|Great Principle of all we see,|
Thou endless Continuity!
By thee are all our angles gently rounded,
Our misfits are by thee adjusted,
And as I still in thee have trusted,
So let my methods never be confounded!
O never may direct Creation
Breach in upon my contemplation,
Still may the causal chain ascending,
Appear unbroken and unending,
And where the chain is best to sight
Let viewless fancies guide my darkling flight
Through aeon-haunted worlds, in order infinite.
|The third stanza of Scottish physicist James Maxwell's last dying poem, which references Scottish physicist Peter Tait and Balfour Stewart's 1875 principle of continuity, which he was wrestling with at the time, summarizing his views on life and death in the context of the modern physical science. |
“Physical science treats of matter, and what I shall to-night term its affections; namely, attraction, motion, heat, light, electricity, magnetism, chemical-affinity. When these re-act upon matter, they constitute forces. The present tendency of theory seems to lead to the opinion that all these affections are resolvable into one, namely, motion: however, should the theories on these subjects be ultimately so effectually generalized as to become laws, they cannot avoid the necessity for retaining different names for these different affections; or, as they would then be called, different modes of motion. Each force is definitely and equivalently convertible into any other and that where experiment does not give the full equivalent, it is because the initial force has been dissipated, not lost, by conversion into other unrecognized forces. The equivalent is the limit never practically reached.”