Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/452

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438
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

teenth century, Pfeiffer, "General Superintendent" or bishop in those parts, published a book entitled "Pansophia Mosaica," calculated, as he believed, to beat back science forever. In a long series of declama- tions he insisted that in the strict text of Genesis alone is safety; that it contains all wisdom and knowledge, human and divine; that twenty- eight articles of the Augsburg Confession are to be found in it; that it is an arsenal of arguments against all sects and sorts of "Atheists, Heathen, Jews, Turks, Tartars, Papists, Calvinists, Socinians, and Baptists"; the source of all sciences and arts, including law, medicine, philosophy, and rhetoric; "the source and essence of all histories and all professions, trades, and works"; "an exhibition of all virtues and vices"; "the origin of all consolation."* This being the case, who could care to waste time on the study of material things and give thought to the structure of the world? Above all, who, after such a proclamation by such a ruler in the Lutheran Israel, would dare to talk of the "days" mentioned in Genesis as "periods of time"; or of the "firmament" as not meaning a solid vault over the universe; or of the "waters above the heavens," as not contained in a vast cistern supported by the heavenly vault; or of the "windows of heaven" as a figure of speech?

In England the same spirit was shown even as late as the time of Sir Matthew Hale. We find in his book on the "Origination of Mankind," published in 1685, the strictest devotion to a theory of creation based upon the mere letter of Scripture, and a complete in- capacity for the attainment of knowledge regarding the earth's origin and structure by any scientific process.

Still, while the Lutheran, Calvinistic, and Anglican reformers clung to literal interpretations of the sacred books, and turned their faces away from scientific investigation, it was among their contempo- raries at the coming in of the modern period with the revival of learning that there began to arise fruitful thought in this field. Then it was, about the beginning of the sixteenth century, that Leonardo da Vinci, as great a genius in science as in art, broached the true idea as to the origin of fossil remains; and his compatriot, Fracastoro, de- veloped this on the modern lines of thought. Others in other parts of Europe took up the idea, and, while mixing with it many crudities, evolved from it more and more truth. Toward the end of the six- teenth century Bernard Palissy, in France, took hold of it with the same genius which he showed in artistic creation; but, remarkable as were his assertions of scientific realities, they could gain little hearing. Theologians, philosophers, and even some scientific men of value, un- der the sway of scholastic phrases, insisted upon such explanations as that fossils were the product of "fatty matter set into a fermentation by heat"; or of a "lapidific juice";f or of a "seminal air"; J or of a "tumultuous movement of terrestrial exhalations"; and there

  • See Zockler, vol. i, pp. 688, 689. f "Succus lapidificus." X "Aura seminalis."'