Samuel G. (Samuel Griswold) Goodrich.

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ten years before. In his youth, Copernicus was a
studious scholar, and at the age of twenty-three went
to Italy, where the arts and sciences were beginning
to flourish. At Bologna, he Avas instructed in
astronomy ; and he afterwards visited Rome, where
he taught mathematics with great success. From
Rome he returned to his own country, where his
uncle made him a canon in the cathedral of Frauen-
burg. It does not appear that he made any figure as
a churchman ; instead of attempting to rise in the
clerical profession, he began to apply his whole men-
tal energies to the contemplation of the sul#ime objects
of nature.

Among the many theories with regard to our plan-
etary system, which had been advanced during the
previous two thousand years, one had at last pre-
vailed, the most ingenious and artificial, and the most
wonderful mixture of wisdom and error, which the
human mind had ever conceived. The ancient phi-
losophers, Aristotle, Plato, Archimedes, and others,
had all adopted it; and»from being powerfully sup-
ported by the reasoning of Aristotle, it came to be
called the Aristotelian system. The leading princi-
ple in this ancient theory of the universe, and which



COPERNICUS. 275

had been originally propounded by Ptolemy, was,
that the earth we inhabit was stationary or immova-
ble, and that the sun and planets revolved round it.
One reason for the popularity of Aristotle's theory
among the learned, was, its apparent harmony with
what was recognised by the senses. The earth was
not felt to move ; it seemed to stand still — therefore it
stood still ; the sun was seen to revolve from east to
west — therefore it revolved. Such was the kind of
reasoning in these ignorant times. Another cause
for the acceptability of the theory was, that it appeared
to be countenanced by the Scriptures, although it is
very certain that the inspired writers are silent with
regard to these scientific matters, the Bible being
bestowed on man for very different purposes. Never-
theless, such was not the opinion of the church pre-
vious to the Reformation ; and the immovability of
the earth, strange to say, was reckoned a point of
Bible faith.

The Aristotelian planetary system thus continued
unopposed by any other till the sixteenth century,
when it was doomed to be completely overturned by
the discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo. Studying
diligently this difficult subject, Copernicus made the
signal discovery that the sun was the centre of our
planetary system ; that the earth was a planet like
Mars and Venus ; and that all the planets revolve
round the sun in the following order : — Mercury, in
87 days; Venus, in 224; the Earth, in 365; Mars, in
1 year and 321 days ; Jupiter, in 11 years ; and Sat-
urn, in 29 years. Thus Avas discovered the true sys-
tem of the universe, and thus Copernicus stands, as it



276 COPERNICUS.

were, upon the boundary line of a new era. All that
he accomplished was done, moreover, a hundred
years before the invention of telescopes, with misera-
ble wooden instruments, on which the lines were often
only marked with ink.

As the system of Copernicus was calculated to be
of immense benefit to mankind, one would naturally
suppose that such a great man would have been duly
rewarded for his beneficent labors. But the very
reverse was the case. Though very modest in his
assumptions, he drew upon himself the vengeance of
the church, which looked with horror on the idea of
the earth being a moving body. The Vatican, or
court of the Pope at Rome, issued a sentence of ex-
communication against him ; and he died in the
seventy-first year of his age, worn out with the labors
of constantly examining the heavenly bodies, and
depressed by the persecution which had visited his
innocent and useful pursuits. In the year 1S21,
the church of Rome had the good sense to obliterate
from its records the sentence against Copernicus,
after a lapse of two hundred and seventy-eight years
from the period of its being issued.




GALILEO.

Copernicus being removed from the field, and his
theory denounced as heretical, it was fondly imagined
that no new person would arise to disturb the ancient
system of the universe, taught at the various colleges.
But it will be comprehended by our young readers
that Truth cannot easily be suppressed for a long
time. It always comes out at last, let people do what
they will to prevent it. Copernicus had not been
dead many years, when a similar disturber of popular
error arose in the person of Galileo Galilei, or more
commonly called by the single name, Galileo. This
Italian was born at Pisa, in 1564. His father, a
nobleman of Florence, caused him to be instructed in
the ancient languages, drawing, and music, and he
very early showed a strong inclination to mechanical
labors. In 15S1, he entered the university of Pisa,
to attend lectures on medicine, and to be grounded in
the Aristotelian philosophy.

