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Title: Remarks Concerning Stones Said to Have Fallen from the Clouds, Both in These Days, and in Antient Times
Author: King, Edward, 1735?-1807
Language: English
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    Res ubi plurimum proficere, et valere possunt, collocari debent.
                                                      Cicero de Orat. 37.


[Illustration: F.1.  F.3.  F.2.]

  _An Attempt to account for the Production of a Shower of Stones,
  that fell in Tuscany, on the 16th of June, 1794; and to shew that
  there are Traces of similar Events having taken place, in the
  highest Ages of Antiquity. In the course of which Detail is also
  inserted, an Account of an extraordinary Hail-stone, that fell, with
  many others, in Cornwall, on the 20th of October, 1791._

Having received this last winter, from Sir Charles Blagden, some very
curious _manuscript_ accounts, concerning a surprising shower of stones;
which is said, on the testimony of several persons, to have fallen in
Tuscany, on the 16th of June, 1794;--and having also perused, with much
attention, a very interesting pamphlet, written in Italian, by _Abbate
Ambrose Soldani_, Professor of mathematics, in the University of Siena,
containing an extraordinary and full detail of such facts as could be
collected relating to this shower; the whole has appeared to me to
afford such an ample field for philosophical contemplation, and also for
the illustration of antient historic facts; that (leaving the whole to
rest upon such testimony as the learned Professor has already collected
together; and to be supported by such further corroboration, as I am
informed is likely _soon_ to arrive in England,) I cannot but think it
doing some service to the cause of literature, and science, to give to
the world, in the earliest instance, a short abridgement of the
substance of the whole of the information; expressed in the most concise
and plainest language, in which it is possible for me to convey a full
and exact idea of the phænomenon.

It may be of some use, and afford satisfaction to several curious
persons, to find the whole here compressed in so small a compass.

And, as I shall add my own conclusions without reserve; because the
whole of the phænomenon tends greatly to confirm some ideas which I had
previously been led to form, many years ago, concerning the
consolidation of certain species of stone; it may open a door for
further curious investigation.

And it may at least amuse, if not instruct; whilst I add a short detail
of uncommon facts, recorded in antient history, and tending to shew
clearly, that we are not without precedents of _similar events_ having
happened, in the early ages of antiquity.

On the 16th of June, 1794, a tremendous cloud was seen in Tuscany, near
Siena, and Radacofani; coming from the north, about seven o'clock in the
evening;--sending forth sparks, like rockets;--throwing out smoke like a
furnace;--rendering violent explosions, and blasts, more like those of
cannon, and of numerous muskets, than like thunder;--and casting down to
the ground hot stones:--whilst the lightning that issued from the cloud
was remarkably red; and moved with _less_ velocity than usual.

The cloud appeared of different shapes; to persons in different
situations; and remained suspended a long time: but every where was
plainly seen to be burning, and smoking like a furnace.

And its original height, from a variety of circumstances put together,
seems to have been much above the common region of the clouds.

The testimony, concerning the falling of the stones from it, appears to
be almost unquestionable:--and is, evidently, from different persons,
who had no communication with each other.

For first; the fall of four stones is precisely ascertained: one of
which was of an irregular figure, with a point like that of a
diamond;--weighed five pounds and an half;--and had a vitriolic
smell.--And another weighed three pounds and an half;--was black on the
outside, as if from smoke;--and, internally, seemed composed of matter
of the colour of ashes;--in which were perceived small spots of metals,
of gold and silver.

And, besides these, Professor Soldani of Siena, was shewn about fifteen
others: the surfaces of which were glazed black, like a sort of
varnish;--resisted acids;--and were too hard to be scratched with the
point of a penknife.

Signior _Andrew Montauli_, who saw the cloud, as he was travelling,
described it as appearing much above the common region of the clouds;
and as being clearly discerned to be on fire;--and becoming white, by
degrees; not only where it had a communication, by a sort of stream of
smoke and lightning, with a neighbouring similar cloud: but also, at
last, in two-third parts of its whole mass, which was originally black.
And yet he took notice, that it was not affected by the rays of the sun,
though they shone full on its lower parts.--And he could discern as it
were the bason of a fiery furnace, in the cloud, having a whirling

This curious observer gives an account also, of a stone, which he was
assured fell from the cloud, at the feet of a farmer; and was dug out of
the ground, into which it had penetrated.--And he says, that it was
about five inches long, and four broad; nearly square; and polished:
black on the surface, as if smoked; but within, like a sort of
sand-stone, with various small particles of iron, and bright metallic

