Astronomy is considered as the most sublime of all the sciences, and implies a knowledge of the heavenly bodies, with regard to their respective magnitude, motions, distances, etc. ; and of the natural causes by which these phenomena are produced. It is not improbable, that Adam and his immediate progeny, the antediluvians, possessed a slight knowledge of astronomy. On the building of the tower of Babel, Noah is supposed to have retired with his children born after the flood, to the north-eastern part of Asia, where his descendants peopled the vast empire of China ; and this, in the opinion of Dr. Long, accounts for the early cultivation of astronomy by the Chinese. Mr. Bailly, -who has taken great pains to investigate the progress of the Indians, is of opinion, that the first epoch of their astronomy commences with the conjunction of the sun and moon, which took place 3102 years before the Christian aera. Even the Americans, and especially the Mexicans, were not altogether destitute of astronomical knowledge. But the Chaldeans ami Egyptians were the first nations that became, in this respect, conspicuous in ancient history ; and it is doubtful, whether the Phoenicians acquired the rudiments of this science from the former, on the latter ; though we are indebted to their enterprizing merchants, who first applied it to the useful and important purposes of navigation.
Its origin among the Greeks is unknown: Hesiod and HOMER were the earliest writers who men-tion astronomical facts ; but the science was afterwards, though not considerably, improved by Thalia, Anaximander, Pythagoras, Archimedes, and Hipparchus, who made the first specification of the fixed stars; and lastly, by Ptolemy, whose erroneous system is now exploded.
Among the Arabs, who adopted the present arithmetical characters from the Indians, Geber laid the foundation for our modern trigone-mctryj which Menelaus, the Greek about the year 90 after Christ, had ineffectually attempted to establish, in his three excellent books on spherics, even after that docfrine had been rendered more simple by the labours and improvements of Ptolemy.
The Emperor Frederic II. of Germany, who was a great patron of the sciences, in 1230, also revived the study of astronomy in Europe. Thence arose John Halifax, Clavius, Roger Bacon, Vitellio, and the indefatigable Purbach, who died in I46l, when only thirty-eight years of age: he was succeeded by his ce lebrated pupil, Regiomontanus, or John Muller, of Montere-gio, who flourished at Nurnbcrgin the latter part of the fifteenth, and by John Werner in the beginning of the sixteenth century ; till at length arose the justly celebrated Nicolaus Copernicus, the greatest luminary that ever appeared on the shores of the Baltic, and who is undoubtedly the principal reformer of astronomical science. After having studied physic at Rome, and returned to his native country, at present called West Prussia, he began, in the year 150/, to doubt the. accuracy of all other systems, except that of Pythagoras. Endowed with a comprehensive and penetrating mind, a correct judgment, and inexhaustible powers of application, he could not fail to discover the truth of the hypothesis advanced by that sagacious Greek, "who placed the sun in the centre, and supposed all the planetary bodies, and the earth itself, to revolve around him."
Since that period, astronomy has been progressively cultivated by different nations, especially the Germans, Italians, French, and English, The principal characters, whose names will be transmitted to posterity, for their useful labours in the immense field of practical and theoretical astronomy, are nearly the following: Tycho-Brahe, the Portuguese, who spent a great part of his time in useless efforts of opposing the immutable system of Copernicus ; Clairult, D A-lembert, La Caille, and De Lalande, in France ; - Galileo, Cassini, Fontana, Boscovich, BLANCHINI, FRISI, MaNFREDI, Zanotti, and others, in Italy Kepler, URSINUS, HeVELIUS, Roemer, the Twoeulers, MEYER, Kaestner, Lambert, Grischow, Miller, Burja, Hehl, Book, Roesler, Fischer, Reckard, Rudiuer, Scheibel, Olbers, and more especially V. Zach, the leader of German astronomers, who now resides at the new observatory; near Gotha;—Wargentin, Blin-genstern, Mallet, and Plan-man, in Sweden ; - and Wright, Napier, Briggs, Horrox, New-ton, Flamstead, Halley, Pound, Huygens, Hook, Bradley, Ferguson, Gregory, Mas-kelyne, and in a more eminent degree than any of his compat-on the continent, the transcendan't Herschel, under the immediate patronage of his present Majesty, who, since the days of the Ptolemys, affords the most illus-trious example of a truly philosophic monarch.
Of the latest and most popular publications on this subject, we shall state only the following : A Compendious System of Astronomy, by Margaret Bryan, 4to. ll.7s.6d. boards ; Leigh and Sotheby, 1797. —The Study of Astronomy, adapted to the Capacities of Youth, by J. Stedman, 12mo. pp. 154 ; 2s. 6d. Dill}', 1796.—Practical Astronomy, by A. Ewing, 8vo. pp. 400 ; 5s, boards ; Longman, 1708.—Lastly, a work of a more scientific character, is the Rev. S. Vinces Complete System of Astronomy, vol, 1. 4to. ll. 4s. boards; Wingrave, 1797. The author excludes familiar explanations, moral reflections, and historical details ; but has carefully examined whatever relates to the subject, and bestowed the greatest attention on the correctness of the tables; a circumstance of the first importance to a book of this nature.
Astronomy. - In addition to the later elementary books already mentioned in this article, we recommend the two following, as being well calculated to give youth an idea of the planetary bodies, and their revolutions, namely, Mr. FeRguson's " Young Gentleman's and Lady's Astronomy familiarly explained" in 10 Dialogues, 8vo. 1768; and Mr. Bonnycastle's " Introduction to Astronomy, " 8vo. 1786: this work is written in a series of Letters, in which the most interesting parts of the science of Astronomy are unfolded, and illustrated with engravings.