This philosophy, now loaded with scholastic rub-
bish, very speedily disgusted Galileo, and he after-
wards became its declared adversary. In 15S9, he
was made Professor of Mathematics in the university
of Pisa, and now began to assert the laws of nature
against a 'perverted philosophy. In the presence of
numerous spectators, he performed a series of experi-
ments on the tower of the cathedral, to show that
weight has no influence on falling bodies. By this
Ti— 24



278 GALILEO.

means he excited the opposition of the adherents of
Aristotle to such a degree, that, after two years, he
was forced to resign his professorship. Driven from
Pisa, he retired into private life ; but his genius being
appreciated in another part of Italy, he was, in 1592,
appointed Professor of Mathematics at Padua. He
lectured here with unparalleled success. Scholars
from the most distant regions of Europe crowded
round him. He delivered his lectures in the Italian
language instead of Latin, which was considered a
daring improvement. From 1597 till 1610, he made
a number of discoveries in mathematical science, as
well as with respect to the character and phases of
the planets. His name growing celebrated, he was,
in 1610, appointed grand-ducal mathematician and
philosopher by Cosmo II., and he removed from
Padua to Florence. Here he gained a decisive vic-
tory for the Copernican system, by the discovery of
the varying phases of Mercury, Venus, and Mars ;
and the motion of these planets about the sun, and
their dependence on it for light, were thus established
beyond the possibility of doubt.

While Galileo was thus employed in supporting
and enlarging the field of natural philosophy, a tre-
mendous storm was gathering about his head. He
had openly declared himself in favor of the Coperni-
can system in a work which he wrote on the sun's
spots, and was therefore denounced as a heretic. The
monks preached against him, and he went. to Rome,
where he succeeded in appeasing his enemies, by
declaring that he would maintain his system no fur-
ther, either by words or writings. He would hardly,



GALILEO.



279



however, have escaped the cruehies of the inquisition
unless the grand duke of Florence, suspecting his
danger, had recalled him. The promise which Gali-
leo had given not to promulgate his opinions, he
found great difficulty in keeping. Panting to make
known to the world a complete account of the system
of Copernicus, yet dreading the prejudices of his
enemies, he fell upon the expedient of writing a work,
in which, without giving his own opinion, he intro-
duces three persons in a dialogue, of whom the first
defends the Copernican system, the second the Ptole-
msean, or that of Aristotle, and the third weighs the
reasons of both in such a way, that the subject seems
problematical, though it is impossible to mistake the
preponderance of arguments in favor of Copernicus.

With this great work, which is still held in rever-
ence, Galileo went to Rome, in 1630, in the sixty-
sixth year of his age, and, by an extraordinary stretch
of favor, received permission to print it. Scarcely
had it appeared at Rome and Florence, when it was
attacked by the disciples of Aristotle, and most vio-
lently of all by the teacher of philosophy at Pisa.
The Pope also, instigated by some interested parties,
now became the persecutor of Galileo. A congrega-
tion of cardinals, monks, and mathematicians, was
appointed to examine his work, which they unhesi-
tatingly condemned as highly dangerous, and sum-
moned him before the tribunal of the inquisition.

This blow fell heavily on the head of Galileo, now
an old man, and left defenceless by the death of his
friend and patron, Cosmo II. He was compelled to
go to Rome in the winter of 1633, and was immedi-



280 GALILEO.

ately immured in a cell in one of the prisons of the
Inquisition. It is not consistent with our plan to say
anything in derogation of any religious or civil insti-
tution ; yet wc may be pardoned in dropping a tear
of sympathy over the hard fate of this unfortunate
veteran of science. Here was a poor old man, who
had devoted a whole lifetime to simple scientific
study, harming no one, but rather toiling for the
benefit of his race, confined by a set of inexorable
persecutors, ignorant judges, in a miserable dungeon
in one of the most frightful of all prisons, and denied
all chance of release except by a recantation of what
is now acknowledged to be undoubted truth. Can
we picture to ourselves this venerable philosopher
contemplating the starry heavens through the gratings
of his narrow window ? Can Ave imagine his feelings
in tracing the moon in its path across the hemisphere
of night, and reasoning on the accuracy of the system
he had developed ? Or can we think of him turning,
almost broken-hearted, from this vision of his ^vorite
pursuit, and sitting down in darkness and solitude,
inwardly lamenting his cruel fate, and the ignorance
which thus rewarded his exertions ?

