Whiston, William.

A NEW THEORY OF THE EARTH, From its Original to the Consummation of All Things. Wherein The Creation of the World in Six Days, the Universal Deluge, And the General Conflagration, As laid down in the Holy Scriptures, Are shewn to be perfectly agreeable to Reason and Philosophy. With a large Introduction concerning the genuine Nature, Style, and Extent of the Mosaick History of the Creation.

Published: J. Whiston and B. White

Date: 1755

6th Ed., To which is added, An Appendix, containing a new Theory of the Deluge.’ [iv] + 94pp. + [ii] + 478pp. + [ii] advert. leaf. 10 plates. Light browning, flyleaf partially detached, marbled e.ps., ex.-libris T.N. Metham, contemporary double gilt rule edged calf, some discolouring and wear with sm. repair to upper board, gilt ruling with gilt lettered title label to spine with sl. loss to head and tail.

ESTC. T98873. ODNB ‘... Whiston's swift conversion to Newton's natural philosophy soon bore fruit in his first publication, [the above first published] (1696). He had shown this millenarian cosmogony in manuscript to Richard Bentley (1662–1742), Christopher Wren (1632–1723), and Newton himself, whom Whiston claims ‘well approved of it’ (Whiston, Memoirs, 43) and to whom the book was dedicated. Whiston's New Theory applied the physics of Newton and the geology of John Woodward (d. 1728) to demonstrate that the scriptural accounts of creation, the flood, and the final conflagration were ‘perfectly agreeable to Reason and Phylosophy’ (ibid.). He also sought to correct Thomas Burnet's Cartesian and deistically tinged Sacred Theory of the Earth (1681, 1684), which Whiston had defended for his BA degree. Whiston prefaced his earth theory with an essay on the style of Genesis and, like Newton, argued for a more literal hermeneutic. He drew from Newton's work on comets, and posited that the planetary system had solidified from comets attracted by the sun's gravitation. He used a catastrophist cometography to explain the flood, suggesting that the near approach of a divinely guided comet had initiated the diurnal rotation of the earth, transformed its orbit from circular to elliptical, and caused the deluge through the condensation of vapours from the comet's tail. He also identified stratified sedimentary rock and marine fossils found in continental areas as vestiges of the flood. The New Theory proved popular and after the initial run of 1500 copies went through five further editions (1708–55), was translated into German (1713), epitomized in French (1718), and summarized by the comte de Buffon (1707–1788) in 1749. The latter wrote ostensibly to refute the New Theory, but was nevertheless indebted to some of Whiston's ideas, as were other earth theorists. Praised by John Locke (1632–1704) for its novel hypotheses, the New Theory was the first full-length popularization of Newtonianism and the most direct cause of Whiston's meteoric rise ...’


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