Page:A short history of astronomy(1898).djvu/269

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§§ 162, 163]
The Velocity of Light: Descartes

general statement of the first law of motion discovered by Galilei (chapter vi., §§ 130, 133), but did not support it by any evidence of value. The same book contained an exposition of his famous theory of vortices, which was an attempt to explain the motions of the bodies of the solar system by means of a certain combination of vortices or eddies. The theory was unsupported by any experimental evidence, and it was not formulated accurately enough to be capable of being readily tested by comparison with actual observation; and, unlike many erroneous theories (such as the Greek epicycles), it in no way led up to or suggested the truer theories which followed it. But "Cartesianism," both in philosophy and in natural science, became extremely popular, especially in France, and its vogue contributed notably to the overthrow of the authority of Aristotle, already shaken by thinkers like Galilei and Bacon, and thus rendered men's minds a little more ready to receive new ideas: in this indirect way, as well as by his mathematical discoveries, Descartes probably contributed something to astronomical progress.