Galileo remained a prisoner in the cells of the
Inquisition several months, when, being brought
before an assembly of his judges, he was condemned
to renounce, kneeling before them, with his hand upon
the gospels, what were called the " sinful and detesta-
ble errors and heresies" which he had maintained.
The firmness of Galileo gave way at this critical mo-
ment of his life ; he pronounced the recantation. But
at the moment he rose, indignant at having sworn in



GALILEO.



281



violation of his solid conviction, he exclaimed, stamp-
ing his foot, E pur si muove — it still moves ! Upon
this dreadful relapse into heresy, he was sentenced to
imprisonment in tlie Inquisition for life, and every
week, for three years, was to repeat the seven peni-
tential psalms; his Dialogues were also prohibited,
and his system utterly condemned. Although Galileo
was in this manner sentenced to confinement, it
appeared to those who judged him that he would not
be able, from his age, to endure such a severe punish-
ment, and they mercifully banished him to a particular
spot near Florence.

Here Galileo lived for several years, employing his
time in the study of mechanics and other branches of
natural philosophy. He was at this time afflicted with
a disease in his eyes, one of which was wholly blind,
and the other almost useless, when, in 1637, he dis-
covered the libralion of the moon. Blindness, deaf-
ness, want of sleep, and pain in his limbs, united to
embitter his declining years ; still his mind was active.
" In my darkness," he writes in the year 1638, " I muse
now upon this object of nature, and now upon that,
and find it impossible to soothe my restless head,
however much I wish it. This perpetual action of
mind deprives me almost wholly of sleep." In this
condition, and affected by a slowly consuming fever,
he expired in January, 1642, in the 78th year of his
ao^e. His relics were deposited in the church of
Santa Croce, at Florence, where posterity did justice
to his memory, by erecting a splendid monument, in
1737. The year in which Galileo died, was that in
which Sir Isaac Newton, destined to establish his
theories, was born. 24*



LINNiEUS.

Charles Linne, better known by his Latinized
name, Linnaeus, was the son of a poor village pastor,
and was born at Rashult, in the province of Smeland,
in Sweden, in the year 1707. To great originality
of genius, were joined an enthusiastic disposition,
and a steadiness of perseverance, which enabled him
to make his way through poverty and obscurity, to a
distinguished preeminence as a man of science and
learning. An ardent love for the study of nature,
especially for botanical knowledge, early took posses-
sion of him. While yet a boy, he seems to have been
more fond of rambling about the fields, and perusing
the great book of nature, than the folios of the schools ;
for so little satisfaction does he seem to have given
his first teachers, that his father, dissatisfied with the
reports of his progress, contemplated binding him to
the trade of a shoemaker. The intervention of
friends, and his own earnest entreaties, however, at
last persuaded his parent to permit him to study the
profession of medicine. At the university, we find
him rising into distinction, in the very midst of ex-
treme poverty — in want of books, in want of clothes,
iv. want of bread to eat, and even patching up old
shoes with the bark of trees, to enable him to wander
into the fields in prosecution of his favorite study
of botany.

"While yet a mere youth, he was pitched upon, by



LINN^US. 283

the Academy of Sciences of Upsal, to explore the
dreary regions of Lapland, and to ascertain what
natural productions they contained ; and we find him
embracing with ardor this laborious and solitary un-
dertaking, with a pittance barely sufficient to defray
the expenses of his journey. After his return from
this scientific expedition, he commenced a course of
public lectures on botany and mineralogy in the Uni-
versity of Upsal ; he was full of the subject, and the
novelty and originality of his discourses immediately
drew around him a crowded audience. But envy,
which too often is the malignant concomitant of rising
talent, soon blasted his fair prospects.

It was discovered, that, by a law of the university,
no person "was entitled to give public lectures, unless
he had previously taken a degree. Linnaeus unfor-
tunately had obtained no academical honors, a cir-
cumstance which involved him in a violent quarrel
with Dr. Rosen, the professor of medicine. Fortu-
nately, his friends interposed to soothe his resent-
ment ; and he forthwith departed from Upsal, attended
by some of his pupils, and made a mineralogical
and botanical excursion into the province of Dale-
car lia.

