W. L. (William Larkin) Webb.

Brief biography and popular account of the unparalleled discoveries of T.J.J. See .. online

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several miles beneath the sea level is absolute. For it is definitely
known how the mountain ranges and adjacent valleys are crum-
pled, and finally raised above the sea. And what has happened
for mountain ranges in general, has happened also for the Hima-
layas and the valleys adjacent thereto.

In order to round out the view here traced, it only remains
to add that the Arrakan coast of farther India contains two chief
mountain chains, one of which is the backbone of the Malay Penin-
sula; and the other is the range terminating at Cape Negrais, but
continuing under the sea in a string of islands, and reappearing
further south as Sumatra and Java. The Andaman Islands and
several volcanoes in the sea appear between Cape Negrais and

g I

H ^


W >
W -^


ffi -o


Altitude 29,002 feet above sea level. Photograph by Vittorio Sella, from Chunjerma Pass (Nepal),
80 miles distant, National Geographical Magazine for June, 1909.


In Equatorial East Africa, rising to an altitude of 18,600 feet. This snow capped range in the hottest part of Africa
was explored by the Duke of the Abbruzzi in 1906. Photograph by Vittorio Sella, from the South, National
Geographical Magazine, for June, 1909.


Sumatra. And both Java and Sumatra are noted for their
terrific volcanic violence. This volcanic chain is analogous to that
of the Aleutian Islands, except that the middle part is submerged,
and the two ends raised above the waves.

The line of thought here developed enables us to understand
the volcanic activities of farther India, and also the terrible belt
of earthquakes in Assam and the adjacent regions south of the
Himalayas. Part of the ancient sea valley is above the water as
low land, and part still in the ocean, and covered by the sea to a
considerable depth.

West of India, we have the complicated mountain ranges and
earthquake belts of Afghanistan and Persia. It would be difficult
if not impossible to understand the phenomena they present if
studied alone; but if studied in connection with the developments
of India and farther India above discussed, it is easy to see that
Afghanistan and Persia were built up in like manner, and at no
very distant epoch were beneath the sea.

In his article on the Himalayas, Encyclopedia Britannica, 9th
edition, the late General Strachey has strongly emphasized the
view that the mountains and table lands of Afghanistan and
Persia are intelligible only in connection with those of India. " It
is after the middle tertiary epoch that the principal elevation of
these mountains took place, and about the same time also took
place the movements which raised the tablelands of Afghanistan
and Persia, and gave southern Asia its existing outlines."

He also points out the fact that at no very distant geological
epoch the ocean extended from the Arabian Sea through the Per-
sian Gulf to the Caspian and Mediterranean. The continuation
of the earthquake belt through this region of western Asia is there-
fore quite intelligible, and the existence of active volcanoes near
the Caspian a survival of present and former relations to the ocean.

The annual rainfall south of the Himalayas amounts to about
thirty-six feet, and this is so enormous as to be almost as effective
as a shallow sea in keeping alive earthquake processes.


It is established by observation, for example, that the very
active volcano Sangai, in the terrible rain belt at the head of the
Amazon, in Ecuador, has its activity about doubled during the
worst period of the rainy season, owing to the effects of surface
water. If in South America the volcanic forces can be visibly
augumented by copious surface water, it is easy to understand
that the terrible rains of India may also operate to keep alive the
earthquake processes almost as well as an overlying sea.

The earthquake belt south of the Himalayas is thus perfectly
explained. And the extension of this line of disturbance through
to the Caspian presents no difficulty, when account is taken of the
recent situation of the sea over a large part of this region of
western Asia.

In conclusion it only remains to add that Colonel Burrard's
argument, cited in section 1 above, that the Himalayas resulted
from the pushing of a great mass of matter northward, undoubted-
ly is correct. This fact appears to be as well established as the
rising and setting of the sun, and further discussion of the subject
is superfluous.