Other stones are described by him; which were said to have fallen at the
same time: were triangular; and terminated in a sort of (pyramidal) or
conical figure.--And others were so small as to weigh not more than an

Professor Soldani saw another stone, said to have fallen from the cloud,
which had the figure of a parallelopiped, blunted at the angles; and was
as it were varnished, on the outside, with a black crust; and quite
unlike any stones whatever of the soil of the country where it had

Two ladies being at _Cozone_, about 20 miles from _Siena_, saw a number
of stones fall, with a great noise, in a neighbouring meadow: one of
which, being soon after taken up by a young woman, burnt her hand:
another burnt a countryman's hat: and a third was said to strike off the
branch of a mulberry tree; and to cause the tree to wither.

Another stone, of about two ounces weight, fell near a girl watching
sheep; a young person, whose veracity it is said could not be
doubted.--This stone, the Professor tells us, is also a parallelopiped,
with the angles rounded; and its internal substance is like that of the
others; only with more metallic spots; especially when viewed with a
magnifying glass: and the black external crust appears to be minutely

Many others, of a similar kind, were in the possession of different
persons at Siena.

And besides the falling of these from the cloud, there is described to
have been a fall of sand; seen by keepers of cattle near _Cozone_,
together with the falling of what appeared like squibs; and which proved
afterwards to be stones, of the sort just described, weighing two or
three ounces:--and some only a quarter of an ounce.

Amongst other stones that fell; was one weighing two pounds, and two
ounces; which was also an oblong parallelopiped, with blunted angles,
(as they are called, but which I think meant plainly prismatical
terminations, and are said to have been about an inch in height;) and
this was most remarkable for having, a small circle, or sort of belt
round it, in one part; wherein the black crust appeared more smooth; and
shining like glass; as if that part had suffered a greater degree of
heat than the rest.

Another, also, was no less remarkable, for having many rounded cavities
on its surface: as if the stone had been struck with small balls, whilst
it was forming; and before it was hardened; which left their
impressions.--And some appearances, of the same kind, were found on one
of the four surfaces of another stone, in the possession of Soldani.

On minute examination, the Professor found the stones were composed of
blackish _crystals_, of different kinds; with metallic or pyritical
spots, all united together by a kind of consolidated ashes.--And, on
polishing them, they appeared to have a ground of a dark ash colour;
intermixed with cubical blackish crystals, and shining pyritical specks,
of a silver and gold colour.

The conclusion which Professor Soldani evidently forms, is; _that the
stones were generated in the air, by a combination of mineral
substances, which had risen somewhere or other_, AS EXHALATIONS, _from
the earth_: but, as he seems to think, _not from_ Vesuvius.

The names of many persons, besides those already referred to, are
mentioned; who were eye witnesses to the fall of the stones. And several
_depositions_ were made, _in a regular juridical manner_, to ascertain
the truth of the facts.

The space of ground, within which the stones fell, was from three to
four miles.

The falling of them, was _the very day after_ the great eruption of

And the distance of the place, from Vesuvius, could not be less than two
hundred miles, and seems to have been more.

Vesuvius is situated _to the south_ of the spot: and the cloud came
_from the north_; about thirteen, or at most eighteen hours, after the

Now, putting all these circumstances together, I cannot but venture to
form a conclusion, somewhat different from Professor Soldani's; though
perfectly agreeing with his general principles.

From a course of observations, and inquiries, which I have been led to
pursue, for a great many years: tending to elucidate the history of
extraneous fossils, and of the deluge; I have long been convinced, that
stones in general, and strata of rocks, of all kinds, have been formed
by _two_ very different operations of those elements, which the wisdom,
and omnipotent hand of God, has ordained, and created.

The one, by means of fire:--and the other, by means of water.

And, of each sort, there are two subdivisions.

Of the stones, and rocks, formed by fire;--there are some, (besides
lavas,) whose component parts, having been previously fused, and in a
melted state, did merely cool, and harden _gradually_.

And there are others; whose component parts, having been fused, and in a
melted state, and having so become completely liquid; did instantly, by
the operation of the powers of _attraction_, become crystallized.

And, in like manner; of stones, and of strata of rocks, formed by means
of water;--there are some, which having had their component parts
brought together, in a fluid state; did then merely become gradually
settled; and by the power of attraction, and the mixture of crystalline
particles, were hardened by degrees.

