen observed,
one after another, each angle of these triangles, setting them down in writing

They afterwards determined the distance between Tornea and Mount Kittis,
under the same meridian, by a basis, measured on the river when frozen over,
the length being 406 toises 5 feet by the first measurement ; and when mea-
sured again, it was barely 4 inches over. This distance between them they found
to be 55,234 toises.

The first part of their work being thus finished, the next was to find the dif-
ference of latitude of these two places. This they did by the help of a telescope,
fixed to a sector of Q feet, made at London, by the care and direction of Mr.
George Graham, to whom the lovers of astronomy are indebted for the curious
and well-contrived instruments he has supplied them with. The star they ob-
served at Tornea was a. Draconis. They repeated their observations 3 times,
and the greatest difi^erence between them was only 2 seconds. Removing to
Mount Kittis, they took the same number of observations, of the same star,
without finding more than one second difl^erence. The result was, that the
amplitude of the arch, in the heavens, between Tornea and Mount Kittis, al-
lowing for the precession of the equinox, and the time elapsed between the
two observations, according to Mr. Bradley's theory, was 57' 2(5*. Hence the
magnitude of a degree, on the earth, intersecting the polar circle, was found
to be greater than a mean degree of France 377 toises ; and to differ QOO toises


from what it should have been, according to M. Cassini's hypothesis. And if
the correction according to Mr. Bradley's theory, were omitted, the difference
would have amounted to above lOOO toises : the consequence of which, say the
curious observers, is, that the earth is not only flatted towards the poles, but
that it is much more so than Sir Isaac Newton or M. Huygens thought it. * This
unexpected difference being so very great, made them resolve on a careful, as
well as new kind of verification of the whole. In the first place, they repeated
their astronomical observations 3 several times, at Tornea and Kittis, with the
same instrument, but on another star, viz. i Draconis. The difference of lati-
tude between the two places was found to be the same, within 3^^ seconds, with
the first. They then not only examined the truth of their meridian line, the
exactness of their sector, in the different divisions on the limb, chiefly in the
two degrees employed in observing a and i Draconis, but supposed that, in their
trigonometrical operations, they had erred in each triangle, by 20 seconds in
each of the two angles, and 40 seconds in the third ; and that all these errors
tended to diminish the length of the arch ; the calculation, on this supposition,
gives but 44tjV toises for the greatest error that could be committed.

When a particular account of all these observations was read before the Royal
Academy of Sciences at Paris, and inquired into ; the main exception taken to
them was, that the observers, omitting to make a proof of the line of collina-
tion, by means of double observations, with the face of their instrument turned
contrary ways, have not duly ascertained the truth of their observations. But
this objection was fully answered by M. Maupertius, as Mr. Celsius hopes and be-
lieves, to the entire satisfaction of M. Cassini, who made it. He allows M.
Cassini had very good reason to mention this, as a thing proper to be done in
instruments of common use, for this purpose, which generally stand in need
of such a method of verification. But it was not at all necessary in the instru-
ment used at Tornea and Mount Kittis : the very make of it was such, that no
alteration could easily be made in it, so as to create any perceptible error in the
observations. The whole apparatus of the telescope and sector is all framed
together ; the object-glass and cross-wires, as well as the limb, so firmly fixed
to the tube, as not to be dislocated without great violence. Besides, the ut-
most care was taken in transporting it from one place to another ; being placed
in a chest, that the Laplanders, to use his own words, in ilia cista idolum quod-
dam servari facile sibi persuaderent. He adds, the same objection may be made
to M. Picard's observations, who does not seem to have used this precaution,

* This happened in consequence of certain errors committed, notwithstanding ,j11 that is here said
to the contrary. See the note at p. 207 of this vol. of these Abridgments.


as M. Cassini himself acknowledges, who nevertheless approves and extols his
observations for their accuracy : so that those at the arctic circle may be very
good, notwithstanding the want of this, supposed necessary, operation. And
indeed, that they were so, sufficiently appears from this fact — The difference of
latitude between Tornea and Mount Kittis, found in September, was observed
again in March following, by the help of the same star S Draconis, and did not
differ from the former above 3^ seconds, though the instrument had been twice
carried from one place to the other. This is a degree of exactness not easy to
be met with ; no not in M. Cassini's observations, made on different stars, which
differ sometimes 40", in determining the amplitude of an arc in the heavens,
though the instrument was carefully examined in the way above men-

The author then proceeds, in his turn, to inquire into the accuracy and cer-
tainty of the two sets of observations made in the north and south parts of
France, in respect of the royal observatory at Paris.

As to the measures of the degrees in the northern parts of France, between

Online LibraryRoyal Society (Great Britain)The Philosophical transactions of the Royal society of London, from their commencement in 1665, in the year 1800 (Volume 8) → online text (page 48 of 85)