Theories of the Universe in the Late Eighteenth Century

  • Harry Woolf


Together with D’Alembert we may take cosmology to mean “la science qui discourt sur le monde,” that is to say in the language of the enlightenment, that science which reasons upon the actual universe. But to reason upon the universe by the eighteenth century was not, spider-like, to spin a web of fancy from within oneself, however lovely the final design or rational the rules of argument along the way. Properly practiced cosmology was to be considered a general physical science tied to the facts of the world, though loosely at time, and constrained to account for the world visible as well as invisible by the sum of things known. The metaphysical meaning behind an assembly of facts, the analogies and bonds among them and their actual interrelationships under the rule of the general laws governing the universe, this was the task to undertake, and to lay bare such things in a satisfying account of the world was the minimum demanded of any competent cosmologist.


Solar System Eighteenth Century Proper Motion Original Theory Stellar System 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1972

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harry Woolf
    • 1
  1. 1.The Johns Hopkins UniversityUSA

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