And there are others: which, having had their component parts, in like
manner, brought together by water, did yet, on account of the peculiar
nature, and more powerful _attraction_ of those parts, _instantly_

And both of stones, and of strata of rocks, formed by fire; and of
stones, and of strata of rocks formed by means of water; there are some
such, as have been slowly consolidated by the first kind of operation;
namely by the gradual cooling or settling of the substances; which yet
do contain imbedded in them, crystals formed by the latter kind of

Instances of which, we seem to have, in some granites, on the one
hand;--and in some sorts of limestones on the other.

To this I must add also; that there appear further, to have been some
stones formed _by a sort of precipitation_: much in the same manner as
_Grew_ describes[A] the kernels, and stones of fruit to have been

And I have met with many instances, wherein it appears unquestionably,
that all these kind of processes in nature are going on continually: and
that extraneous substances are actually inclosed, and _continually
inclosing_, which could not be _antediluvian_; but must have been

To these short premises, I must beg leave to add; that in two papers
formerly printed in the Philosophical Transactions,[B] I endeavoured, by
some very remarkable instances, to prove, that iron, wherever it comes
into combination with any substances that are tending to consolidation,
_hastens the process exceedingly_;--and also renders the hardness of the
body much greater.

And I have also endeavoured, elsewhere,[C] to shew, in consequence of
conclusions deduced from experiments of the most unquestionable
authority, that _air_, in its various shapes and modifications, is
indeed _itself_ the great consolidating fluid, out of which solid bodies
are composed; and by means of which the various attractions take place,
which form all the hard bodies, and visible substances upon earth.

From all these premises then, it was impossible for me not to be led to
conclude; that we have, in this august phænomenon of the fall of stones
from the clouds, in Tuscany, an obvious proof, as it were before our
eyes, of the combined operation of those very powers, and processes, to
which I have been alluding.

It is well known; that pyrites, which are composed of iron, and
sulphur, and other adventitious matter, when laid in heaps, and
moistened, will take fire.

It is also well known, that a mixture of pyrites of almost any kind,
beaten small, and mixed with iron filings and water, when buried in the
ground will take fire; and produce a sort of artificial volcano. And,
surely then, wherever a vast quantity of such kind of matter should at
any time become mixed together, as flying dust, or ashes; and be by any
means condensed together, or compressed, the same effect might be
produced, even in the atmosphere and air.

Instead, therefore, of having recourse to the supposition, of the cloud
in Tuscany having been produced by any other kind of exhalations from
the earth; we may venture to believe, that an immense cloud of ashes,
mixed with pyritical dust, and with numerous particles of iron, having
been projected from Vesuvius to a most prodigious height, became
afterwards condensed in its descent;--took fire, both of itself, as well
as by means of the electric fluid it contained;--produced many
explosions;--melted the pyritical, and metallic, and argillaceous
particles, of which the ashes were composed;--and, by this means, had a
sudden crystallization, and consolidation of those particles taken
place, which formed the stones of various sizes, that fell to the
ground: _but did not harden the clayey ashes so rapidly as the metallic
particles crystallized_; and, therefore, gave an opportunity for
_impressions to be made_ on the surfaces of some of the stones, as they
fell, by means of the impinging of the others.

Nor does it appear to me, to be any solid objection to this conclusion,
either that Vesuvius was so far distant; or that the cloud came from the

For, if we examine Sir William Hamilton's account of the very eruption
in question,[D] we shall find, that he had reason to conclude, that the
_pine-like_ cloud of ashes projected from Vesuvius, at one part of the
time during this eruption, was twenty-five or thirty miles in height;
and, if to this conclusion we add, not only that some ashes actually
were carried to a greater distance than _two hundred miles_;[E] but
that, when any substance is at a vast height in the atmosphere, a very
small variation of the direction of its course, causes a most prodigious
variation in the extent of the range of ground where it shall fall;
(just as the least variation in the angle, at the vertex of an
_isosceles_ triangle, causes a very great alteration in the extent of
its base;) we may easily perceive, not only the possibility, but the
probability, that the ashes in question, projected to so vast an height,
were first carried even beyond _Siena_ in Tuscany, northward; and then
brought back, by a contrary current of wind, in the direction in which
they fell.

Sir William Hamilton himself formed somewhat this sort of conclusion, on
receiving the first intimation of this shower of stones from the Earl of

I cannot therefore but allow my own conclusion to carry conviction with
it to my own mind; and to send it forth into the world; as a ground, at
least, for speculation, and reflection, to the minds of others.