At Fahlun, the capital of this province, he became
acquainted with Dr. Morseus, the chief physician.
The doctor was a kind and learned man, and had
plants and flowers which excited the admiration of
the young botanist ; but he had a fairer flower than
any which Linnaeus had ever yet beheld in garden
or meadow. In short, for the eldest daughter of Dr.
Moraeus, our botanist conceived an ardent alTection;



284 LINNiEUS.

his admiration Avas met by the young lady with a
grateful attachment ; and, in accordance with the
ardor and enthusiasm of his disposition, Linnaeus
solicited of the father the young lady's hand in mar-
riage. The good doctor had conceived a liking for
the young, learned, and eloquent stranger ; he loved
him and his pursuits, and his ingenuous bearing ;
but he tenderly loved his daughter also, and, more
cool and considerate than the youthful lovers, foresaw
that a poor, friendless young man, without any fixed
profession or employment, was not likely to improve
his own or his daughter's happiness by such a rash
step. He therefore persuaded him to delay the match
for three years, promising that his daughter should
remain unmarried in the mean time ; and if, at the end
of that period, he was in a condition to marry, his
sanction to the nuptials would be readily given.

Nothing could be more reasonable than this pro-
posal. Linnasus summoned his philosophy to his aid.
It was resolved that he should forthwith depart for
Leyden, in order to obtain a degree. Before his de-
parture. Miss Moraeus brought forth her accumulated
saving of pocket-money, amounting to a purse of one
hundred dollars, and laid it at his feet as a love-offer-
ing and an unequivocal proof of her attachment. He
pressed her fair hand, kissed her fervently, and, with
a heart glowing with the most unbounded attachment
and admiration of her generosity, he bade her fare-
well.

Many a poetical lover would have gone forth
dreaming in reverie, writing sonnets alternately to his
mistress and the moon, and ever and anon bewailing



LINN-EUS.



285



his hard fate at the awful and interminable separa-
tion. Not so our philosopher ; he went forth cheered
and stimulated with the thoughts that there was one
who loved him and his pursuits, and to merit whose
attachment he was resolved to strain every nerve in
the path of learning and distinction. At Leyden he
prosecuted his studies with his wonted assiduity;
attracted the notice of Dr. Boerhave, and other cele-
brated men of science ; was appointed family physi-
cian to the burgomaster of Amsterdam; produced,
during the two years he held this situation, many
of his most elaborate works ; and visited England
and other countries in quest of knowledge. Indeed,
the extent of his labors, and his indefatigable industry
during this period, is almost incredible. There was
almost no department of natural science which he
did not investigate, and bring within the compass of
his methodical arrangements ; but botany was his
chief and favorite study, and in this department he
raised himself a reputation which can only perish
with the science itself.

In 1738, he made an excursion to Paris, and towards
the end of that year returned to his native country,
and settled himself as a physician at Stockholm.
At first he experienced neglect ; but at length, being
fortunate enough to prescribe successfully for a ciugh
which troubled Queen Eleonora, he henceforth be-
came the fashionable doctor of Stockholm, and was
appointed physician to the admiralty, and botanist to
the king. Having now a settled income, he married
the lady of his affections, five years subsequent to his
first courtship. Not long afterwards, he was appointed



286 LINNiSUS.

medical professor in the University of Upsal; and
his former enemy, Rosen, having obtained the botan-
ical chair of that university, an amicable adjustment
was made, by which they exchanged their professor-
ships. Linnaeus now saw himself seated in the botan-
ical chair of the university, which, from the first,
had been the chief object of his ambition, and which
he continued to fill with distinguished honor for a
period of thirty-seven years.

Through his influence, many young naturalists
were sent to explore various countries; and to his
zeal in the cause of science we owe the discoveries
in natural history made by Kalm, Osbeck, Hassel-
quist, and Loefling. He was employed by the queen
of Sweden to describe her museum at Drontlingholm,
when he made a new scientific arrangement of the
shells contained in it. About 1751, he published
his Philosophia Botanica, and, in 1753, his Species
Plantarum, containing a description of every known
plant, arranged according to the sexual system. This
work of Linnseus, which may be termed his greatest
and most imperishable production, appeared originally
in two volumes octavo ; but the edition published at
Berlin, 1799-1810, is extended to ten volumes.