The cause of this northward movement is also fully estab-
lished, but it is not that imagined by Colonel Burrard. In the
Observatory for May and June, 1912, will be found a discussion
by Colonel Burrard of considerable interest, but founded on the
premise that the earth's speed of rotation is variable and has
undergone considerable changes within the period covered by
geological history.

The writer's Researches on the Evolution of the Stellar Systems,
Volume II, 1910, show that the views formerly held by Lord Kel-
vin and Sir George Darwin are now quite inadmissible; and that
the earth's rotation has not changed sensibly since the earliest
geological time. Thus Colonel Burrard's premise that the retarda-
tion of the earth's rotation might cause a flow of matter towards
the poles is wholly inadmissible.

Besides, there are other means of showing that such was not
the origin of the Himalayas. These great mountains of India,


for example, should no more be due to a change in the earths*
rotation, than should the Andes, which run almost exactly north
and south, and by their course along the meridian, exclude an
explanation founded on a change in the speed of the earth's rota-

And as the Andes are well known to have been formed by the
sea in the way we have described, it is certain that the same cause
uplifted the Himalayas and the plateau of Tibet.

From these considerations it will be seen that the modern
sciences of Geogony and Cosomogony are closely related, and that
neither can be perfectly developed without the aid of the other.
Just as it is impossible to develop a satisfactory theory of the
formation of the earth without data drawn from the modern
Science of Cosmogony; so also Cosmogony itself has been much
improved by a Science of Geogony which gives a correct theory of
terrestrial mountain formation. For that has aided in establish-
ing the origin of the lunar craters, and the early growth of the earth
itself by impact the existing ranges of mountains having been
subsequently formed by the sea and thus made parallel to the

On the other hand, without the theory that the mountains
generally are formed by the ocean, which is so clearly established
for the typical range of the Andes, running exactly north and south,
our ideas of the origin of the Himalayas might have remained ob-
scure for ages.

It is scarcely necessary to point out that these results illus-
trate somewhat impressively the value of a comprehensive vision
in the study of the Sciences. Without this power for comparing
together the most remote objects there can be no progress in dis-
covery of the highest order.

Starlight on Loutre, Montgomery City, Missouri,
March 27, 1913.



By T. J. J. SEE.

'E are assembled to consider the great Law of Nature which
governs the Evolution of Worlds, and to celebrate the Found-
ing of a New Science of the Starry Heavens. Prior to the
establishment of the Science of Cosmogony, from researches made
here in California during the past few years, the most recent
Astronomical Science developed by a modern investigator was
Astrophysics, which was founded by the late Sir William Huggins
half a century ago. From this circumstance it is not without
inspiration to recall the lively interest taken by this illustrious
pioneer in the development of the New Science of Cosmogony.
For just as in early manhood he foresaw with prophetic vision the
great possibilities of Astrophysics, so also in the last years of a long
life consecrated to the advancement of truth, this venerable philos-
opher was one of the first to welcome the founding of a New Science
of Cosmical Evolution. We may pause to recall the early words
of Sir William Huggins, which were the more appreciated because
they were uttered before the New Science had become established
in the scientific world.

Writing from London, under date of August 11, 1908, he
says: "I hasten to thank you for your letter giving me early
information of your bold and startling new theory of spiral nebulae.
It takes one's breath away to endeavor to realize the going round
of these long drawn out wisps, I suppose, billions of billions of

* Address to the California Academy of Sciences, delivered August 7, 1911.
Reprinted from Popular Astronomy for November- December, 1911.

0. !. I.I H H ,

E fl M E T P H I




Presented to Professor See by Citizens of California, 1911, with the appropriate inscription:

"THE DEITY ALWAYS GEOMETRIZES," which naturally is dear to the Mathematician.


miles long! At the first blush one would hardly expect them to
make headway in any resisting medium. But your theory gets
out of the astonishing difficulty of how they exist, if at rest, in any
state approaching equilibrium. If, as you say it does, the thing
works out, we seem to have reached something like certainty in
a subject which hitherto has been in more senses than one a nebu-
lous one. I am greatly interested and shall look forward to the
fuller working out of your ideas. Laplace's theory is no doubt

In a note of June 6, 1909, Sir William added: "It is indeed
an exciting time when one's old notions are disappearing under
the light of new knowledge. One almost regrets the time when
one could sleep comfortably in Laplace's bosom."

