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The Destinies of the Stars

The Destinies of the Stars
Title: The Destinies of the Stars
Release Date: 2018-11-02
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Date added: 27 March 2019
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Destinies of the Stars

Svante Arrhenius, Ph.D.
President, Nobel Institute, Stockholm, Sweden
(Recipient of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, 1903)

Authorized Translation from the Swedish
J. E. Fries
Fellow A.I.E.E.


G. P. Putnam’s Sons
New York and London
The Knickerbocker Press

Copyright, 1918

The Knickerbocker Press, New York



When Dr. Svante Arrhenius in the year1903 received the Nobel Prize in Chemistryit came as a fitting reward of his achievementsprincipally in the electro-chemical field. Itwas natural, however, that a genius of hiscalibre would not limit his interest to the“infinitely small” but would gradually broadenit to encompass the “infinitely large.”And “to take an interest” means with Dr.Arrhenius to push the boundaries of theunknown and of the unexplored a little fartheraway from man. His evolution in thisrespect runs parallel with that of all the greatmen who stand out as leaders in the history ofscience. Wrapt up in the solution of a particularproblem and fired with the divineyearning to reach ultimate causes they areinevitably driven to ever widening circles ofresearch until this whole material universe,ivits whence and whither, becomes the overpoweringpassion of their spirits. Thus themere titles of the works of Dr. Arrhenius,read in the sequence of their publication,give us, better than any biography, the historyof a soul, which, no matter what hisunprofessed philosophical faith may be, constitutesour strongest evidence in favour ofthat theory of “purposiveness” in the universewhich Dr. Arrhenius so heartily abhors (andjustly so) when resorted to in natural science,but which theory nevertheless (and justly so)is so dear to the philosopher:—Researches inRegard to the Conductivity of Electrolytes;Conductivity of Extremely Diluted Solutions;Chemical Theory of Electrolytes; Textbook inTheoretical Electro-Chemistry; Textbook in CosmologicalPhysics; Worlds in the Making;Infinity of the Universe; Life of the Universe asConceived by Man from Earliest Ages to thePresent Time;—thus run the titles of a few ofthe works we already have by Dr. Arrhenius’hand. How were it possible for him NOTto write The Destinies of the Stars? Thevvolume came as inevitably as fruition followsflowering. What remains to be seen is ifDr. Arrhenius can withstand the tremendoustemptation that must be at work in his soulto lift, be it ever so little, the curtain thatseparates natural science and philosophy;we hope he will give in; we admire in thisbook how he reads “The Riddle of the MilkyWay”; we certainly wish to know how hereads—the riddle of the universe.

The Destinies of the Stars met with unexampledsuccess in Sweden. Three editionsappeared within two months when the bookwas published in November, 1915. TheAmerican version has been somewhat delayedprincipally due to war conditions.This, however, has not been wholly a loss tothe English-speaking world as Dr. Arrheniusby no means has been idle in the meantime.Considerable additional subject matter, includingthree new pictures, has been added,chiefly based on the most recent astronomicaldiscoveries some of which have been recordedas late as 1917.

viFor valuable suggestions and for all theAmerican equivalents of the metric measuresin the original, the reader as well as the translator,is indebted to a member of the PublishingHouse that presents this volume insuch an attractive way, Mr. E. W. Putnam,himself an ardent lover of astronomy and awriter on the subject.

Dr. Arrhenius is justly renowned for hislucid style and polished form. All that islacking in these qualities within the covers ofthis volume is wholly due to the deficiencies ofthe translator, who however could not resistthe temptation of transferring to Anglo-Saxonsoil this monument to the genius of hisformer teacher, Dr. Svante Arrhenius.

J. E. Fries.

Birmingham, Ala., December 15, 1917.



Since I presented Worlds in the Making andLife of the Universe as Conceived by Man fromEarliest Ages to the Present Time to the public—whichreceived them with far greater interestand appreciation than I could foresee—Ihave had repeated occasions to treat newquestions of a cosmological nature, questionslargely arisen from new discoveries andobservations within the scope of astronomy.Vast new vistas have been opened throughthe study of the relation of the stars to the“Milky Way” and through observations ofour neighbour planets. The last mentionedgive plain indications of the course of planetaryevolution and thus enable us to surmisethe changing fate and future position of theEarth. In an earlier German publication,Das Schicksal der Planeten (1911), I dealtwith some of these problems. As, further,viiithe evolution of the solar system from theMilky Way nebula, to which I have devotedseveral lectures at home and abroad, may beconsidered as the pre-history of the evolutionof the planets, I have given this collectionof cosmogenic articles the common title TheDestinies of the Stars. I offer as introductiona lecture delivered before the Fourth InternationalPhilosophical Congress in Bologna,1911, dealing with the “Origin of Star-Worship.”

Hoping that this little book will, to aconsiderable extent, fill the gaps in myprevious works, I present these treatises inremodelled form.

Svante Arrhenius.

November, 1915.



