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FROM THE EARLIEST TO THE PRESENT TIMES.
REV. WILLIAM WHEWELL, M.A.,
FELLOW AND TUTOR OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE; PRESIDENT OF THE GEOLOGICAL
SOCIETY OF LONDON.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
Λαμπάδια ἔχοντες διαδώσουσιν ἀλλήλοις.
VOLUME THE FIRST.
JOHN W. PARKER, WEST STRAND.
If you were now in England I should stop here: but when a friend is removed for years to a far distant land, we seem to acquire a right to speak openly of his good qualities. I cannot, therefore, prevail upon myself to lay down my pen without alluding to the affectionate admiration of your moral and social, as well as intellectual excellencies, which springs up in the hearts of your friends, whenever you are thought of. They are much delighted to look upon the halo of deserved fame which plays round your head; but still more, to recollect, as one of them said, that your head is far from being the best part about you.
May your sojourn in the southern hemisphere be as happy and successful as its object is noble and worthy of you; and may your return home be speedy and prosperous, as soon as your purpose is attained!
Ever, my dear Herschel,
5, HYDE PARK STREET, 22 March, 1837.
Ar the present day, any endeavour to improve and extend the Philosophy of Science may hope to excite some interest. All persons of cultivated minds will agree, that a very important advan❤ tage would be gained, if any light could be thrown upon the modes of discovering truth, the powers that we possess for this end, and the points to which these may most profitably be applied, Most men, too, will allow, that in these respects much remains to be done. The attempts of this kind, made from time to time, are far from rendering future efforts superfluous. For example, the Great Reform of Philosophy and Method, in which Bacon so eloquently called upon men to unite their exertions in his day, has, even in ours, been very imperfectly carried into effect. And, even if his plan had been fully executed, it would now require to be pursued and extended. If Bacon had weighed well all that Science had achieved in his time, and had
laid down a complete scheme of rules for scientific research, so far as they could be collected from the lights of that age, it would still be incumbent upon the philosophical world to augment as well as preserve the inheritance which he left; by combining with his doctrines such new views as the advances of later times cannot fail to produce or suggest; and by endeavouring to provide, for every kind of truth, methods of research as effective as those to which we owe the clearest and surest portions of our knowledge. Such a renovation and extension of the reform of philosophy appears to belong peculiarly to our own time. We may discern no few or doubtful presages of its approach; and an attempt to give form and connexion to the elements of such a scheme cannot now be considered premature.
The Novum Organon of Bacon was suitably ushered into the world by his Advancement of Learning; and any attempt to continue and extend his Reform of the Methods and Philosophy of Science may, like his, be most fitly preceded by, and founded upon, a comprehensive Survey of the existing state of human knowledge. The wish to contribute something, however little it may be, to such a Reform, gave rise to that study of the His
tory of Science of which the present Work is the fruit. And the effect of these researches has been, a persuasion, that we need not despair of seeing, even in our own time, a renovation of sound philosophy, directed by the light which the History of Science sheds. Such a reform, when its Epoch shall arrive, will not be the work of any single writer, but the result of the intellectual tendencies of the age. He who is most forward in the work will wisely repeat the confession of his sagacious predecessor: Ipse certè (ut ingenue fatear) soleo æstimare hoc opus magis pro partu Temporis quàm Ingenii.
To such a work, whensoever and by whomsoever executed, I venture to hope that the present Volumes may be usefully subservient. But I trust, also, that in its independent character, as a History, this book may be found not altogether unworthy of the aim which its title implies.
It is impossible not to see that the writer of such a history imposes upon himself a task of no ordinary difficulty and delicacy; since it is necessary for him to pronounce a judgment upon the characters and achievements of all the great physical philosophers of all ages, and in all sciences. But the assumption