W. L. (William Larkin) Webb.

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giant telescopes of the future. In this great advance America
may naturally be expected to take the leading part.

Starlight on Loutre,

Montgomery City, Missouri, November 4, 1911.

* In Astron. Nachr., No. 4,536 Nov. 13 1911, Professor F. W. Very concludes
that the White Nebulae may be galaxies at a distance of a million light-years. The
view adopted in my "Researches," Vol. II., 1910, however, is much more probable,
since it gives continuity to the various types of bodies observed to constitute the
sidereal universe. Note added Dec. 16, 1911.


By T. J. J. SEE.

N entering upon a popular address, in commemoration of the
174th anniversary of the birth of the illustrious Sir William
Herschel, on the general subject of the origin of clusters and
the breaking up of the Milky Way, I must offer a slight apology
for the coupling of my name with that of Herschel. It has arisen
not so much from any preference of my own, as from a faithful
effort to discriminate between the original somewhat undeveloped
views of that unrivaled astronomer, and the extension and verifica-
tion of his theories recently made by me, upon the basis of modern
observational data, and the use of mathematical methods un-
known in Herschel' s time. According to modern standards, Her-
schel's views were not developed to a highly finished state; and yet
they contain the germs of some of the most remarkable advances
recently made in Astronomy.

Immediately after recovery from a very critical illness early
in 1909, 1 was fortunate enough to become intimately acquainted
with Herschel's neglected but priceless researches on the con-
struction of the heavens and on the development of the various
types of celestial bodies. And somewhat later, in co-operation
with the late Sir William Huggins, ex-President of the Royal
Society, I was able to start the successful movement for the re-
publication of Herschel's Collected Scientific Papers by the Royal
Society and Royal Astronomical Society of London, 1912. More-
over, I have been enabled very recently to verify the wonderful

* Address delivered at Mare Island, California, Nov. 15, 1912, in commemora-
tion of the 174th anniversary of the birth of Sir William Herschel.

(From a pastel by J. Russell, R. A., 1794 Herschel's Collected Works; Vol. I, 1912.)


conclusions of Herschel regarding the depth of the Galaxy, and the
origin of the Globular Clusters, as well as the breaking up of the
Milky Way, under the clustering power of universal gravitation.
Under these circumstances probably it was natural that astrono-
mers should unite my name with that of Herschel, in describing
these modern developments, to distinguish them from the original
views of a century ago, which have now been established on a firm
basis of observation and mathematical demonstration. One can
scarcely depart from this discriminating usage without introducing
into Science a confusion which would be quite inadmissible.

The researches on the depth of the Milky Way were finished
in 1911, and published in the Proceedings of the American Philo-
sophical Society at Philadelphia; and the same illustrious society
has also done me the honor to include in its Proceedings for April
and June, 1912, the "Dynamical Theory of the Globular Clusters
and of the Clustering Power inferred by Herschel from the Observed
Figures of Sidereal Systems of High Order," which was read on
April 19, 1912.

In entering upon the topic of the depth of the Milky Way and
the observed distribution of clusters it may naturally be asked
why the distribution of clusters is associated with the depth of
the Milky Way. To this question we reply that it was found by
Sir William Herschel that the clusters congregate along the path
of the Milky Way, which thus appears to traverse the heavens as
a clustering stream. Moreover, it was found by Herschel that the
sidereal universe is enormously extended in the direction of the
plane of this starry stratum, and is relatively of but very small

