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  Cabinet of Arts by Hewson Clarke, 1817     

When we consider the immense variety of objects which present themselves to the eye, it most appears, at first sight, impossible to acquire even a general knowledge of their qualities and properties.

The longest life, with the most vigorous mind, and the most persevering industry, would be wholly unequal to the task of examining even the individual objects of all kinds with which a single man is surrounded. Hence it arises that, by a natural law of the human mind, we are always tempting to arrange the objects of our inquiries into certain classes, wording to certain common properties which they seem to possess.

These are divided into other classes, with additional marks of distinction; and these are again subdivided into other sets, until we at last come down to the individual object.

By this process the mind is suited in its inquiries, and the communication of knowledge is rendered easy and useful. The study of all the objects of our senses may be divided into two branches, namely, Natural History, and Natural Philosophy.

The first of these branches is occupied in arranging objects, and describing them in such a way that they may be easily and accurately distinguished from one another. It may be considered as a descriptive view of the material world, in a state of rest or inactivity, without taking into account the motions or actions of bodies upon one another.

This is the first step in the progress of knowledge, and it constitutes Natural History.

But the operations of nature are seldom to rest: change succeeds change; new combinations of objects are formed, and new productions make their appearance. The primary planets revolve round the sun as their center; the secondary planets or moons perform similar revolutions round their primaries.

The air of the atmosphere presses on the surface of the earth, with a certain force. A stone when unsupported falls to the ground, in a line pointed towards the centre of the globe. Water deprived of a certain portion of its heat becomes solid in the form of ice: but if combined with a greater portion of heat than what is necessary to keep it fluid, water is converted into vapour, ascends into the atmosphere, is there again robbed of its extra heat, and returns to the earth in the form of rain; or if still more heat be taken away, it appears as snow or hail.

A seed is placed in the ground, and if heat moisture and air be applied, it shoots and springs up: with the addition of light, if the operation be continued, it becomes a new plant, puts forth leaves and flowers, and produces seed similar to that first placed in the ground.

Now, to determine what are these changes, to observe the laws by which such changes are effected, and to ascertain the measure and quantity of the effect produced, all this belongs to that branch of knowledge which is included under the general term Natural Philosophy, also called Physics.

But of these changes and motions some are obvious to our senses, others entirely escape our observation. We see a stone fall to the earth, and experience tells us that it falls with a force proportioned to its weight, and the height from which it fell.
The change or motion which takes place, when water puts on a solid form, when a fluid undergoes the process of fermentation, or when a combustible body is burnt, all this is totally imperceptible by our senses.

Thus Natural Philosophy is divided into two branches: the objects of the first are the sensible changes or motions observable in the material world, and the consideration of these objects is, strictly and properly speaking, Natural Philosophy or Physics: the second branch, which is employed in discovering the laws and ascertaining the effects of the insensible changes or motions of bodies, constitutes the science of Chemistry.


 
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