Page images

who is well known as a distinguished patron and successful cultivator of astronomy, carried out with him a magnificent collection of astronomical instruments, and two able assistants, Mr Rumker, a German, and Mr Dunlop, an ingenious countryman of our own, by whom they were kept in a state of constant activity. This very unusual accompaniment in the train of a colonial governor was provided by Sir Thomas entirely at his own expense; and it is seldom that zeal finds a fairer field for its exertions. Several small, but important elements, can only be well determined by corresponding observations made in both hemispheres. The southern hemisphere is also in a great measure unexplored, our principal acquaintance with its circumpolar stars being derived from the observations made during a three years' absence from Europe, of the indefatigable and devoted Abbé de Lacaille. Dr Halley indeed, and subsequently Dr Maskelyne, had observed for some time at St Helena, but only a very small number of stars; the observations of the former having been defeated through the unfavourable climate of the island, and those of the latter partly through the same cause, and partly through the defective state of his instruments. Lacaille, during his residence at the Cape, observed no fewer than 10,000 stars; and, amidst a multiplicity of other laborious occupations, found leisure to reduce 1942.

A small part only of the observations made at the Paramatta Observatory, has been published in the Memoirs. The great mass of them has been communicated to the Royal Society; and we are sorry to perceive that a long series, printed at the expense of the Colonial Departinent, has appeared in the last number of the Transactions under the name of Mr Rumker, while, incredible as it may seem, that of Sir Thomas Brisbane, who provided the instruments, paid the observer, and whose property of course the observations were, bas not once been mentioned in the whole påper. The Astronomical Society has acted a nobler part. In order to testify their sense of the service rendered to science by these observations important not only by reason of their intrinsic value, but as affording a bright example of what may be accomplished by intelligence and zeal, even when impeded by the entanglements of official duty—they conferred their gold medal, the highest mark of approbation they have to bestow, on Sir Thomas Brisbane. This distinguished person, as is well known, was superseded after a short residence in the colony, and the interruption of the observations has been the cause of great regret to all who take an interest in the progress of astronomy. A series of observations on nebulæ and double stars had been undertaken by Mr Dunlop, who, with a

zeal and disinterestedness beyond all praise, remained behind after the departure of his patron, at a considerable sacrifice of personal interests, and, in the face of numerous obstacles, continued his labours till he had completed his observations. In the Transactions of the Royal Society for 1828, Part I. he has published a catalogue of 629 nebulæ and groups of stars, accompanied by drawings of 26 of the nebulæ. If such drawings could be depended on, the question of progressive condensation might soon be set at rest; but unhappily the difficulty of obtaining correct representations of such objects is so great, that in general their only use is to assist description. Mr Dunlop has given the approximate places of 253 double and triple stars in the third volume of the Memoirs of the Astronomical Society, and his labours were also rewarded by their gold medal.

It gives us pleasure to hear that the government has proposed to continue the observatory at Paramatta; and we trust that no ill-timed consideration of economy will prevent it from being liberally furnished with such instruments as the present advanced state of science demands. Something has already been done by the establishment of an observatory, under the auspices of the Admiralty, at the Cape of Good Hope-a situation which unites the advantages of a propitious climate, with that of being on nearly the same meridian with some of the principal observatories of Europe. The increasing necessity for the accurate fixation of the geographical latitudes and longitudes of our numerous establishments in the Southern Seas, has rendered a measure of this sort almost indispensable.

One of the first advantages which resulted from the formation of the Astronomical Society, was the publication of a set of subsidiary tables, for facilitating the computation of annual tables of the apparent places of forty-six principal fixed stars-so many zero points, which the observer may assume as perfectly determined, and to which he may refer the positions of the other celestial bodies. These tables, which were computed by the order, and at the expense, of the Society, and are published in the first volume of the Memoirs, afford the observer the means of computing with the greatest facility, and with the aid of only two or three simple elements laid down in the Ephemerides, the apparent places of the Greenwich stars at any instant between the years 1820 and 1840. They are preceded by an excellent introduction, written by Mr Herschel, in which he explains with great perspicuity the different motions which affect the places of the stars-namely, the precession of the equinoxes, the solar and lunar nutation, the aberration of light; and indicates the formulæ according to which the computations were made, together with the observations from which the values of the constant quantities employed were deduced. To the astronomer who concerns himself with the more useful objects of his science, these tables, so far as they extend, are extremely valuable, inasmuch as, with their assistance, he may compute the necessary corrections, and obtain the apparent place of any star at the instant of his observation from its registered position in the catalogues, without the necessity of even opening a table of loga

rithms, or having recourse to any other book than an ephemeris. · Another still more important, and, indeed, highly valuable production, resulting from the activity of the Society, is a catalogue of the places of 2881 stars, selected from the observations of Flamsteed, Bradley, Lacaille, Mayer, Piazzi, and Zach, and reduced to the epoch of the present year, 1830. It comprehends all stars down to the fifth magnitude, wheresoever situa• ted in the heavens-all of the 6th within 30 degrees of the equa• tor, and all the stars to the 7th magnitude inclusive, within 10 • degrees of the ecliptic. For the plan and arrangement of this excellent work the Society was indebted to Mr Francis Baily, a gentleman well known in the scientific world as one of the most active and able promoters of practical astronomy of the present day. In an elaborate preface, Mr Baily bas discussed the subject of the variations affecting the positions of the stars in a most satisfactory manner. The formula, by which the reductions were effected, are those which were first employed by M. Bessel, of Königsberg, in the reduction of Bradley's observations, and published in his Astronomiæ Fundamenta. Much of the labour connected with the reduction and printing of this catalogue devolved on Mr Stratford, one of the Secretaries of the Society, and those who have engaged in similar computations, will know how to appreciate the sacrifices required for the execution of so laborious and ungrateful a task. For their exertions in this cause, the Society awarded their gold and silver medals respectively to Mr Baily and Mr Stratford.

