Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/804

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Although Hooke's "True Method" was not published until after his death, we may safely attribute it to an early stage of his career. He was a man whose ideas did not change, but were superseded. They retained their original form, but were crowded out of sight by the multitude of new arrivals. Now we have evidence to show that, without wholly abandoning his early faith in the efficacy of his "Philosophical Algebra," his confidence in an approaching renovation of science was replaced, later in life, by a conviction of its infinite complexity and extent. In the preface to a volume of "Lectures," published in 1674, he says:[1]

For as there is scarce one subject of millions that may be pitched upon, but to write an exact and complete history thereof would require the whole time and attention of a man's life, and some thousands of inventions and observations to accomplish it: so on the other side no man is able to say that he will complete this or that inquiry, whatever it be (the greatest part of invention being but a lucky hit of chance, for the most part not in our own power). 'Twill be much better, therefore, to embrace the influences of Providence, and to be diligent in the inquiry of everything we meet with. For we shall quickly find that the number of considerable observations and inventions this way collected will a hundredfold outstrip those that are found by design. No man but hath some lucky hits and useful thoughts on this or that subject he is conversant about, the regarding and communicating of which might be a means to other persons highly to improve them. . . . This way is also more grateful both to the writer and the reader, who proceed with a fresh stomach upon variety, but would be weary and dull'd if necessitated to dwell too long upon one subject.[2]

Thus we see that discovery, which speculation had proclaimed to be the infallible result of system, was by experience declared to be the lucky outcome of chance. Investigators had previously been commanded to march in a compact army along the highway of method toward the metropolis of knowledge; they were now warned to disperse in all possible directions into the wilderness of phenomena, and beat the bushes of nature for what game they might contain. That one view was equally misleading with the other is obvious; that one should form the reaction from the other was inevitable. Hooke's reasons for discursiveness were not so much the guide of his conduct as its apology. His position as Curator of Experiments to a body inordinately greedy of scientific novelty suggested a wide range of subjects for inquiry, which his native versatility induced him to embrace to its fullest extent. The journals and registers of the Royal Society alone convey, by their records, an adequate idea of his prodigious activity of mind, fertility of resource, and experimental skill. Astronomy, optics, acoustics, thermotics, pneumatics, hydrostatics, magnetism, and chemistry; geology, physiology, meteorology, and psychology—all in turn engaged his attention, and all in turn received illustrations from

  1. "Posthumous Works," p. 29.
  2. "An Attempt to prove the Motion of the Earth," London, 1674.