In the Philosophical Transactions for 1800, pp. 83-4, Herschel
calculates that a cluster of 50,000 stars visible in his 40-foot tele-
scope is distant 11,765,475,948,678,678,679 miles, "a number
which exceeds the distance of the nearest fixed star at least three
hundred thousand times." With modern data this proves to be
460,355 times the distance of Alpha Centauri, or 2,001,120 light-
years. In the Philosophical Transactions for 1802, p. 498, Her-
schel again resumes the problem of the distance of the most remote


objects visible in his 40-foot telescope, and concludes that certain
clusters having a nebulous aspect from the effect of distance alone
are so remote that their rays of light have been on their way
"almost two millions of years." He adds that his great telescope
has enabled him to penetrate not only into the profound depths
of space, but also has the power of penetrating into time past; so
that Humboldt remarks in his Cosmos, Vol. I, p. 145, Bohn Trans-
lation, "the light of remote heavenly bodies present us with the
most ancient perceptible evidence of the existence of matter/'

Now the point of this whole matter of the great depth of the
Milky Way is that the clusters, being scattered somewhat at ran-
dom in this starry stratum, are by the effects of the perspective,
incident to the vast depth of the stratum, made to appear to lie
in or near the Milky Way. Hence the Milky Way appears to
traverse the heavens as a clustering stream, as was long ago re-
marked by Herschel. Accordingly, on the one hand, it is the vast
distances of the clusters more than usually condensed masses
of stars which causes such swarms of stars to appear drawn to
small dimensions in the face of the sky; and, on the other, it is the
great depth of the Milky Way, in contrast with the small thick-
ness of this starry stratum, which causes the clusters, by the effect
of perspective, to be projected along the path of the Milky Way,
which thus assumes the aspect of a clustering stream.

If we did not know the great depth of the Milky Way, we
might underrate the absolute magnitude of the clusters observed
along its path; and moreover the projection of these masses in
that direction would be unaccountable. Herein lies the great
significance of Herschel's researches a century ago; for that unri-
valed man solved this problem with such amazing accuracy that
we are just now enabled for the first time to appreciate the sub-
lime truths at which he arrived, by the sure instinct of genius,
when there was little positive data to guide the judgment of an early
explorer of the heavens.

Having thus obtained some insight into the reasons why the
clusters appear to follow the course of the Milky Way, owing to

Plate 1




(From See's Researches, Vol. II, 1910),


the depth of that starry stratum, the profundity in places being
not less than two million light-years, it remains to consider the
origin of the globular clusters of stars, which are justly considered
among the most wonderful objects of the sidereal universe.

When Sir William Herschel surveyed the starry heavens with
his mighty telescopes he found great numbers of clusters each
tending to the globular figure, like a drop of dew, or a planet of
the solar system; and he inferred that by their mutual gravitation
the stars were being collected into swarms and globular masses.
Herschel's conjecture, however, was not tested by rigorous mathe-
matical research, and it was only in January of the present year
that a method of attacking the problem occurred to me. The
paper developed in February and recently published in the Pro-
ceedings of the American Philosophical Society deals with the
mathematical theory of the origin and development of clusters,
by the capture and condensation of stars gradually collecting in
a given region of space. It confirms and establishes forever the
Capture Theory of Cosmical Evolution as the general Law of Nature,
because it is easy to show that the clusters can have originated in
no other way whatsoever.

By a fortunate train of thought it occurred to me to make use
of what is known to geometers as Green's theorem, involving sex-
tuple and even nonuple integrals the very highest order of
mathematics. By an ingenious use of the principles of the Cal-
culus as applied to the expressions for the mutual potential energy
of the system, which must decrease with the time, owing to inevi-
table exhaustion, it was possible to prove how a cluster slowly
captures the stars entering the region of its development, and at
the same time condenses into a smaller space and becomes more
and more compressed, until it finally passes into a perfect blaze of
starlight at the center. The unrivaled Sir William Herschel
declared that the globular clusters, with this growth of central
accumulation, are the most magnificent objects in the heavens,
and they never ceased to fill him with wonder. Well may their
formation engage our attention now!


It is needless to say that the successful treatment of this great
question requires that the highest order of mathematical knowl-
edge and intuition, be combined with the deepest physical insight
into the order of Nature, such as few have possessed since Herschel.
And it is not probable that anyone among living philosophers
could have solved this titanic problem, which, it has been said,
calls for the united intuition of Herschel and Newton in one individ-
ual, had it not been for the notable outline of a method of attack
sketched by Herschel himself.