On September 12, 1909, Sir William wrote : "I have received,
and desire now to thank you for, separate copies of your important
papers on the Capture of Satellites, and of the Moon, which ap-
peared in the Astronomische Nachrichten. From the point of
sentiment it is, perhaps, disappointing to learn that our old
Moon is not an earth-son, but some gypsy body, and that
all the planets and satellites of our system are not children
and grand-children of the sun, but 'undesirable aliens' from
nobody knows where! But fact and truth come before senti-
ment, and your views claim the earnest consideration of all

Another celebrated philosopher who early welcomed these
new advances and therefore is not to be forgotten by us to-night,
is the lamented Schiaparelli, the most illustrious Italian astrono-
mer since the days of Galileo. He heartily rejoiced to be able to
recognize in the recent discoveries the aurora which heralds the
coming day of a New Science of Cosmogony, and pointed out that
heretofore astronomers had been occupied mainly with ascertain-
ing the present state of the heavens.

On the occasion of this anniversary, three years after the first
private announcements were made to Sir William Huggins, ex-
president of the Royal Society, and acknowledged by him in the


letters above quoted, we find the New Science of Cosmogony already
widely recognized by the most eminent astronomers and geom-
eters. To all who have extended this generous welcome to new
truth struggling for a foothold in the world, it is needless to say
that we return most humble and hearty thanks, but to none more
appropriately than the illustrious Poincare, the foremost natural
philosopher and geometer of our age.

Writing to me from Paris under date of July 6, 1911, this
incomparable mathematician says: "I have made use of your
book (Researches , Vol. II) in my course this year, although I had
not expected to do so, since I did not receive the volume till near
the close of the last lesson; I then insisted, with profit, on the
capture of planets by a resisting medium.

"My course is being published and I shall send it to you as
soon as it appears, that is to say, in the month of November. You
will see there the remarks and the difficulties which your theories
have suggested to me.

Your very devoted colleague,


Among the other investigators who have joined in this not-
able advance, special mention should be made of the work of our
eminent colleague Professor E. W. Brown, of Yale University,
for an important extension of our knowledge of the Capture of
Satellites (Monthly Notices of Royal Astronomical Society, March,
1911); and of the recent researches of Professor Elis Stromgren,
of the Royal Observatory of Copenhagen, demonstrating the
elliptical character of the orbits of all comets, thus showing that
they are attached to the solar system, and do not move in parabolic
or hyperbolic orbits, as was long believed. This work of Strom-
gren has removed the last important difficulty in establishing the
Science of Cosmogony. Indeed his researches on comets seem
likely to constitute the most notable advance in our theory of
these mysterious objects since the days of Tycho, Kepler and



The eminent French mathematician and natural philosopher, and one of the greatest of
modern astronomers.


The founder of the Science of Astronomy, and the most famous of the
Greek astronomers. This genuine portrait of Hipparchus is based on an antique
cameo found by Admiral Smyth, the British amateur astronomer, during a cruise
in the Mediterranean about the year 1813, most likely at Athens or Alexandria.
An outline of it is given in Chambers' Astronomy, Vol. III. As here presented
it has been carefully enlarged by Mr. A. E. Axlund, and the deficient parts filled
out by Professor See, who added the base, with inscription from Ptolemy, who
praises Hipparchus as a "labor-loving and truth-loving man."