That ashes, and sand, and pyritical and sulphureous dust, mixed with
metallic particles from volcanoes; fit for the instantaneous
crystallization, and consolidation of such bodies as we have been
describing, are often actually floating in the atmosphere, at incredible
distances from volcanoes, and more frequently than the world are at all
aware of, is manifest from several well attested facts.

On the 26th of December, 1631, Captain _Badily_, being in the Gulph of
Volo, in the Archipelago, riding at anchor, about ten o'clock at night,
it began to rain _sand_ and _ashes_; and continued to do so till two
o'clock the next morning. The ashes lay about two inches thick on the
deck: so that they cast them overboard just as they had done snow the
day before. There was no wind stirring, when the ashes fell: and yet
this extraordinary shower was not confined merely to the place where
_Badily's_ ship was;[G] but, as it appeared afterwards, was extended so
widely to other parts, that ships coming from _St. John d'Acre_ to that
port, being at the distance of _one hundred leagues_ from thence, were
covered with the same sort of ashes. And no possible account could be
given of them, except that they might come from Vesuvius.

On the 23d of October, 1755, a ship belonging to a merchant of Leith,
bound for Charles Town, in Carolina, being betwixt Shetland and Iceland,
and about twenty-five leagues distant from the former, and therefore
about three hundred miles from the latter, a shower of dust fell in the
night upon the decks.[H]

In October, 1762, at _Detroit_, in America, was a most surprising
darkness, from day-break till four in the afternoon, during which time
some rain falling, brought down, with the drops, sulphur and dirt;
which rendered white paper black, and when burned fizzed like wet
gunpowder:[I] and whence such matter could originally be brought,
appeared to be past all conjecture, unless it came so far off as from
the volcano in Guadaloupe.

Condamine says, the ashes of the volcano of _Sangay_, in South America,
sometimes pass over the provinces of Maca, and Quito; and are even
carried as far as Guayaquil.[J]

And Hooke says,[K] that on occasion of a great explosion from a volcano,
in the island of Ternata, in the East Indies, there followed so great a
darkness, that the inhabitants could not see each other the next day:
and he justly leads us to infer what an immense quantity of ashes must,
by this means, have been showered down somewhere on the sea; because at
_Mindanao_, an hundred miles off, all the land was covered with ashes a
foot thick.

And now, I must add; that such kind of _falling of stones from the
clouds_, as has been described to have happened in Tuscany, seems to
have happened also in very remote ages, of which we are not without
sufficient testimony; and such as well deserves to be allowed and
considered, on the present occasion; although the knowledge of the facts
was, at first, in days of ignorance and gross darkness, soon perverted
to the very worst purposes.

In the Acts of the holy Apostles, we read, that the chief magistrate, at
_Ephesus_, begun his harangue to the people, by saying, "Ye men of
Ephesus, _what man is there that knoweth not how that the City of the
Ephesians is a worshipper of the great goddess Diana, and of the_ IMAGE
_which fell down from Jupiter_?" (or rather, as the original Greek has
it) "_of_ THAT _which fell down from Jupiter_?" And the learned
_Greaves_ leads us to conclude this image of Diana to have been nothing
but _a conical, or pyramidal stone_, that fell from the clouds. For he
tells us,[L] on unquestionable authorities, that many others of the
images of heathen deities were merely such.

Herodian expressly declares,[M] that the Phoenicians had no statue of
the sun, polished by hand, to express an image; but only had a certain
_great stone, circular below, and ending with a sharpness above, in the
figure of a cone, of black colour. And they report it to have fallen
from heaven, and to be the image of the sun_.

So Tacitus says,[N] that at Cyprus, _the image of Venus was not of human
shape; but a figure rising continually round, from a larger bottom to a
small top, in conical fashion_. And it is to be remarked, that _Maximus
Tyrius_ (who perhaps was a more accurate mathematician,) says, the stone
was _pyramidal_.

And in Corinth, we are told by _Pausanias_,[O] that the images both of
_Jupiter Melichius_, and of _Diana_, were made (if made at all by hand)
with little or no art. The former being represented by a pyramid, the
latter by a column.

_Clemens Alexandrinus_ was so well acquainted with these facts, that he
even concludes[P] the worship of such stones to have been the first, and
earliest idolatry, in the world.