Origin of Star-Worship 1
Position and practical value of astronomy. Worship of stars. Chronology. The Australian negro’s conception of the stars. Day and night, summer and winter. Solar year. Sun-worship. Changing phases of the moon in chronology. The Mexican “Tonalamatl.” Moon-worship in Mesopotamia. Significance of the moon in astrology. The sun and the heat. Agriculture’s demand on chronology. Worship of the planet Venus by the Mexicans and the Babylonians. The Church Calendar. The Zodiac. The seven planets. The week. Correspondence and sympathetic magic. The Platonic-Aristotelian philosophy. Astrology and alchemy. Tycho Brahe. Occult sciences. Aristarchos from Samos. Kopernicus. The progress of Astronomy.
The Mystery of the Milky Way 41
Primitive conceptions of the Milky Way. Anaxagoras and Demokritos. Ptolemaios. Galilei. Cosmogenic speculations. Wm. Herschel’s statistical researches regarding the distribution of the stars. The Milky Way as the foundation of the stellar system. The Milky Way as a nebula. Classification according to age of thex stars, their distribution and velocity. Motion in the Orion nebula. The planetary nebulæ. Kapteyn’s “star-drifts.” The origin of the Milky Way. Comparison between the Milky Way and a spiral nebula in “The Dogs of Orion.” A few details from the Milky Way. The infinitely great and the infinitely small. The magnitude and destiny of the Milky Way.
The Climatic Importance of Water Vapour 84
The four elements of Aristotle. Humid-warm climates. The Congo and Amazon basins. The carboniferous age. The effect of cloudiness. Desert climate. Steppes. “Kevirs” and “Bayirs.” Sand dunes. The great Kevir. Climatic changes. Khanikoff’s description. Salt lakes. Deposits of salt through evaporation. Huntington about the arefaction of the earth. Humid period during the ice-age. Climatic changes during historic time. Africa, Asia, Greece, Italy, Sicily. West-Europe’s climate has grown more marine. Present conditions.
Atmosphere and Physics of the Stellar Bodies 119
Outer envelope of the stars. The large planets. Spectra. Mars, Earth, Venus, Mercury. Atmosphere impossible on the moon. The light from the Earth. The atmosphere of Mercury.xi The atmosphere of Venus and its Clouds. Composition of air and its change with height. Forced circulation. Troposphere and Stratosphere. Hydrogen in the highest strata of the atmosphere. Water vapour and carbonic acid in the air. “Geokoronium.” Influence of gravity on composition of the atmosphere. The air on Venus and Mars.
The Chemistry of the Atmosphere 155
Inhabited Worlds. Kinship of the stellar bodies. Presence of life. Importance of water and carbon. Importance of temperature. All life evolved from existence in water. Necessity of oxygen. Bacteria. Reducing substances preponderable in the World-matter. Volcanic gases and gases in solidified lava. Water, vapour, carbon dioxide, nitrogen gas, and sulphurous acid. Permanent gases and hydrogen. The poisonous character of the original air. Its purification. The importance of plant life and necessity of a solid crust in this process. Supply of carbonic dioxide and production of oxygen. The work of Koene. Silica. Cooling of the Earth and changing surface temperature. The ice-periods. Centres of collapse and lines of fissure in the crust. General survey of the gradual change of the air.
The Planet Mars 180
The controversy about the habitableness of Mars. Humidity on Mars. Early observations. Thexii spectra of Mars and of the Moon compared. Investigations by Campbell and Marchand. The work of Lowell. Measurements by Slipher. Calculations by Very. The temperature on Mars according to these sources. Campbell’s expedition to Mount Whitney in California. Oxygen on Mars. The cold on Mars detrimental to anything but the lowest forms of life. Cause of different results by Slipher and Campbell. Very’s answer to Campbell’s criticism. New measurements by Slipher. Campbell’s new method of measurement of 1910. Christiansen calculates the temperature on Mars from intensity of the Sun’s radiation. The sun-constant. Average temperature of Mars about forty degrees Centigrade. Possibly low plant life around the poles during summer. The canals on Mars are probably fissures in the crust. The length of the canals compared with that of the fissures in Earth’s crust. The double canals on Mars compared with the parallel fissures in Calabria. Emanations along the fissures. The canals as affected by increasing cold or heat. The polar snow. Thawing of the canals. Travel of the water vapour independent of the topography. The desert sand on Mars. Clouds and mists. Highlands and mountains on Mars. Sand filling of the canals. The seas on Mars. The straightness and uniform breadth of the canals an illusion. Light and dark spots. “New” canals. The fancies of Lowell.
Mercury, the Moon, and Venus 228
Fissures on Mercury. Lowell’s drawing. Centres of collapse. Absence of atmosphere. The climate on the Moon. W. Pickering’s belief in frost formations on the Moon. The mountains on the Moon. Volcanoes. Circular elevated rings. “Seas” on the Moon. The Crater “Linné.” “Sinuses” and “Streaks” on the Moon. The light matter of the streaks probably lava-scum. The colour of the Moon and of the Earth. Comparison between the Moon and Mars. Changes on the Moon. “Snow” and “Vegetation” on the Moon according to W. Pickering. The fate of Mars and of the Earth. Falling meteoric dust. The climate on Venus. Swamps like those of the carboniferous age. Abundant vegetation. Low organisms. “Culture” on Venus will proceed from the poles. The future of Venus. The claims of astrology in modern light. Tycho Brahe. The dreams of Giordano Bruno probably true.



Fig.  1.—The Milky Way 46
Photo by Easton.
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