From these considerations it is evident that we have recently
witnessed the development of a new science of the starry heavens.
As will be seen hereafter it throws a clear light upon the astrono-
my of the invisible,* and illuminates the remotest regions of
space almost as brightly as those well-lighted portions in the
neighborhood of the sun, where the planets move. In fact it has
been justly remarked that our new science lights up the firmament
not unlike a new star which suddenly appears in the sky; and its
development seems to have been almost as unexpected. We are
still dazzled by the splendor of the light which has been suddenly
thrown on the invisible processes of creation. For the processes
of cosmical evolution are so slow that they extend over vast
ages, and in general cannot be directly observed, but must
be inferred, from the order now found to pervade the sidereal

Like Astronomy itself, Cosmogony in a primitive way dates
back to the age of the Greeks, having been allegorically treated
by the poets and afterwards more adequately developed by such
natural philosophers as Anaximander, Democritus and Anaxagoras;
so that it is at once the oldest and the newest of the sciences. But
it is only within the last twelve years that we have secured the
necessary data of observation, on the nebulae, chiefly by Keeler
and Perrine at Lick Observatory, and introduced rigorous mathe-
matical criteria which give us the permanent basis of a true phy-
sical science. Accordingly whilst Astronomy proper was placed
on a secure foundation by the researches of such ancient geom-
eters as Apollonius, Aristarchus and Archimedes, combined with
the observational data of Timocharis, Hipparchus and Ptolemy,
Cosmogony proved to be much more difficult to reduce to a
satisfactory basis of observation and demonstration, and has

* Systems of planets, asteroids, satellites and comets are wholly invisible at
the distance of the fixed stars, yet they are now proved to exist about all these suns.


become a Science only since the beginning of the twentieth

It is justly remarked that a high order of knowledge of the
stars and their systems and of the chaotic nebulae from which
they arose was necessary before it was possible to attempt to
develop a real science of world formation. Thus for upwards of
2,000 years Cosmogony remained little more than an unsatisfactory
collection of opinions; and even quite recently one eminent mathe-
matician, who still adheres to the old way of thinking, has likened
Cosmogony to Astrology, holding that the secrets of the origin of
the universe are forever beyond the powers of the human mind.
These views, of course, are erroneous, and yet they give us some
idea of the difficulties which have been overcome. It is a remark-
able fact that our philosophical difficulties have consisted chiefly
in false premises. These obstacles ought to have been forseen and
avoided, but there were peculiar circumstances which long de-
ceived the most eminent mathematicians including Laplace,
Sir John Herschel, Lord Kelvin, Newcomb, Darwin, Tisserand,
and Poincare. We shall presently trace the development of the
New Science of Cosmogony with enough detail to render the results
intelligible, but we shall first consider the conditions requisite for
the creation of a new mathematical science.



As already pointed out, Cosmogony deals with the laws of
the formation of the heavenly bodies; and the perfection of this
new physical science must be regarded as the ultimate object of
all astronomical research. However special our individual in-
vestigations may be, this is the one ultimate purpose which they
may be supposed to serve. And until the laws of cosmical evolu-
tion can be at least roughly outlined all our astronomical efforts
are as aimless for the discovery of the highest laws of Nature as
are the unguided steps of the blind leading the blind. No wonder
that astronomers should value researches which will give us light


on the laws of Cosmogony, heretofore veiled in the darkness of
perpetual night. Such discoveries are like the heavenly manna
for feeding the famished wanderer in the wilderness searching for
the way to the promised land.

The pioneer in Science must always be both an explorer and
an apostle. His path must necessarily be lonely and desolate,
and beset by the most unexpected difficulties. It takes as coura-
geous a soul to lead the way to new fields of knowledge as it does
to blaze the way to a new civilization, such as the pioneers of our
country founded in early days of this Republic. No wonder that
those who came after the hard and rough work is done have always
said "Blessed be the memory of the pioneers."

Let me justify this opinion of the difficulties of the highest
mathematical science by the great authority of Plato, who has
been justly regarded as the most luminous intellect of the ancient
times. This greatest of the Greek sages declared that "an astron-
omer must be the wisest of men; his mind must be duly disci-
plined in youth; especially is mathematical study necessary; both
an acquiantance with the doctrine of number, and also with the
other branch of mathematics, which, closely connected as it is
with the heavens, we very absurdly call Geometry, the measure-
ment of the earth." (Epinomis, p. 988-900).

