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The Edinburgh Review, or Critical Journal, Vol. 55

The Edinburgh Review, or Critical Journal, Vol. 55

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Excerpt from The Edinburgh Review, or Critical Journal, Vol. 55: For January-July, 1832; To Be Continued Quarterly

Mrs Somerville has not very distinctly intimated the precise object she had in view in the composition of the treaties; and we are at some loss to discover whether an original work was contem lated, or merely an abridgement of that of Laplace. The only information given respecting its nature and purpose, is contained in a sentence of the Introduction, in which it is said, that in the following pages it is not intended to limit the account of the Mecam'que C'eleste to a detail of results, but rather to endeavour to explain the methods by which these results are deduced from one general equation of the motion of matter.' From this we may infer, that while the main object was to demonstrate the results of the Mecam'que Celeste, it was not intended to adhere strictly to the analysis of Laplace, but that the investigations would be rendered more simple and perspicuous where they admitted of improvement, and advantage taken of the recent discoveries in analysis to render the processe more com rehensive and uniform. This at least appears to have been t s plan on which the work has been executed. In many cases the demonstrations of Laplace are given without alteration; in others they have been par tially changed; and in a few instances they have been entirely supplanted by others drawn from difi'erent sources. Near the commencement, the explanations are full; as the work advan ces, and the difficulties increase, they become more rare; and in some of the most important problems the analysis of La place is transcribed without any explanation whatever. This, however, could hardly be otherwise. Indeed, when we con sider the extent and abstruss nature of the various subjects that come under consideration, it will readily appear, that to give a clear and satisfactory explanation of the analytical methods of Laplace, without emp eying his own expressions, and exhi biting his own formulae, would be a task of no ordinary diffi culty. The language of the calculu is the most concise by which human thought can be expressed; and when employed by so great a master, it receives a form which can rarely be el tsred without injury. The general style of Laplace is also remarkable for its perspicuity and recision; so that there is no hope of giving his meaning in ifi'erent words with greater exactness, or more brie?y.

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