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FOR THE ANTHOLOGY,
[We avail ourselves of the present curiosity universally excited by the meteor
which lately appeared in Weston, in Connecticut, to re-publish from a celebrated English journal the following interesting sketch of all the facts and opinions, which have of late years been given to the world, with respect to this very singular branch of natural history. In our next number we shall publish Professor Silliman's account of the late phenomenon in Connecticut.]
The histories of all nations, in ence seems now to increase the early times, abound with fabulous probability, that in this instance, accounts of natural phenomena. as in some others, credulity has Showers of blood and of flesh ; bat- been more philosophical than sceptles of armed men in the air ; an- ticism. imals of different descriptions ut- There are two methods of intering articulate sounds, are a few quiring into the origin of those inof the tales which we meet with in sulated masses, which are said to the annals of ancient Rome : and have fallen in different parts of the the lively imagination of Oriental earth. We may either collect, as countries has infinitely varied this accurately as possible, the external catalogue of wonders. Of such evidence, the testimonies of those incidents, however, it has frequent persons, in whose neighbourhood ly been found possible to give some the bodies are situated ; or we may explanation consistent with the or- examine the nature of the substandinary laws of nature, after the ces themselves, and compare them narratives have been freed from the with the kinds of matter by which fictions with which superstition or they are surrounded. The first design had at first mingled them. mode of investigation is evidently But it is singular with what un- more liable to errour, and less likeformity the notion of showers of ly to proceed upon full and satisstones bas prevailed in various factory data, than the other. But if countries, at almost every period of both inquiries lead to conclusions society ; with how few additions somewhat analogous.; if both the from fancy the story has been inductions of fact present us with propagated ; and how vain all at- anomalous phenomena of nearly tempts have proved, to account, by the same description, and equally natural causes, for the phenome- irreducible to any of the classes non, with whatever modifications into which all other facts have been it may be credited. Accordingly, arranged, we may rest assured that philosophers have rejected the fact, a discovery has been made and and either denied that stones did the two methods of demonstration fall, or affirmed, at least, that if will be reciprocally confirmed. they fell on one part of the earth, 1. The first narrative, which they were previously elevated from has been offered to the world unanother. The vulgar have as der circumstances of tolerable acstedfastly believed, that they came curacy, is that of the celebrated from beyond the planet on which Gassendi. He was himself an we live ; and every day's experi. eye-witness of what he relates.
On the 27th of November in the no means so decisive as that of year 1627, the sky being quite Gassendi. clear, he saw a burning stone fall O ther recitals have been given on mount Vaisir, between the of similar appearances, but by no towns of Guillaumes and Perne in means so well authenticated, or so Provence. It appeared to be about fully examined, although somefour feet in diameter, was surroun- what nearer our own times. In ded by a luminous circle of colours 1672, one of the members of the like a rainbow, and its fall was ac- Abbe Bourdelot's academy precompanied with a poise like the sented at one of the meetings a discharge of cannon. But Gas- specimen of two stones, which had sendi inspected the supposed fal- lately fallen near Verona ; the one len stone still more nearly ; he weighed 300 the other 200 lib. found that it weighed 59 lib., was The phenomenon, he stated, had extremely hard, of a dull metallick been seen by three or four hundred colour, and of a specifick gravity persons. The stones fell in a sloconsiderably greater than that of ping direction, during the night, common marble. Having only and in calm weather. They apthis solitary instance to examine, peared to burn, fell with a great he concluded, not unnaturally, that noise, and ploughed up the ground. the mass came from some neigh- They were afterwards taken from bouring mountain, which had been thence, and sent to Verona. This in a transient state of volcanick account, it may be observed, was cruption.