But with the guidance of Herschel's thought and modern
mathematical methods, based on the transformations of Green's
theorem, I somehow obtained results which must be rated among
the notable achievements of Modern Astronomy. For it was
proved that these masses of stars arise from the clustering power
of universal gravitation.

This clustering power was imagined by Herschel to operate
like gravitation in rounding up the figure of a planet. He also
compared it to the action of the molecular forces which give a drop
of dew such globular aspect. We see the same influence at work
in producing spherical globules of mercury, and in fact of all
liquids which do not wet the support on which they rest. The
effect of surface tension in decreasing the volume and rounding
up the figure of a soap bubble is almost exactly analogous to the
clustering power of universal gravitation as it operates to mould
the figures of clusters of stars. With these several illustrations
before us, we shall be able to understand the Clustering Power
noticed by Herschel to be at work throughout the sidereal universe.
Accordingly when the astronomer of the future surveys the
clusters along the starry path of the Galaxy, he will indeed behold
traces of the Clustering Power surmised by Herschel, but first
established by modern mathematical methods at Mare Island,
in 1912. Mathematicians may be excused for holding that such
sublime researches on the origin of clusters, as the most wonder-
ful systems in the universe, are among the noblest achievements
of the human intellect, for until very recently we would scarcely


have believed such developments possible; and yet it appears
that the mathematical proof of the general theory outlined by
Herschel has been heartily welcomed by the scientific world. Thus
Dr. J. L. E. Dreyer, the learned editor of Herschel's Collected
Scientific Papers, recently wrote as follows:


I have read your remarkable paper on globular clusters
with great pleasure, and it seems to me that your theory of their
origin and progress accounts perfectly for all the phenomena which
have hitherto been so obscure, particularly for the strange fact
of nearly all the stars being of the same brightness. You have of
course gone very much further than William Herschel did, but
all the same, he was wonderfully clear-sighted, and it is a pleasure
to an admirer of him to see his views so well corroborated and
developed. "Back to Herschel," must indeed be the guiding
principle in most researches in sidereal astronomy.

Thanking you again for the pleasure your paper has given
me, I am with kind regards,

Yours sincerely,


Now it seems to me that if we have learned to go back to
Herschel in most researches in sidereal astronomy, and this princi-
ple came to be introduced through my studies of Herschel, and
the extraordinary good fortune in securing the republication of
his Collected Scientific Papers through the generous and disinterest-
ed efforts of my revered friend, Sir William Huggins, it may not
be altogether inappropriate for me to celebrate the anniversary
of the birth of Herschel. Indeed, the revival of Herschel's ideas
in astronomy is the celebration most needed in the scientific world;
and as this has taken place already, we may rejoice that we have
lived to witness this notable promotion of truth, in work which
has been generally lost sight of for ninety years, since Herschel's
death in the year 1822.


Even during his lifetime Herschel worked alone on the great
problems which engaged his attention. He was the only astrono-
mer of his age with a penetrating vision into the spacial depths
of immensity, and into the millions of ages of time required in
the building of the universe. Proctor likewise has noticed this
isolation of the great Herschel; for in Our Place Among Infinities,
p. 258, he says:

"It may be that the difficulty and complexity of the problem
he had taken in hand, or perchance the quiet and unobtrusive
manner in which he presented it as it then appeared to him, or
some other cause may have been in operation, but certain it is
that very little notice was taken of Herschel's special work then,
or during the remainder of his life. None helped him, though
his researches were manifestly far beyond the strength of a single
worker. No comments on his stellar observations, so far as they
related to the great problem he was attacking, were made by con-
temporary astronomers."