In 1753, this great naturalist was created a knight
of the polar star, an honor never before bestowed on
a literary man. In 1761, he was elevated to the
rank of nobility. Literary honors were also con-
ferred on him by scientific societies in foreign coun-
tries. In 1768, he completed the plan of his Systema
NaturaR, which, through successive editions, had been
enlarged to three octavo volumes. Linnceus acquired



LINN^U.'i. 2S7

a moderate degree of opulence, sufficient to enable
him to purchase an estate and mansion at Hammarby,
near XJpsal, where he chiefly resided during the las*
fifteen years of his life. There he had a museum
of natural history, upon which he gave lectures, and trt
which he was constantly making additions from th<»
contributions of travellers and men of science in
various parts of the world.

His health, during a great part of his life, enabled
him to pursue his researches with vigor and activity -
but in May, 1774, he had an apoplectic attack, which
obliged him to relinquish the most laborious part ol
his professorial duties, and close his literary labors.
A second attack occurred in 1776, and he afterwards
experienced a third ; but his death did not take place
till January 11, 1778. Besides his works on natural
history, he published a classified Materia Medica,
and a systematic treatise on nosology, entitled Genera
Morborum. Few men in the history of science have
shown such boldness, zeal, activity, and sagacity, as
Linnseus ^ natural science is under unspeakable obli-
gations to him, though the different systems estab-
lished by him may be superseded by more perfect
ones. Charles XIV., king of Sweden, in 1819,
ordered a monument to be erected to him in his
native place.




NATHANIEL BOWDITCH.

This benefactor of those " who go down to the deep
in ships," was born at Salem, Mass., March 26,
1773, his father being Habakkuk Bowditch, first a
ship-master, and then a cooper of that town. Most
great men are said to be blessed with superior mo-
thers, and Nathaniel Bowditch appears not to furnish
a refutation of the rule. His mother was indeed an
excellent woman, discharging her duties with exem-
plary fidelity. By her death, Nathaniel was deprived
of his best friend, at the age of ten years ; but she
had lived long enough to imbue his mind and heart
with those principles of integrity, which are the best
guide of life. From her, he is said to have learned
his first instruction as to the nature and value of truth,
in the following manner :

While a child, playing behind his mother, he had,
unobserved by her, unrolled a ball of yarn, from
which she was knitting, and involved it in inextricable
confusion. When she discovered the mischief, and
addressed him with some severity of manner, he
denied having done it. She at once entered into a
serious conversation with him, and while she told him
that the original matter of offence was but trifling, she
explained to him so fully the meanness and criminality
of falsehood, and urged him with so much earnest-
ness never again to be guilty of it, that this lesson of
his infancy became indelibly impressed upon his b"»rt



BOWDITCH. 289

It appears that Nathaniel was a favorite in the
family, where there were seven children. His superi-
ority was manifest in childhood, and the mother
appreciated his character. The house where he spent
a part of his early days is still standing in Danvers,
to which place the family removed for a time — and is
thus described by Mr. Young :

" My walk brought me among the pleasant farm-
houses of a retired hamlet, in Essex county ; and I
found the plain two-story house, with but two rooms
in it, where he dwelt with his mother ; and I saw the
chamber-window where he said she used to sit and
show him ' the new moon, with the old moon in her
arm,' and, with the poetical superstition of a sailor's
Avife, jingle the silver in her pocket, that her husband
might have good luck, and she good tidings from him,
far off upon the sea. I entered that house and two
others in the vicinity, and found three ancient women
who knew her well, and remembered her wonderful
boy. I sat down by their firesides, and listened with
greedy ear to the story, which they gladly told me, of
that remarkable child, remarkable for his early good-
ness, as well as his early greatness.

" The first of these women whom I saw and
interrogated, said that Nat was a 'beautiful, nice,
likely, clever, thoughtful boy. Learning came natural
to him, and his mother used to say he would make
something or nothing.' I asked her whether she had
ever heard what became of him. ' Oh, yes,' she re-
plied, ' he became a great man, and went to Boston,
and had a mighty deal of learning.' ' What kind of
learning? ' I asked. ' Why,' she answered, ' I believe
s VI.— 25



290 BOWDITCH.

he was a pilot, and knew how to steer all vessels.'
This evidently was her simple and confused idea of


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Online LibrarySamuel G. (Samuel Griswold) GoodrichLives of benefactors; → online text (page 18 of 21)