published in the same year. Paul The celebrated stone of Ensi- Lucas the traveller relates, that sheim is not proved to have fallen, when he was at Larissa in 1706, a by testimony quite so satisfactory; stone of 72 lib. weight fell in the but there are several circumstan- neighbourhood. It was observed, ses narrated with respect to it, he says, to come from the north, which the foregoing account of with a loud bissing noise, and Gassendi wants. Contemporary seemed to be enveloped in a small writers all agree in stating the gen- cloud, which exploded when the eral belief of the neighbourhood, stone fell. It smelt of sulphur, that on the 7th of November 1497, and looked like iron dross. between eleven and twelve o'clock M. De la Lande, in 1756, pube. m. a dreadful thunder-clap was lished an account of a phenomeheard at Ensisheim, and that a non very nearly resembling the achild saw a huge stone fall on a bove, but deficient in several points field sowed with wheat. It had of direct evidence. His narrative, entered the earth to the depth of however, deserves our attention, tree feet; it was then removed, because he seems to have been found to weigh 260 lib. and ex- upon the spot, and to have examposed to publick view. The defect ined with great care the truth of in Gassendi's relation is here sup- the circumstances, which he deplied; for we have the nature of scribes. In September 1753, durthe ground distinctly described ; ing an extremely clear and hot day, the natives of the place must have a noise was heard in the neighbourknown that in their wheat field no hood of Pont-de-Vesle, resembling such stone had formerly existed: the discharge of artillery. It was but the evidence of its having ac- so loud as to reach several leagues tually been observed to fall, is by in all directions. At Liponas, three leagues from Pont-de-Vesle, hot, and about 7 lib. weight. a hissing sound was remarked ; This account of the fact was comand at this place, as well as at Pont. municated to the academicians by de-Vesle, a blackish mass was the Abbé Bachelay. But they do found to have fallen in ploughed not appear to have attached much ground with such a force, as to credit to the whole circumstances penetrate half a foot into the soil. of his narrative ; for they conclude The largest of these bodies weigh- (chiefly from several experiments ed 20 lib. ; and they both alike ap- made to analyse it) that the stone peared, on the surface, as if they did not fall upon the earth, but had been exposed to a violent de- was there before the thunder-clap, gree of heat. It may here be ob- and was only heated and cxposed served, that the small depth at to view by the stroke of the elec- • which these bodies were found in trick fluid. the ploughed land, renders it in Of late years, the attention of the highest degree improbable that philosophers has been more anxthey should have existed there pre- iously directed to this curious subviously to the time of the explo- ject ; and more accurate accounts sion. To the same purpose we of the supposed fall of stones may remark the complete resem- have been collected from various blance of the two masses, found at quarters. It is not a little singuso great a distance from each other. lar, that the narrative which, of all
In the year 1768, no less than others, was supported by the very three stones were presented to the best and most direct evidence, Academy of Sciences at Paris, all was treated by naturalists near the of which were said to have fallen spot with perverse incredulity; unin different parts of France ; one til the results of chemical analysis, in the Main, another in Artois, about ten years after the thing hapand the third in the Cotentin. pened, began to operate some These were all externally of the change upon the common opinions very same appearance ; and relating to such matters. We alMessrs. Fougeraux, Cadet, and lude to the shower of stones, Lavoisier, drew up a particular re- which fell near Agen, 24th July port opon the first of them. They 1790, between nine and ten o'clock state, that on the 18 of September at night. First, a bright ball of 1768, between four and five o'clock fire was seen traversing the atmosin the evening, there was seen phere with great rapidity, and near the village of Luce, a cloud leaving behind it a train of light in wbich a short explosion took which lasted about fifty seconds ; place, followed by a hissing noise, a loud explosion was then heard, without any flame ; that some accompanied with sparks, which persons about three leagues from flew of in all directions. This Lucè, heard the same sound, and, was followed, after a short inlooking upwards, perceived an terval, by a fall of stones, over a opaque body which was describing considerable extent of ground, at a curve line in the air, and was various distances from each other, about to fall upon a piece of green and of different sizes; the greater turf in the neighbouring high road; number weighing about half a that they immediately ran to this quarter of a pound, but many a place, and found a kind of stone, vast deal more. Some fell with half buried in the earth, extremely a hissing noise, and entered the
