Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/457

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443
NEW CHAPTERS IN THE WARFARE OF SCIENCE.

their various movements, distances, and magnitudes, necessarily result from the obedience of nebulous masses to natural laws.

Throughout the theological world there was an outcry at once against "atheism," and war raged fiercely. Herschel and others pointed out many nebulous patches yet in the gaseous form. They showed by physical and mathematical demonstrations that the hypothesis accounted for the great body of facts, and, despite clamor, they were gaining ground, when the improved telescopes resolved some of the patches of nebulous matter into multitudes of stars. The opponents of the nebular hypothesis were overjoyed; they now sang pseans to astronomy, because, as they said, it had proved the truth of Scripture. They had jumped to the conclusion that all nebulae must be alike; that if some are made up of systems of stars, all must be so made up; that none can be masses of attenuated gaseous matter, because some are not.

Science halted for a time. The accepted doctrine became this: That the only reason why all the nebulæ are not resolved into distinct stars is that our telescopes are not sufficiently powerful. But in time came the discovery of the spectroscope and spectrum analysis, and this was supplemented by Fraunhofer's discovery that the spectrum of an ignited gaseous body is non-continuous, with interrupting lines; and this, in 1846, by Draper's discovery that the spectrum of an ignited solid is continuous, with no interrupting lines. And now the spectroscope was turned upon the nebulae, and about one third of them were found to be gaseous. Here, then, was excellent ground for the inference that in these nebulous masses at different stages of condensation—some apparently mere patches of mist, some with luminous centers—we have the process of development actually going on, and observations like those of Lord Rosse and Arrest gave yet further confirmation to the scientific view. Then came the great contribution of the nineteenth century to physics, aiding to explain a most important part of the vast process by the mechanical theory of heat.

Again the nebular hypothesis came forth stronger than ever, and about 1850 the beautiful experiment of Plateau on the rotation of a fluid globe came in to illustrate if not to confirm it; even so determined a defender of orthodoxy as Mr. Gladstone at last acknowledged the nebular hypothesis as probably true.

Here, too, was exhibited that form of surrendering theological views to science under the claim that science concurs with theology, which we have seen in so many other fields; and as typical an example may be given, which, however restricted in its scope, throws light on the process by which such surrenders are obtained. A few years since one of the most noted professors of chemistry in the city of New York, under the auspices of one of