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for the French names of animals and plants, I have given the scientific Latin names. The circumstance of becoming interested in the history of an animal or a plant, with an unknown name, may induce the student to repair to a dictionary of natural history ; and he may thus be unconsciously led to more thorough and scientific acquaintance with the subject.
I have thrown the scientific axioms and doctrines, connected with the point in discussion into a tabular form, not with a view to a show of learning, which I would have gladly avoided ; but that the reader may see in one view, the leading propositions, which books of physics and natural history propose to develop, and demonstrate, or illustrate in detail. In selecting these doctrines, I have consulted the most recent and approved authorities, among which I may mention Fischer's Elements of Philosophy, and his works upon Physics. In compiling the Geological part, I have chiefly kept Bakewell and Buckland in view ; and I have ventured upon some further observations, the result of my own surveys of our country. For the letters on the application of steam, so far as the principles of the power and the mode of the application are concerned, I have found my authorities in Dr Lardner's small, popular work upon that subject. The lectures on Political Economy were based on Blake's Conversations on that subject. It would be useless to cite all the sources, to which I have repaired for information, to furnish a sketeh of the history of the more interesting inventions.
These lectures turn upon those points of science and natural history, which are the most common and interesting topics of discussion in Lyceums, and of conversation in the more intellectual circles of society. But a small proportion of our young men, and none of our young ladies receive a complete academic education. They will all wish to possess
general views of those doctrines of philosophy, and those sciences, which have been hitherto chiefly studied in universities and institutions, the professors of which are exclusively devoted to teaching the sciences. It is not presumed, that the instruction of this book can be offered, as a substitute for such a course of sustained and profound study. Its aim is, to present, in the most attractive form, enough of the philosophy and general principles of science, to furnish materials for thought and conversation upon the subjects discussed. Many of the graduates of our colleges are not remarkable for their broad and clear views on these points. I would hope, that they might derive profit from perusing it; either in gaining new information, or being refreshed in the recollection of their old studies. These sketches, I flatter myself, may excite sufficient interest and curiosity in those readers, for whom they are chiefly intended, to induce them to examine works, which treat upon these themes scientifically and at large. If there be a work of similar character, fitted for these intentions, in reference to the numerous and important classes, which I have named, brief, simple, clear, without diagrams and algebraic demonstrations, calculated, by the intrinsic interest of the theme, and the manner in which it is discussed, to seize upon the thoughts and memory of the reader, and give him possession of those great and leading principles of nature, which the studious in all time have labored to investigate, I am ignorant of the fact. My aim has been to furnish such a book.
To these inducements, I may add, that this work turns upon studies, which have been dear to me, since I possessed the power of thought. The universe, thus examined, assumes a new aspect. If Galen was reclaimed from atheism, by examining the wonderful adaptation and harmony of the constituent parts of the human body in concurring to produce life, motion and thought, what must be the convic
tions of the student of nature, who finds the whole universe every where as replete with these harmonies, as the human system? In enunciating the views of this work, where the term nature is used, I would be understood to mean Providence or God. In the heavens and the earth, in man that thinks, and the insect that creeps, I have found every thing labelled with the single, grand, all comprehending term God.
To the students, particularly the female students in our higher seminaries, this work is affectionately inscribed.
It invites you to study nature in the fields, meadows and forests, on the mountain side, along the shores of streams or of the sea, and in the realms of space above you, through which the stars roll their everlasting courses. By holding forth to you the flowers of science, it would tempt you not to satisfy yourselves with their perfume and barren beauty, but with industry and energy to cultivate and gather the matured fruits of the harvest. With the fondness of one of their own children, I have loved the wild woods, the forest-skirted streams, the snow-clad mountains with their secluded dells, the plains and meadows, where plants and flowers spring without a name from the botanist, and without the permission or the aid of man. I ranged these haunts in my vernal day with untiring footsteps, satisfied to see, feel, and enjoy them without investigating final causes, or the object of the luxuriance and beauty before me. But, as I find myself in the sear and yellow leaf? of autumn, every thing in life has changed its aspect; and I am compelled either to relinquish, in satiety and weariness, those haunts and pursuits, which the habits of years have rendered dear, or to seek in them new and more elevated sources of enjoyment. I have found what I sought. I have reperused the open volume of nature, page by page, searching with the elder poets, the sweet Mantuan, and the sweeter psalmist of
Israel, with Christian philosophers, and all true lovers of nature, for the harmonies of this beautiful universe ; for traces of the finger of God; for proofs, that divine love and wisdom are equally discernible in the great and the minute of creation. I have looked upwards into the unfathomable depths of space with the astronomer, and have listened with him to the eternal concord of the celestial inelodies; and the innumerable lamps of the sky have lighted me onward through the etherial plains to the throne of the Eternal.
I have returned to contemplate nature with the physiologist, like another Columbus, discovering a new world with the solar microscope. He shows me oceans with their leviathans, forests with their winged inhabitants, empires and kingdoms with their numberless dwellers, where the naked eye sees but a drop of water, a little mouldiness, or the blue down of a plum. The truth radiates from these new realms of nature, that creative love is also there.
Where all seems to the undistinguishing gaze inextricable disorder, I discover perfect arrangeinent, I find that the sands, the ocean-pebbles, the forest-trees, the beasts of the field, the fowls of heaven, the insects that fly or crawl, all have their ranks and orders, which industrious research, may class into families, and inscribe with their generic names.
Be my walks in nature amid light or darkness, in sunshine or storm, 'in the waste desert or the city full,' a radiance, as of the greater light of the sky, has enabled me to find God every where in love and wisdom, still more than in power.
Even in the sterner aspects of nature, in storms, inundation, earthquake, and volcanic eruption, in the universal deluge, or the purifying baptism of fire, which has left in the past no traces of animated existence, but crystallizations in granite, or organic remains imbedded in the secondary
strata of stone, I have discovered a purpose to renjould the earth and prepare a new and fairer abode for man, in which
dwell purer reason and more exalted righteous
I have become satisfied, that the seeming disorders and imperfections of nature are such, only because of the weakness of our intellectual vision ; and that even death itself is a remedy and a blessing.
As I have beheld nature with these eyes, my heart has burned within me with the desire, that others may derive the same pleasure from the love and study of her works.