Sunday, 30 September 2007

"The horrors of æthers"

I am in the process of preparing a transcript of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica article on Æther. It begins as follows:

ÆTHER, or ETHER (Gr. αιθnρ, probably from αιθω, I burn, though Plato in his Cratylus (410 B) derives the name from its perpetual motion — οτι αει θει περι τον αερα ρεων, αειθεnρ οικαιως αν καλοιτο), a material substance of a more subtle kind than visible bodies, supposed to exist in those parts of space which are apparently empty.
"The hypothesis of an æther has been maintained by different speculators for very different reasons. To those who maintained the existence of a plenum as a philosophical principle, nature's abhorrence of a vacuum was a sufficient reason for imagining an all-surrounding æther, even though every other argument should be against it. To Descartes, who made extension the sole essential property of matter, and matter a necessary condition of extension, the bare existence of bodies apparently at a distance was a proof of the existence of a continuous medium between them.…

The source of the infomation can be found here:

The pages involved are scans #329 through #334, inclusive (scroll down).

What's prompted this is the Astronef map I've been developing. I feel that in order to complete it, I must understand the notions of the period regarding Æther. It is a rather long article, as you'll see if you visit the above URL, so I probably won't be posting it here (at least not all in one go) but I will announce the finished file and make it available to those who might be interested.


Zophiel said...

All of the descriptive text of the Enc. Brit. article has been described. Nearly all of the mathematical text as well.

I have saved the entire document as a txt file and will make it available to this community as an upload (if possible) or by request of individuals.

Tas said...

Great reading- thanks for the link Z!

An exploration of debauchery, vice and other reasons to be a man!

An exploration of debauchery, vice and other reasons to be a man!