With Plato's estimate of the intellectual qualification of an
astronomer before us, will anyone believe that a modern astrono-
mer can have any real standing who is not a mathematician? If
sound mathematical knowledge was necessary in the simple age
of the Greeks, how much more necessary is it now, with problems
vastly more complex and difficult than any treated by the ancients?
Obviously Astronomy is not possible without the exact methods
of mathematics, and this criterion is a safe one in fixing the standard
of any physical science.

Not only must the astronomer be the wisest and intellectu-
ally the most penetrating of men, but in order to be a discoverer of
the first order, he must be just in his habits of mind and wholly
devoted to truth. In a celebrated saying preserved by Plutarch,
(Quest. Conv., VIII, 2) Plato declares that "the Deity always


geometrizes" o 0os V ycw/AeVpei.* Since the astronomer there-
fore labors to discover the laws and processes established by the
Deity from the foundation of the world, it is evident that this
highest order of truth can be perceived only by those who are
philosophically equable and altogether devoted to the search for
the correct principles of science. The kingdom of ideas thus dis-
closed to the faithful philosopher passeth not away, but endureth
from generation to generation, as ageless as the heavens!


The importance of any development in astronomical science
depends on the light it throws on the physical causes which under-
lie the phenomena of the universe. Laplace justly says that
Tycho Brahe, great observer though he was, had little intuition
into causes, and history therefore does not rate Tycho in the same
class with Kepler and Newton, who established the laws of the
heavenly motions. By this criterion that the importance of a
discovery depends on the light it throws on causes, we find that
there have been six principal epochs in the history of Astronomy.

1. The Epoch of the Greeks, who studied the apparent mo-
tions of the planets, and deduced the fact that their paths are
nearly exact circles; whence it was supposed that the orbits are
circular, because the Deity had chosen this perfect geometrical
figure for the paths of the heavenly bodies. This comprised the
work of Plato and Aristotle, Eudoxus and Apollonius, Aristarchus
and Archimedes, Hipparachus and Ptolemy.

2. The Epoch of Copernicus, who established the heliocentric
theory of the world in 1543, and showed that Aristarchus of Samos
was right in holding that the stars are at a nearly infinite distance
from our sun, and thus should suffer no sensible displacement from
the annual motion of the earth in its orbit.

* The plate with this inscription, used as a frontispiece to this address, is really
a book-plate kindly presented to me by California friends who take great interest
in the recent discoveries in Cosmogony. The portrait is one of Plato, and, above,
Kaulbach's painting of Homer and the Greeks, representing the atmosphere in
which Plato lived. The other figures represent the spiral nebula 74 Piscium and
the finished solar system.


3. The Epoch of Kepler and Galileo, the one the discoverer
of the laws of the planetary motions, the other the inventor of the
telescope and discoverer of the laws of falling bodies, by which
terrestrial and celestial motions could be compared and critically
investigated. These great discoveries paved the way for the
science of the heavenly motions as developed by Newton.

4. The Epoch of Newton, who established the law of universal
gravitation and reduced all observed phenomena to approximate
conformity with this great law of nature.

5. The Epoch of Lag-range and Laplace and Herschel. The
first two great geometers verified and extended the Newtonian
law, and also established the essential stability of the solar system;
while Herschel explored the sidereal universe and thus afforded an
observational basis for an imperfect beginning of Cosmogony in
the old nebular hypothesis. The problem of the stability of the
solar system now appears in a new light, for we find that only
planets with stable motions have survived, while a vast number
of small bodies moving in unstable orbits have been swallowed up
and destroyed to lay the foundations of the larger masses of our
system. The orbits which survive are thus free from mutual
entanglement, and arranged as if to endure almost forever.

6. The Epoch now growing out of the Development of a Science
of Cosmogony. This was made possible partly by the application
of the spectroscope to the heavenly bodies, which was begun
by Sir Wm. Huggins in 1864, and afterwards perfected by the

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Online LibraryW. L. (William Larkin) WebbBrief biography and popular account of the unparalleled discoveries of T.J.J. See .. → online text (page 15 of 28)