ground : others (probably the distance from them. One of these, smaller ones) fell without any a ploughman, saw a huge stone sound, and remained on the sur- falling towards the earth, eight or face. In appearance, they were nine yards from the place where all alike. The shower did no con- he stood. It was seven or eight siderable damage ; but it broke yards from the ground when he the tiles of some houses. All this first observed it. It threw up the was attested in a procès-verbal, mould on every side, and buried signed by the magistrates of the itself twenty-one inches. This municipality. It was farther sub- man assisted by others, who were stantiated by the testimony of a- near the spot at the same time, bove three hundred persons, inha- immediately raised the stone, and bitants of the district ; and various found that it weighed about 56 lib. men of more than ordinary infor- These statements have been aumation gave the very same ac- thenticated by the signatures of count to their scientifick corres- the people who made them. pondents. One of these (M. On the 17th March 1798 a boD'Arcel, son of the celebrated che- dy, burning very brightly, passed mist of that name) mentions two over the vicinity of Ville-Franche, additional circumstances, of great on the Soane, accompanied with a importance, from his own observa- hissing noise, and leaving a lumition. The stones, when they fell nous track behind it. It exploded upon the houses, had not the sound with great noise, about twelve of hard and compact substances, hundred feet from the ground ;. but of matter in a soft, half-melted and one of the shivers, still lumistate ; and such of them as fell nous, being observed to fall in a upon straws, adhered to them, so neighbouring vineyard, was traced. as not to be easily separated. It At that spot, a stone above a foot is utterly impossible to reconcile in diameter was found to have these facts with any other supposi- penetrated about twenty inches tion, than that of the stones having into the soil. It was sent to M. fallen from the air, and in a state Sage, of the National Institute, acof fusion. That they broke the companied by a narrative of the roofs of houses, and were found foregoing circumstances, under above pieces of straw adhering to the hand of an intelligent eye-witthem, is the clearest of all proofs ness. of their having fallen from above. While these observations in
Although nothing can be more Europe were daily confirming the pointed and specifick than this original but long exploded idea of evidence, it yet derives great con- the vulgar, that many of the lumi. firmation from the similar accounts nous meteors observed in our howhich have still more recently rizon are masses of ignited matter, been communicated. On the 18th an account of a phenomenon, preDecember 1795, the weather being cisely of the same description, was cloudy, several person's in the received from the East Indies, Deighbourhood of Captain Top vouched by authority peculiarly ham's house, in Yorkshire, heard well adapted to secure general res.a loud noise in the air, followed by pect. Mr. Williams, a member a hissing sound, and afterwards of the Royal Society of London, felt a shock, as if a heavy body residing in Bengal, having heard had fallen to the ground at a little of an explosion, accompanied by
Vol. V. No. 1. B
a descent of stones, in the province some cattle. Part of the stone is of Bahar, made all possible inqui- now in the museum of Mr. Greries into the circumstances of the ville, and the rest in that of Bourphenomenon, among the Europe. deaux. It is singular that this ans who happened to be on the fact is not mentioned by M. Izarn, spot. He learnt, that on the 19th nor by Vauquelin, although he exDecember 1798, at 8 o'clock P.M. amined a specimen evidently taken a luminous meteor, like a large from the same stone, and received ball of fire, was seen at Benares, a procès-verbal of the manner in and in different parts of the coun. which it fell. We take the actry ; that it was attended with a count from Mr. Greville's paper, rumbling, loud noise ; and that, a- (Phil. Trans. 1803. part I.) ; and bout the same time, the inhabitants be appears to have received it of Krakhut, fourteen miles from from M. St. Amand, Professor of Benares, saw the light, heard a Natural History at the Central Joud thunder-clap, and, immediate- School of Agen, ly after, heard the noise of heavy It is quite impossible, we apprebodies falling in their neighbour- hend, to deny very great weight hood. Next morning, the fields to all these testimonies ; some of were found to have been turned up them given by intelligent eyein different spots, which was easily witnesses; others by people of less perceived, as the crop was not information, indeed, but preposses. more than two or three inches sed with no theory; all concurring above the ground; and stones of in their descriptions ; and exam. different sizes, but apparently of ined by various persons of acutethe same substances, were picked ness and respectability, imme. out of the moist soil, generally diately after the phenomena had from a depth of six inches. As been exhibited. Without offering the occurrence took place in the any farther remarks, then, upon night, and after the people had re- this mass of external evidence, uired to rest, no one observed the we shall only remind our readers meteor explode, or the stones fall; of the main points which it seems but the watchman of an English satisfactorily to substantiate. It gentleman, who lived near Krak, proves, that, in various parts of hut, brought him one next morn. the world, luminous meteors have ing, which he said had fallen been seen moving through the air, through the top of his hut, and in a direction more or less oblique, buried itself in the earthen floor. accompanied by a noise, generally
Several of the foregoing narra. like the bissing of large shot, foltives mention the material circum- lowed by explosion, and the fall of stanee, of damage done to inter- hard, stony, or semi-metallick posed objects by the stones, sup masses, in a heated state. The posed to have fallen on the earth. hissing sound, so universally menIn one instance still more distinct tioned ; the fact of stones being traces were left of their progress found, unlike all those in the through the air. During the ex. neighbourhood, at the spots towards plosion of a meteor, on the 20th August 1789, near Bourdeaux, a
* Des Pierres tombées du Ciel, ou Listone, about fifteen inches diame
thologie Atmospherique, &c. &c. Par
Joseph Izarn, Professeur de Physique, ter, broke through the roof of a &c. ' Paris, De la Lain, fils. An XI cottage, and killed a herdsman and (1803.) pp. 427, 8vo.