The Society's catalogue puts the observer in possession of a much more ample list of reduced stars, than was furnished by any British catalogue before published. Flamsteed's contains indeed 3000 stars, but even when purged of the effects of aberration and nutation, which had not been discovered in the time of Flamsteed—its instrumental errors are too great and uncertain to admit of its being used as a standard of comparison for determining the places of other stars. Bradley's catalogue also contained 3000, but in the first edition of his Tables by Mason, only 389 of them had been reduced; and the Greenwich observations since


1750, notwithstanding their number and excellence, have been confined to very few stars. The present catalogue contains a sufficient number for any practical purpose whatever; and it is to be desired that observers, instead of aiming at its extension, would exert their efforts to render its accuracy complete. • In giving

this catalogue to the world,' says Mr Herschel, we invite 'their examination to its errors, (for such it must contain,) and

call on them to lend their aid to its perfection, by determining, ' with all the exactness their resources afford, the mean places

of the stars it comprises. For this, its arrangement affords every facility, and those who observe, have no excuse for neglecting to reduce. Let us hope that, instead of lavishing their

strength in fruitless attempts to give superhuman precision to • fifty or a hundred select objects, the formation of a standard "catalogue of nearly 3000 stars will be deemed of sufficient im• portance to fix the attention of astronomers; and that not only 'those to whom the direction of great national observatories is confided, but even private individuals, if such there be who feel themselves in possession of the means required, may take a

share in this glorious, but, at the same time, arduous underta• king.'

Our limits will not permit us to allude more particularly to the other papers contained in the Memoirs. In a collection of this nature, some will always be found of little value, or of only ephemeral interest, and many others not susceptible of extract or abridgement. In fact, a considerable number in the volumes now before us are merely devoted to the description of phenomena, such as eclipses, occultations, new comets, &c., or to the detail of observations for the determination of latitudes or longitudes, or the errors of instruments, or to practical matters uninteresting to any but the observer. There are, however, two classes of productions, which, although they cannot be said to aim at the advancement of the science, occupy by far too conspicuous a place in the Memoirs to be passed over without notice. These are the Annual Reports made to the Society by its Council, and the Addresses of the President on delivering the prizemedals. The former are productions of very considerable merit. They give a copious account of the labours of the members, or of the general progress of astronomy in the course of the year; and the good taste of those who draw them up, is conspicuous in the absence of all meretricious ornament, or oratorical pretension—the usual bane of such productions. With regard to the Addresses, whatever merit they may claim as literary compositions, we hold their publication to be of somewhat morethan doubtful propriety. We feel little sympathy with grave men of science alternately pronouncing formal panegyrics on one


another; nor can we bring ourselves to think, that if the renown of scientific discovery is not deemed a sufficient compensation for the toils of study or observation, any benefit is likely to accrue from the distribution of prizes and gold medals.

ART. V.— A Letter to the Representatives of Scotland in Parliament,

respecting the state of our Law, and the jurisdiction and duties of the Court of Session. By A Scottish BARRISTER. Svo. Edinburgh. 1830.

It is now above twenty-three years since we directed the at1 tention of our readers to the judicial reforms which were then beginning, and have since been carried to such an extent, in Scotland. We remember that the necessity of these reforms used to be held out by some people as showing conclusively that our whole system was vicious; while the stability of every thing legal in the sister kingdom was referred to as a proof that there every thing was right. It seems, however, that the experiment had only been tried at first, according to the rule, on the vile body; for now that Scotland is beginning to recover, Eugland's course of physic, and that of Wales, seems to be commencing. Having stated our views when the changes contemplated in this part of the Island opened, * it is right that we should do so, when they are about, as we trust, to close.

The defects in the constitution, and in the procedure, of the Civil Scottish Courts, were so obvious, that it almost appears as if any body might have pointed out the nature, and the succession, of the remedies that were required. The evils were, 1st, That the Supreme Court, called the Court of Session, mustered fifteen strong. It not only consisted of fifteen judges, but the whole fifteen judged as one Court 2d, That its forms for the preparation and disposal of causes, though in their principles excellent, had got encumbered by a variety of abuses, which, besides other bad results, had the worst one that any scheme of procedure can have, that of diminishing the responsibility of judgments, by enabling judge or party to connect them, at the pleasure of each, with indefinite masses of obscure, irrelevant, or unnecessary, matter. 3d, That, in the extrication of facts, no civil judge could be aided by that curious engine called a jury. The first, and most indispensable, remedial

* Edinburgh Review for January 1807,

« PreviousContinue »