the determination to submit my views, not without some misgiving, to the touchstone of scientific criticism.
For the purposes of my theory, stellar space is supposed to be filled with highly rarefied gaseous bodies, including hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon, and their compounds, besides solid materials in the form of dust. Each planetary body would in that case attract to itself an atmosphere depending for density upon its relative attractive importance, and it would not seem unreasonable to suppose that the heavier and less diffusible gases would form the staple of these local atmospheres; that, in fact, they would consist mostly of nitrogen, oxygen, and carbonic acid, while hydrogen and its compounds would predominate in space.
In support of this view it may be urged that, in following out the molecular theory of gases as laid down by Clausius, Clerk Maxwell, and Thomson, it would be difficult to assign a limit to a gaseous atmosphere in space; and, further, that some writers—among whom I will here mention only Grove, Humboldt, Zollner, and Mattieu Williams—have boldly asserted the existence of a space filled with matter. But Newton himself, as Dr. Sterry Hunt tells us in an interesting paper which has only just reached me, has expressed views in favor of such an assumption.
The history of Newton's paper is remarkable and very suggestive. It was read before the Royal Society on the 9th and 16th of December, 1675, and remained unpublished until 1757, when it was printed by Birch, the then secretary, in the third volume of his "History of the Royal Society," but received no attention; in 1846 it was published in the "Philosophical Magazine" at the suggestion of Harcourt, but was again disregarded; and now, once more, only a few months since, a philosopher on the other side of the Atlantic brings back to the birthplace of Newton his forgotten and almost despised work of two hundred years ago.
Quoting from Dr. Sterry Hunt's paper: