Department of History
University of California, Irvine
 Instructor:    Dr. Barbara J. Becker


Week 4.  Sensation

 excerpts from
A Philosophical Essay... (1672)
by Dr. Thomas Sherley (1638-1678)

1 of 3: Sections 1 & 2


The probable Causes, whence
Stones are produced in the
Greater World.

From which occasion is taken to search
into the Origin of all Bodies, discovering
them to proceed from Water, and Seeds....


... I have not the vanity to think I have put such a Ne plus ultra to the inquiries into this Subject, that no further discoveries are to be made; nothing less.  For though the Subject be rough, and hard, yet it is far from being unfruitful.  And if by my endeavours I shall prove Instrumental, [by giving of hints, &c.] to put other industrious Philosophers, who are fitted with better parts, and more time, to digg deeper in these Quarries, I shall think it glory sufficient, to have been thus far serviceable to the Common-wealth of Learning:  and if by the endeavours of such Werthy Men, I shall find my self confirm'd in my Opinion, I shall rely upon it with the greater security.  But if by their inquiries, other, and truer causes shall appear; I shall not scruple to a knowledge, that I will willingly become a Proselyte to Truth, though at the same time it is discover'd it convince me of having been erroneous in my Opinion.

But at present, thinking I defend a verity, I shall not easily recede from my Opinion, without my Judgment be convinc'd, by the same means I make use of, to Proselyte others:  that is, both by reason, and Experiments....

As I court not applause, which is a vanity unbefitting a Philosopher; So, having [as I suppose] appear'd in a good Cause, that is, the defence of a philosophical truth, [viz. that the Matter of Stones, and all other Bodies, is Water, and their Efficient Seed] I shall not fear Censure, though I must be exposed to that of any Man, which shall take the pains to peruse my Book; I am not ignorant of the Proverb, So many Men, so many Minds:  Nor of that other ... books have their fate:  And therefore cannot expect that impossibility of pleasing every body....

... I think it necessary to tell thee, how I would have to be understood those two words of Seed, and Water, the Principles upon which I have built this Discourse.

First then, by Seed I understand a fine, subtile Substance, [imperciptible by our gross Organs of Sensation;] in which God hath impressed a Character of that thing he will have it produce from the Matter it is to work upon:  which it doth perform by putting the parts of Matter into such a peculiar motion as is requisite to produce the intended Effect....

By Water, the Material Principle of all Concrets, I understand, a fluid Body, consisting of very minute parts, and variously figur'd Atoms, or Corpuscules, the Mass of it being full of pores, and therefore subject to be contracted into less room:  and upon the same account it doth easily, and readily submit to those motions it is put into by Seminal Beings:  from which moving of Matter all the visible, and Tangible Bodies of the World, have their result.  And therefore I have, all along this ensuing Discourse, took care to explicate the [process] of the Origin of Bodies, by the Mechanical Principles:  That is, by the Motion, Shape, Size, Scituation, and Connexion of the parts of Matter.

But though this be a way commonly used, in explicating things, by the Philosophers of our Age, yet most of them leave out the first principle of Natural Motion; viz. the Seminal principle, which I have taken in, to compleate my Hypothesis.

And now having said this much I shall say this further, [and let it not be counted a vanity] that I think, and hope, I have in some considerable measure made out the truth of those principles I have assumed to defend.

It hath cost me some pains to Collect, and draw into proper Sections, the Body of this Discourse:  which I have also strengthned by the Authority of the best Philosophers, and Learnedst of Men, both Ancient, and Modern.  All which I here present thee with:  heartily wishing all ingenious Men may see the usefulness of, and receive as much satisfaction in this Doctrine; as I do, who am a Friend to all that industriously search after the Truth, and Nature of Things.

T H O.  S H E R L E Y.            

From my House, in Newton-
, over against New
South-hampton Building, in
High Holborn. Jan. 27th.

Section the First.

HAving, in complyance with the importunate desires, or rather commands, of many of my Worthy, and ingenious Friends, obliged my self to acquaint the World with my thoughts concerning the most probable cause of the Stone, both in the Kidneyes, and Bladder of Men, and having begun a Tract upon that Subject I fore-saw a necessity [before I suffer'd that discourse to appear in publick] to inquire into the Causes, and Nature of Petrifaction [to the greater World] in general:  and I was encouraged the more to do so, by a Passage I met with in the Works of that Noble Philosopher, Mr Boyl {English chemist, Robert Boyle (1627-1691)} whose words are these:

Since we know very little a Priori, the observation of many effects manifesting, that Nature doth actually produced them so, and so, suggests to us several wayes of explicating the same Phænomenon, some of which we should, perhaps, never have else dreamed of; which ought to be esteemed no small advantage to the Physitian:

And again; He that hath not had the curiosity to inquire out, and consider the several wayes whereby Stones may be generated out of the Body, not only must be unable, satisfactorily to explicate, how they come to be produced in the Kidneys, and Bladder; but will perhaps, scarce keep himself from embracing such errors, (because Authoriz'd by the suffrage of eminent Physitians) as the knowledge I am recommending, would easily protect him from.

Let us then, in the first place, examine, how Nature produceth Stones without the Body of Man (that is, in the greater World;) after which we will see, if the causes of generating Stones in the Bodies of Animals, be not the same; or at least, bear some Analogy, or resemblance thereunto. Which that we may the better be enabled to do, I shall relate some choice Histories of Petrifications, taken out of approved Authors; and then examine the causes by which they were performed.

Gabriel Falopius {Italian physician, Gabriello Fallopio (c.1523-1562)} mentioneth a River, called Else, which receives into it self the Torrent of the River Sena; into which, Wood, Herbs, or any other thing being cast, it converts it into stone.

Albertus Magnus {German scholastic philosopher (c.1200-1280)} relates, that in the Danish Sea, near Lubeck, in his time, there was found an Arm of a Tree, with a Nest, and Young Birds in it, the Wood, Nest, and Birds being all converted into Stone.

Domitius Brusonius {Italian philosopher, theologian and jurist, Lucio Domitio Brusoni (fl. 1510)} tells us (not upon hear-say, but upon his own knowledge) that the branches of Trees, with their Leaves, being cast into the River of Sylar, do turn into stone. {This account is taken almost verbatim from The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation... (1599) by English chronicler, Richard Hakluyt (1552-1616):  "And Domitius Brusonius reporteth, that in the riuer of Silar ... leaues and boughs of trees change into stones, & that, not vpon other mens credite, but vpon his own experience, being borne & brought vp in that country...." (p. 566)}

Marbodius {Bishop Marbodus of Rennes (1050-1123)} acquaints us, that there is a Fountain in Gothia [or Guthland] that changeth whatsoever is put into it into stone; and that the Emperour Frederick {Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa (1194-1250)} being incredulous of the thing, did send his Glove thither, sealed with his Ring; & that that part of the Glove, with the seal, which was immersed in the Water, was in a few dayes converted into stone; the other part remaining Leather.

Johannes Kentmannus, {German naturalist, Johannes Kentmann (1518-1574)} concerning Fossils, writes, that Arms of Trees, with the Leaves, Bark, Wood; also Gloves, and divers other things, being cast into a certain Fish-pond, near the Castle of Schellenlerge, in Misnia, are turned into stone.

Bartholomaeus à Clivola {possibly the Franciscan monk, Bartholomaeus Anglicus (Bartholomew the Englishman, 13th c.), author of an encyclopedia which included a book on stones that was until modern times attributed to Bartholomaeus of Glanville, Glanvilla, or Glaunvilla (d. 1360)} affirms, there is a Lake betwixt Cæsarea, and Tyana, two Cities of Capadocia, into which part of a Reed, or Stick being put, it by degrees is changed into stone, that part which is out of the Water remaining what it was before.

Anselmus Boethius {German physician, Anselmus Boethius de Boodt (c.1550-1634)} declareth, that in England, near the River Dee, by West-Chester, there is a great Cave, into which whatsoever water flows, is turned into stone.

Thomas Moresinus {German alchemist, c.1593} relates, that in Moravia there is a dark Water, in which there doth not at all appear any viscous matter; which water, nevertheless, coagulates into stone.

Johannes Petrus Faber {possibly French alchemist, Jean-Pierre Fabre (1588-1658)} giveth us a wonderful account of a Spring in the Suburbs of Claremont, in the County of Avernia.

It flows [sayes he] out of a Rock, and in its very coming forth it produces Rocks, and white stones; and the Inhabitants of this City, when they would make a Bridge to go over any of the small Rivulets, which are made by this Fountain, that so they may visit their Fields and Gardens, do thus:  They cause the Water of this Fountain to glide over certain planks, made Archlike, and within twenty four hours they have a solid stone Bridge; by the help of which they can pass dry-foot over the Rivers.  The water of this Fountain is visibly changed into stone, yet nevertheless it alwayes flows as other Springs do:  This water is exceeding clear, nor doth it differ in colour, or clearness from other Springs; Beasts will drink of it if they be not hinder'd; but if they do, it coagulates in their stomacks into stone, from whence Death follows, by reason of a Collick caused from thence, which kills with cruel torments all the Beasts that have drunk this water.  Wherefore the Inhabitants take care to drive their Cattel far enough from this Fountain; for it is a present poyson to all sorts of living Creatures that drink of it.  When it is taken from the Spring, it is quickly turned into stone; the truth of which the Inhabitants do make manifest [to all that doubt thereof] by many experiments; they fill a glass with this water, and presently it is converted into stone, which retaineth the shape of the glass:  so likewise if Earthen Vessels be filled with this water, it is suddenly congealed into stone, which keeps the form and figure of the Vessel that contained it.  This wonder of Nature [sayes he] every body admires, but I believe hardly any body will be found, that shall be able to render the Natural reason of this thing.  Thus far he.

Gassendus {French natural philosopher, Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655)} tells us, that Peireskius {French patron of the sciences, Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Pieresc (1580-1637)} [according to his usual custom in the Summer] going into a stream of the River Rhosne, to wash himself; he observed once the ground to be hard under his feet, and uneven, [which had at all times before been soft, and smooth] being full of knobs, and Balls; about the bigness, and likeness of Eggs boyled hard, and the shells pilled off; which he looking upon as somewhat strange, took some of them up, and carried them home; but a few dayes after he was surprized with a greater Admiration:  for, going again into the same place of the River, he found those soft, and yielding lumps, he had left there, turned into perfect pebble stones; and also viewing those he had laid up at home, he found them likewise turned into true Pebbles.

Helmont {Belgian natural philosopher, chemist and physician, Jan Baptista van Helmont (1579-1644)} likewise affirms, that [contrary to the Proverb ... A drop by often falling doth hollow a stone] there is a Spring in the Monastery of Zonia, near Brussels, that breeds stones so fast, that the Monks are daily forced to break them off with Crooks and Hatchets.

And I my self have seen a Spring near Wrixham, in North-wales, that in a short space of time would convert Sticks, Straws, Leaves, Leather, or any other subject, put into it, into stone.  And of this Nature are divers other Springs to be found, both in Ireland, and England.

Our Industrious Countrey-man, Gerard {English herbalist, John Gerard (1545-1607)}, assureth us, he knew several Springs of this Nature, both in England, and Wales:  As in Bedford-shire, in Warwickshire, near Newnam Regis; and another near Knasborrow, in York-shire; he likewise tells us, he knew divers pieces of Ground, into which a stake being struck, that part in the ground would be changed into stone, the other part remaining Wood.

Libavius {German physician and chemist, Andreas Libau (c.1560-1616)} relates, That a certain Hen sitting on her Eggs, being struck with a Gorgonick Spirit, was transformed into stone, with her Eggs likewise.

Crollius {German physician and chemist, Oswald Croll (c.1560-1609)} relates, that in a certain place of Moravia there is a stupendious Den, in which are to be found divers, and admirable sportive works of Nature:  for the drops distilling from the upper part of the Cave, into the hollow of it, do there form many intricate Labyrinths in the Mountain, and do presently [of their own accord] convert into stone, by the help [as he thinks] of the Spirit of Salt; and in their falling from on high, they form various Figures, and Statues of stone.

Aristotle sayes, that in the Metalline Grots of Lydia, about the City Pergamos, certain Workmen, in the time of War, having fled into them to hide themselves, and the mouth of the Cave being stopp'd; they perished there; but afterwards being found, not only their Bones, but their Veins, with the humours contained in them, were found to be turned into stone.

Aventinus {German historian and philologist, Johann Georg Turmair of Abensberg (1477-1534)} also writes thus:  In the Year 1348. by an Earthquake, more than fifty Country men, with their Milch Cows, and Calves, being killed and stifled by an Earthy saline Spirit [as he supposeth] they were reduced into saline Statues, [such as Lots Wife:]  And this happened amongst the Carini [a People of Germany;] which similitudes or Images of Men, and Beasts, were seen both by him, and the Chancellor of Austria.

To the like purpose, Helmont tells us of a whole Army, consisting of Men, Women, Camels, Horses, Doggs, with their Armour, Weapons, and Waggons, which were all transmuted into stone, and remain so to this day, [a horrible spectacle;]  And this, saith he, happened in the Year 1320. betwixt Russia and Tartary, in the Latitude of 64. degrees, not far from a Fen of Kataya, a Village, or Horde, of the Biscardians; which he very rationally concludes to have happened from a strong hory petrifying breath or Ferment, making an eruption through some clefts of the Earth, the Land being stony underneath; and the Winds having been silent for many dayes....

...I suppose what I have here related sufficient; and therefore I think it now time to inquire into the Causes of Petrification, and the Efficients of these Transmutations.

Section the Second.

THe Doctrine of the four Elements [with their qualities, concutring, as is suppos'd, to the production of Bodies, which was intorduced by the Authority of Aristotle, and hath since prevailed with most Men even to this Age of ours,] hath been the cause, why we have hitherto received but an unsatisfactory account, not only of the Origine of all concretes, but more particularly concerning stones; and that not only in Relation to the Material Cause, but also to the Efficient, of Petrifications in general.

For, they seem to think it sufficient, to have crudely told us, that Stones [and all other Minerals, and Metals] are made of Earth, with a slight mixture of the other three Elements, as the Material; and by the assistance of Heat, Cold, Moisture, and Driness, as the External, and efficient Cause.  For perceiving the weight of Minerals, and Stones, to exceed the weight of water, they therefore assign the matter of Minerals, and Stones, to be chiefly Earth; and without any further Controversie, or search after the matter, they are content to believe, and would have us do so too, that all sorts of stones are nothing but Earth, from which the other three Elements are forced by heat; by which means it becomes baked into a stone.  And this they [viz. the Aristotelians] think they prove by alleadging the Example of Potters Earth, which being burnt gains a stone-like hardness.  And because neither Stones nor Earth do commonly melt in the fire, they therefore conclude stones are made of Earth.  But there being on such heat in the Superficies of the Globe, much less in the bottom of the Water [where commonly stones are bred,] I must confess I can receive but little satisfaction from this account.

And I find the Learned Sennertus {German physician, Daniel Sennert (1572-1637)} is as unsatisfied with this Doctrine as my self:  for he will by no means allow the Elements, or their qualities, to be the Primary Efficients of Stonification.  His words are these...

Though it hath been much endeavour'd by many to deduce the causes of the concretion, & coagulation of stones, from the first, or primary qualities, yet hath their labour been in vain:  for neither can drought, heat, or cold, be here allowed as a primary cause, [but we do not deny, that they may concur as a cause, sine qua non, so that it may, for Example, waste the water, which hinders concretion;] neither could it hitherto be demonstrated by any body, how heat of it self could be able to generate such a disposition of compaction; and that it could produce a Lapidescent juice:  Nay, this is performed where all heat is wanting, and that in cold and Membranous places; as also in Infants, who are not allow'd to have any excess of heat, but are rather found to have manifest crudity, the stone is generated in the Bladder:  and how, I pray, is the stonifying juice produced in cold Fountains, into which wood being cast is changed into stone?  Then, as to cold, stones do grow in the Head, in the lungs, about the basis of the great artery, in the Arteries of the Heart; nay, they are in the Heart it self.  Also there grows in hot Baths, as experience sheweth, sandy stones, & stony Isicles, where cold can by no means be admitted.

Thus far he:  by which you see he is clearly of opinion, that neither heat, nor cold can be the primary, or chief cause of Petrification; contrary to the Axiom which Aristotle layes down, to this effect;

Of those bodies which adhere together, and are hard, they are wont to be thus affected; some by the fervour of heat; some by cold; that drying up the moysture, this pressing it forth.

Let us then inquire what the Chymical Philosopher's opinion is in this point:  (and the rather because it is constantly affirmed by most of them, that the Art of Pyrotechny is the only true means of informing the mind with Truth, and acquainting it with realities; and we shall find, that they hold Salt to be the principle of solidity, and the genuine cause of coagulation, in all bodies; [as also of stonification:]  For, say they, if you consult experience, all those things that are compact, or solid, do contain Salt; and where there is no Salt, there can be no hardness....

For, it is manifest, that the Salts of Vegetables, as Crystals of Tartar, &c. also Nitre, Allom, Vitriol, Salt Gemm, [and divers other of this Nature] do coagulate themselves, not only into hard, but even brittle bodies, in the bosome of the water; and to this end they alleadge, that if the Salt be washed from ashes, no heat of fire will make them hard; but if the Salt be left in them, [and they be mixt with a little water] the fire will not only quickly make them become hard; but if they be strongly press'd with it, turn them into Glass.

The Learned Kircherus {German naturalist and scholar, Anathasius Kircher (1602-1680)} is also of the same opinion with the Chymists, [viz. that Salt is the cause of stonifying] and giveth us this experiment to confirm it....

If [saith he] you reduce any sort of stone into a most subtile powder, and mixing it throughly with water, you strain it through Hippocrates's bagg, therewill nothing of it remain that is stony; nor will it leave any thing of it behind, but a certain sandy sediment; but if you shall add to this, Nitre, or Tartar, perfectly dissolved in water, whatsoever body they shall touch, being placed in the same Dish, whether it be the twiggs of a Vine, or the like, after a little while being exposed to the Air, it will be turned into stone; or at least it will be covered with a stony Crust.  And though this opinion be held by Crollius, Hartman {German physician and chemist, Johannes Hartmann (1538-1631)}, Quercetanus {French physician and chemist, Joseph du Chesne (1546-1609)}, Severinus {Danish physician and chemist, Peder Sorensen (c.1542-1602)}, and Sennertus, [who are but Neoterick, or late Writers] yet is it no new opinion, but hath been asserted by the venerable Ancients, as long agoe as the time of Hermes Tresmegistus {legendary ancient author reputed to have written thousands of works containing intimate secrets of the workings of Nature}, [who is said to have lived in the Age of Joshua] who in his Smaragdine Tables [as they are called] hath left us these words....  'Tis from Salt that Bodies are produced in the World; it causeth Coagulation, and Solidity: for Salt is the Body, Mercury the Spirit, and Sulphur the Soul.

This Doctrine, though much more rational than the former, and seeming to be confirmed by experiment, and to be verified by the account our senses give us of it, cannot yet gain my full assent to it, so far as to allow Salt to be the Primary, either Matter, or Efficient of Solidity in bodies, or the cause from whence stones are produced.  For it is observable, that Salts are reducible into Liquors, [and do seem to lose their solidity] either by being mixed with water, or exposed to the Air, in which many of them run per deliquium.

But, to let this pass; what Salt can be supposed to be communicated to Quick-silver, when it is coagulated by the fumes of melted Lead, by which it becomes so solid, that it may be cast into Moulds, and Images formed of it; and when cold, is not only hard, but somewhat brittle, like Regulus of Antimony?  What access of Salt can be fancied is added to the white of an Egg, [from whence the whole Chick is formed] which is a Liquor so near water, that by beating it with a whisk it is reduced into so fluid a substance, that it will easily mix with water, and is hardly distinguishable from it?  And yet this white of the Egg, by the assistance of a gentle heat, to stir up its seminal Principle, and enable it to turn, and new shuffle the parts of that liquid substance, [by the means of which motion divers of its parts are broken into shapes and sizes fit to adhere one to another] is all of it turned into solid bodies, some of them very tough, as the Membranes, and Nerves; and some of them hard and brittle, as the Beak, Bones, Claws, &c. [of the Chick;] and all this without any new addition of salt.

'Tis likewise remarkable, that very credible witnesses assure us, that Corral [though it grow in salt water, at the bottom of the Sea] is yet, whilst it remains there, soft, like other Plants; [and juicy also:]  neither will the example of Kircherus, alleadged above, avail much; since it is commonly known, that the powder of Plaster of Paris, or burnt Alabaster, if it be mixed with water, without any sort of salt, will coagulate into an entire stony lump, or Mass.

I do not deny but that salt may very much conduce towards the coagulation of some bodies, as we see in the curdling of Milk with Runnet, Spirit of salt, Oyl of Vitriol, juice of Limmons, and the like; but then this happens but to some bodies, and is caused from the shape and motion of its small parts, which entring the pores of some bodies that are naturally fitted to be wrought upon by it, it fills up many of the cavities of such bodies; and also affixing it self to the particles of them, it causeth them, not only to stick to it self, but also adhere closely one to another.

I say, salts do this to some bodies [not to all,] for to some other bodies, instead of being an Instrument, either to cause, or confirm their solidity, it by dissociating the parts, of which they consist, and putting them into motion, doth reduce them into the appearance of Liquor; as we see in the action of corrosive saline spirits, both upon Metals, and stones.

Now, for that Argument, that salts do shoot even in the water into hard, and brittle Crystals, if I should say they do so upon the account of a seminal Principle, I should not, perhaps, be thought to have much mistaken the cause, by those that have well consider'd the curious and regular Figures [yet constantly distinct from each other,] which their Crystals shoot into:  which certainly cannot proceed from chance; for they do as constantly keep their own figure [as for Example, that of Nitre alwayes appears in a Sexangular form, that of Seasalt in a Cubical:]  As Wheat produceth Wheat, and the seed of a Man, a Man.

Philosophers hold, there are two sorts of Agents; one they stile ... the principal cause, or Agent; from which immediately, and primarily, the Action depends, and by whose power the thing is made; and this [as we shall prove in its due place] is an Architectonick stonifying Spirit, or Petrifick seed.  The other cause they call ... the Adjuvant, or assisting cause, [of which sort there are many] by which the principal Agent may be furthered in its acting upon matter; of which last sort of causes [of the solidity in Bodies, viz. the Helping, or Assistant] we will not deny but that salt may be one, as being such a prævious disposition of the parts of Matter, as renders them more apt to be wrought upon by the first kind of Agent, viz. the Seed.  So that in some sence we may [for the reasons above alleadg'd] allow the Chymist to think salt is ... The Proximate matter, and Adjuvant cause of Solidity.

But since not only salt, but the whole ... Three first Principles of the Chymists, as also the ... four Elements of the Peripateticks, are justly enough denyed to be the first Elements, or constitutive Principles of all Bodies, [they themselves being further resolvable into more simple parts, as we shall prove by and by,] I say, since it is so, I must be excused, if denying my suffrage to both their Doctrines, [in that large sence they propose it in:]  I offer to render other causes, by which not only solidity, but Petrification also may be introduced into Matter.


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