Michelson's recent researches on light. By Joseph Lovering, President (April 10, 1889).

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vane altered. He asked the sailors, Why? All they could say was, that it always did. Reflecting upon the matter, Bradley concluded that the motion of the boat was compounded with the velocity of the wind, and that the vane represented the resultant direction. He was not slow in seeing the application of this homely illustration of the parallelogram of motion to his astronomical puzzle. The velocity of light was compounded with the velocity of the earth in its orbit, so that its apparent direction differed by a small angle from its true direction, and the difference was called aberration. In spearing a fish or shooting a bird, the sportsman does not aim at them, but ahead of them. This inclination from the true direction is similar, in angular measure, to what the astronomer calls aberration. Struve’s measurement of aberration combined with the velocity of the earth in its orbit gave for the velocity of light 191,513 miles a second. Both of the two methods described for obtaining the velocity of light depend for their accuracy upon the assumed distance of the earth from the sun. The distance adopted was the one found by the transits of Venus in 1761 and 1769, viz. 95,360,000 miles.

During the last forty years, the opinion has been gaining ground among astronomers that the distance of the sun, as deduced from the transits of Venus in 1761 and 1769, was too large by 3 per cent. Expeditions have been sent to remote parts of the earth for observing the planet Mars in opposition. The ablest mathematical astronomers, as Laplace, Pontecoulant, Leverrier, Hansen, Lubbock, Airy, and Delaunay, have applied profound mathematical analysis to the numerous perturbations in planetary motions, and proved that the sun’s distance must be diminished about 2,000,000 miles in order to reconcile observations with the law of gravitation. Airy reduced the distance of the sun by more than 2,000,000 miles, to satisfy the observations on the transit of Venus in 1874. Glasenapp derived from observed eclipses of Jupiter’s satellites a distance for the sun of only 92,500,000 miles. From these and similar data, Delaunay concluded that the velocity of light is about 186,420 miles a second.

These triumphs of astronomical theory recall the witty remark of Fontenelle, that Newton, without getting out of his arm chair, calculated the figure of the earth more accurately than others had done by travelling and measuring to the ends of it. And Laplace, in contemplation of similar mathematical achievements, says: "It is wonderful that an astronomer, without going out of his observatory, should be able to determine exactly the size and figure of the earth, and its distance from the sun and moon, simply by comparing his observations with analysis; the knowledge of which formerly demanded long and laborious voyages into both hemispheres.”

The ancients supposed that light came instantaneously from the stars; a consolation for those who believed that the heavens revolved around the earth in twenty-four hours. Galileo and the academicians of Florence obtained even negative results,

while the number of physical sciences has received numerous additions during the last half-century, new affiliations and a more intimate correlation have been manifested. In this mutual helpfulness light has played an important part. The optical method of studying sound, and the many varieties of flame apparatus, have made acoustics as intelligible through the eye as through the ear.

Velocity being expressed by space divided by time, it is evident that in measuring an immense velocity we must have at our command an enormous distance, such as we find only in astronomy, or else possess the means of measuring fractions of time as small as one-millionth of a second. The first successful attempt to measure such a velocity was made by Wheatstone in 1834. Discharges from a Leyden jar were sent through a wire, having two breaks in it one-fourth of a mile apart. The wire was in the form of a loop, so as to bring the breaks into the same vertical line. The sparks seen at these breaks were reflected by a mirror at the distance of 10 feet, and revolving eight hundred times per second. The images of the two sparks were relatively displaced in a horizontal direction. As the displacement did not exceed one-half of an inch, the time taken by electricity to go from one break to the other was less than a millionth of a second. Since the distance was one-quarter of a mile, the electricity travelled in that case at the rate of 288,000 miles a second. If this experiment is interpreted to mean that electricity would go over 288,000 miles of similar wire in one second, as it probably often was at that time, the conclusion is fallacious. The velocity of electricity, unlike that of sound or light, diminishes when the length of wire increases.

In 1838, Wheatstone suggested a method for measuring the velocity of light, which he thought was adequate for giving not only the absolute velocity but the difference of velocity in different media.

In that year Arago communicated to the French Academy the details of an experiment which he thought would give the velocity of light in air or a vacuum. As his own health was broken down (he died in 1853) he appealed to two young French physicists to undertake the experiment. On July 23,1849, Fizeau, by a method wholly his own, made a successful experiment. A disk cut at its circumference into 720 teeth and intervals, and made by Breguet, was rapidly rotated by a train of wheels and weights. A concentrated beam of light was sent out through one of the intervals between two teeth of the disk, which was mounted in a house in Suresne, near Paris, and was sent back by a mirror placed on Montmartre, at a distance of about 5 miles. The light, on its return, was cut off from the eye or entered it, according as it encountered a tooth or an interval of the disk. If the disk turned 12.6 times in a second the light encountered the tooth adjacent to the interval through which the light went out. With twice as many rotations in the disk the light could enter the eye through the adjacent interval. With three times the original velocity, it was cut off by the next tooth but