The contrast between the manly independence of the great
Herschel in pursuing single-handed really important researches,
and the feeble policy of dependency adopted by many weak astron-
omers of our time, under the euphonious name of co-operation, is
striking and worthy of attention. One policy represents real
power of leadership, strength and capacity for achievement; the
other, such weakness and incapacity that it requires to be propped

To consider Herschel's impressions of the origin of clusters
and nebulae, we need only recall his argument for a Clustering
Power drawing the stars together into clusters; and in the case
of nebulae the corresponding argument on central powers, based
on the increase of brightness towards their centers. Herschel
noticed that all the globular clusters have a central accumulation
of brightness rapidly increasing towards the center; and in the
thousands of nebulae he found that a similar central accumula-
tion of brightness was observable. He reasoned that the clusters
were formed by stars being drawn together from the surrounding


space, under the clustering power of universal gravitation. The
central accumulation of brightness in the nebulae was to his mind
an equally clear indication of the operation of central powers
arranging the nebulosity in concentric shells of uniform bright-
ness, but with the brightness rapidly increasing towards the center,
so that the nuclei of the nebulae frequently are occupied by stars.

One must admit that the force of Herschel's argument is
unanswerable. Anyone who studies it will be convinced that it
rests on a firm foundation. And as gravitation draws bodies
together, it was natural that Herschel should explain this cluster-
ing tendency by the continued operation of this central power
throughout millions of ages. For in 1802 Herschel was able to
adduce proof that some of the double stars he had observed twenty
years before were in orbital motion; and the force causing this
orbital motion could be nothing else than universal gravitation.
If therefore double and multiple stars are governed by Newtonian
gravitation, the same force must be assumed to operate in clusters
and nebulae throughout the sidereal universe.

This argument of Herschel is very fine, and cannot be im-
proved upon to-day; but we had to subject it to an observational
test, to see if gravitation really governs the motions of double and
multiple stars, and will account for the law of star-distribution
in clusters. This test I was able to make for the double and multi-
ple stars some seventeen years ago; and during the present year I
was so fortunate as to develop a mathematical proof that the
clustering power operating in globular clusters is nothing else than
Newtonian gravitation.

This proof is not only one of great generality, from the mathe-
matical point of view, but also accords with the theory of the
mutual potential energy of a cluster of stars, and its inevitable
exhaustion under the mutual approach of these bodies. Thus as
the stars by mutual gravitation tend to be drawn together, the
cluster is gradually more and more compressed, with density
accumulating towards the center according to certain laws ad-
mitting of accurate mathematical expression.


Moreover, I was able to show that a star falling into such a
cluster will have a tendency to be entrapped, so that it cannot
again escape, but works down towards the interior of the mass.
This explains the central accumulation of density in both clusters
and nebulae; for the nebulae are now known to be discontinuous
masses of solid particles, with luminous elements interspersed,
not really fluid masses with figures of equilibrium sustained by
hydrostatic pressure, as was long believed by Laplace and his

The law of gathering in, which is applicable to the globular
clusters, is therefore applicable also to the nebulae, and the central
condensation observed in all these bodies may be directly referred
to the clustering power of universal gravitation, and to no other
force whatsoever. It is a great satisfaction to have proof that
there is only one central power in the universe namely New-
tonian gravitation, which is shown to govern the motions of the
bodies of the solar system with such wonderful accuracy.

The Herschel-See researches on clusters and nebulae thus
clearly established their mode of formation. And the same argu-
ment applies to the breaking up of the Milky Way. The grandeur
of the latter conception is worthy of the genius of Herschel, who
studied the effects of forces now at work as they will accumulate
in the course of millions of ages.

My own proof that dust is expelled from the stars to form
nebulae in the desert regions of starless space, and thus tend to
preserve the Milky Way from the indefinite effects of the ravages
of time, completes the argument outlined by Herschel on the break-
ing up of the Milky Way, and shows that there is a Cyclical Pro-
cess at work in Nature for the preservation of the entire sidereal

This question, as well as that of the depth of the Milky Way,
was discussed by Herschel, Laplace, and Napoleon at Paris, Aug.
8, 1802, as we learn by the account of this interview noted down by
Herschel at the time and recently brought to light by the publi-
cations of Herschel's Collected Scientific Papers.


On page LXII of Dr. J. L. E. Dreyer's introduction to Her-
schel's works we read from the notes made by Herschel at the

"The First Consul then asked a few questions relating to
astronomy and the construction of the heavens, to which I made
such answers as seemed to give him great satisfaction. He also
addressed himself to M. LaPlace on the same subject and held a
considerable argument with him, in which he differed from that
eminent mathematician. The difference was occasioned by an
exclamation of the First Consul's, who asked in a tone of exclama-
tion or admiration (when we were speaking of the extent of the
sidereal heavens) 'and who is the author of all this?' M. de La
Place wished to show that a chain of natural causes would account
for the construction and preservation of the wonderful system;
this the First Consul rather opposed. Much may be said on the
subject; by joining the arguments of both we shall be led to

'Nature and Nature's God.' "As M. La Place and I

went and returned in a carriage by ourselves, I led the conversa-
tion upon the subject of my last papers, of which I gave him some
of the outlines. I mentioned the various possible combinations
of revolving stars united in double or triple systems. When I
mentioned three stars at an equal distance revolving round a cen-
ter, he remarked that he had shown in, I believe, his Mecanique
Celeste, that six stars could turn round in a ring about their common
center of gravity."

It is now evident that the great questions considered most
wonderful by Herschel, Laplace and Napoleon have recently been
revived and their solutions verified mathematically. Accord-
ingly it only remains to illustrate by means of the lantern the
wonders of the starry heavens, and to point out the visible break-
ing up of the Milky Way so clearly foreseen by the great Herschel
a century ago. He was so far in advance of his age that we are
just now beginning to appreciate his genius, after an unaccount-
able neglect of ninety years. It is one of the proudest recollect-
tions of my life that I was able to start, and, with the co-operation


of the late Sir William Huggins, make effective the movement for
the republication of the Collected Works of Herschel, by which
this great man may again speak to the world and teach us some
of the sublime truths he discovered in the course of his profound
explorations of the sidereal universe.

Mare Island, California.
November 15, 1912.



By T. J. J. SEE.

T may be found convenient, as an aid to the memory, in
making a rapid review of the problems of Celestial Evolu-
tion, to collect in one place a summary of the principal con-
clusions at which we have arrived as a result of the development
of the New Science of Cosmogony. The following paragraphs are
based chiefly on those given in the "Dynamical Theory of the
Globular Clusters "f and in a longer article entitled "Outlines of a
New Science of the Stars, "t and thus very complete; but we leave
it essentially unaltered, as it seems better to suffer the inconveni-
ence of slight repetition than to fail to give the general reader a
sufficiently succinct and impressive view of this vast subject of
sidereal evolution.

1. The most remarkable result of the New Science of Cos-
mogony is the intimate and necessary connection shown to exist
between the most diverse celestial phenomena; so that they are
woven into an unbroken and continuous whole, thus assuring the
perfect order and harmony to be expected from the discovery of
true Laws of Nature.

2. The time-honored theories of Kant and Laplace and
their followers are permanently abandoned, as being definitely
overthrown, and therefore of no validity in the present state of
science. In the future the interest in these theories will be purely

* A work on "Popular Cosmogony " embodying the substance of these con-
clusions is shortly to be published by Doubleday, Page & Co., New York.

t Proceedings American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, April-June, 1912.

t Communicated to Crelle's Journal for Pure and Applied Mathematics,
Berlin, November, 1912


historic, like that, for example, in the abandoned Ptolemaic system
of Astronomy.

3. In the place of these abandoned hypotheses there is

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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 20 of 28)