Universal Natural History and Theory of Heaven
To the most serene, the mightiest king and master
King of Prussia
Margrave of Brandenburg
Lord Chamberlain and Elector of the Holy Roman Empire
Sovereign and Highest Lord of Silesia
The feeling of my lack of worth and the radiance from the throne cannot make me so foolish and timid, when the honour which the most gracious monarch dispenses with equal magnanimity among all his subjects gives me grounds for hope that the boldness which I undertake will be looked upon graciously. In most submissive respect I lay at the feet of your eternal kingly majesty one of the most trifling samples of that eager spirit with which your highness's schools, through the encouragement and the protection of their illustrious sovereign, strive to emulate other nations in the sciences. How fortunate I would be if the present endeavor succeeded in making the efforts with which the humblest and most respectful subject constantly tries to make himself in some way of service to the Fatherland win the highest possible feeling of goodwill of his king. With the utmost devotion until my dying day,
Your eternal majesty's most humble servant
14 March, 1755
Contents of the Entire Work
Short outline of the necessary fundamental principles of Newtonian philosophy required for an understanding of the following theory
Outline of a general systematic arrangement for the fixed stars, derived from the phenomenon of the Milky Way. Similarity of this system of fixed stars with the planetary system. Discovery of many such systems, showing up in the expanse of heaven in the form of elliptical shapes. New idea about the systematic arrangement of all creation.
Conclusion. Probable assumption about more planets beyond Saturn, deduced from the law according to which planetary eccentricity increases with distance.
On the Systematic Arrangement of the Fixed Stars
Grounds for the theory of a mechanical origin for the world. Counterarguments. The only possible idea which satisfies both. First condition of Nature. Scattering of the all material elements throughout the entire extent of space. First movement because of the power of attraction. Start of the development of a body at the point of the strongest attraction. General sinking down of elements towards this central body. Power of repulsion of the smallest particles in which the material stuff is diffused. Altered direction of the downward movement through the combination of this force with the first one. Uniform movement of all these motions in the same direction. Impulse of all particles to bring themselves to a common plane and to accumulate there. Slowing down of the velocity of their movement to an equilibrium with the gravity at the distance from the sun at that location. Free movement of all particles around the central body in circular orbits. Development of the planets from these moving elements. Free movement of the planets put together from these elements in the same direction on a common plane, with almost circular orbits for planets near the central point and with increasing degrees of eccentricity for planets further away from this central point.
Deals with the different densities of the planets and the relationship of their masses. Reason why the closer planets are of a denser type than the distant ones. Inadequacy of Newton's explanation. Why the central body is of a lighter sort than the closest spheres moving around it. Relationship of the planetary masses according to the ratio of their distances. Reason for their manner of development: why the central body has the largest mass. Calculation of the spread out solution in which all the elements of the cosmic matter were scattered. Probability and necessity of this thin distribution. Important proof for the manner of the development of the heavenly bodies derived from a remarkable analogy by Buffon.
Concerning the eccentricity of the planetary orbits and the origin of comets. The eccentricity increases in stages with the distances from the sun. Cause of this law derived from cosmogony. Why the comets' orbits freely deviate from the plane of the ecliptic. Proof that the comets are made out of the lightest sort of material. Parenthetic observation on the northern lights.
Concerning the origin of the moons and the movements of the planets around their axes. The material for the development of the moons was contained in the sphere out of which the planet assembled the parts for its development. Cause of the movement of these moons with all their rules. Why only the larger planets have moons. Concerning the axial rotation of the planets. Whether the moon previously had a faster rotation. Whether the velocity of the earth's axial rotation is decreasing. Concerning the position of the planetary axes in relation to the plane of their orbits. Displacement of their axes.
Concerning the origin of Saturn's ring and the calculation of the planet's daily rotation from the relationship with this ring. First condition of Saturn compared to the composition of a comet. Development of a ring from the particles of its atmosphere by means of an impressed movement from the impulse of its rotation. Computation of the time of Saturn's axial rotation according to this hypothesis. Observation on the shape of Saturn. Concerning the general flattening of the spheres of cosmic bodies. A closer determination of the composition of this ring. Probable assumption of new discoveries. Whether the earth had a ring before the Flood.
Concerning the light of the zodiac.
Concerning creation in its entire infinite extent, both in space and time. Origin of a large system of fixed stars. Central body in the mid-point of the system of stars. Infinity of creation. General systematic relationship in its entirety. The central body of all of Nature. Successive continuation of creation into infinite time and space through the ceaseless development of new worlds. Observation on chaos in undeveloped Nature. Gradual decay and destruction of the cosmic structure. Appropriateness of such a concept. Renewal of fallen Nature.
Supplement to Section Seven
Universal theory and history of the sun in general. Why the central body of a cosmic structure is a fiery body. Closer observation of its nature. Thoughts on the alterations in the air surrounding the sun. Extinguishing of suns. Closer glance at its shape. Wright's opinion concerning the mid-point of all of Nature. An improvement on this opinion.
General proof of the correctness of a mechanical theory for the general arrangement of the cosmic structure, and particularly for the certainty of the present theory. The inherent capability in the nature of things to raise themselves on their own to order and perfection is the most beautiful proof of the existence of God. Defense against the charge of naturalism.
The arrangement of the cosmic structure is simple and not set beyond the forces of Nature. Analogies which certainly confirm the mechanistic origin of the world. The same point proved from exceptions. The introduction of an unmediated order created by God does not deal satisfactorily with these questions. Difficulty which made Newton give up the mechanical theory. Solution to this difficulty. The proposed system is the only possible way to deal satisfactorily with the basic principles of both sides. Further proof from the relationship of the density of planets, their masses, the space in between their locations and the gradual interrelationships of their measurements. The motivating principles of God's choice do not immediately determine these conditions. Justification with respect to religion. Difficulties which present themselves with the theory of the unmediated order created by God.
Contains a comparison between the inhabitants of the stars. Whether the planets are inhabited. Reasons to doubt this. Basis of the physical relationships between the inhabitants of the different planets. Observation on human beings. Causes of the imperfections in human nature. Natural relationship of the physical characteristics of living creatures according to their different distances from the sun. Consequences of this relationship for their spiritual capacities. Comparison of thinking beings on different celestial bodies. Confirmation from certain circumstances in their dwelling places. Further proof from the disposition of God's providence, which is created in their best interests. Short digression.
The conditions of human beings in the future life.
Translated by Ian C. Johnston