It is hard to conceive how mankind should ever have been led to so
accursed an abomination, as the worship of stocks, and stones, at all:
but, as far as any thing so horrid is to be accounted for, there is no
way so likely of rendering a possible account; as that of concluding,
that some of these pyramidal stones, at least, like the image of
_Diana_, actually did fall, in the earliest ages, from the clouds; in
the same manner as these pyramidal stones fell, in 1794, in Tuscany.

_Plutarch_, it is well known, mentions[Q] a stone which formerly fell
from the clouds, in _Thrace_, and which _Anaxagoras_ fancied[R] to have
fallen from the sun.

And it is very remarkable, that the old writer, from whom Plutarch had
his account, described the cloud, from which this stone was said to
fall, in a manner (if we only make some allowance for a little
exaggeration in barbarous ages,) very similar to _Soldani's_ account of
the cloud in Tuscany.--It hovered about for a long time; seemed to throw
out splinters, which flew about, like wandering stars, before they fell;
and at last it cast down to the earth a stone of extraordinary size.

Pliny,[S] who tells us that not only the remembrance of this event, but
that the stone itself was preserved to his days, says, it was of a dark
burnt colour. And though he does indeed speak of it as being of an
extravagant weight and size, in which circumstance perhaps he was
misled: yet he mentions _another_ of a moderate size, which fell in
_Abydos_, and was become an object of idolatrous worship in that place;
as was still _another_, of the same sort, at _Potidæa_.

_Livy_, who like _Herodotus_, has been oftentimes censured as too
credulous, and as a relater of falsehoods, for preserving traditions of
_an extraordinary kind_; which, after all, in ages of more enlarged
information, have proved to have been founded in truth; describes[T] a
fall of stones to have happened on mount _Alba_, during the reign of
_Tullus Hostilius_, (that is about 652 years before the Christian æra),
in words that exactly convey an idea of just such a phænomenon, as this
which has so lately been observed in Tuscany.

He says, the senate were told, that _lapidibus pluisse_, it had rained
stones. And, when they doubted of the fact; and sent to inquire; they
were assured that stones had actually fallen; and had fallen just as
hail does, which is concreted in a storm.[U]

He mentions also shortly another shower of stones,[V] A. C. 202, and
still a third,[W] which must have happened about the year 194 before the
Christian æra.

Such are the records of antient history. And in Holy Writ also a
remembrance of similar events is preserved.

For when the royal Psalmist says,[X] "_The Lord also thundered out of
heaven, and the Highest gave his thunder: hail-stones_, AND COALS OF
FIRE,"--the latter expression, in consistency with common sense, and
conformably to the right meaning of language, cannot but allude to some
_such_ phænomenon as we have been describing. And especially, as in the
cautious translation of the seventy, a Greek word is used, which
decidedly means _real hard substances made red hot_; and not mere
appearances of fire or flame.

Whilst therefore, with the same sacred writer,[Y] we should be led to
consider all these powerful operations, as the works of God; _Who
casteth forth his ice like morsels_;[Z] and should be led to consider
"_fire and hail, snow and vapours, wind and storm as fulfilling his
word_;"[AA] we should also be led to perceive, that the objections to
Holy Writ, founded on a supposed _impossibility_ of the truth of what is
written in the book of _Joshua_,[BB] concerning the stones that fell
from heaven, on the army of the Canaanites; are only founded in
ignorance, and error.

And much more should we be led to do so; when, to these observations,
and testimonies, concerning showers of hot burning stones, is added the
consideration; that within the short period of our own lives, incredibly
large _real hail-stones_, formed of consolidated ice;--_of ice
consolidated in the atmosphere_, have fallen both in France, and in

In France, on the 13th of July in the year 1788;--of which it is well
known there has been a printed account: and concerning which it is said,
and has been confirmed, on good authority, that some of the stones
weighed three pounds: whilst others have been said to weigh even five

And in England, on the 20th of October, 1791, in Cornwall.

Of one of the hail-stones of this latter, minor storm, I have had an
opportunity of obtaining, by the favour of a friend, an exact model in
glass; whereof I now add an engraving.

This stone fell, with thousands of others of the same kind, near
_Menabilly_, the seat of _Philip Rashleigh_, Esq.; well known for his
science, and attention to whatever is curious; who having great copper
works, and many ingenious miners, and workmen, on his estate, and
directly under his eye; caused it to be instantly picked up: and having
then, himself, first traced both its top, and bottom, upon paper; and
having measured its thickness in every part, with a pair of compasses;
caused a very exact mould to be formed: and afterwards, in that mould,
had this model cast in glass: wherein, also, the appearances of the
imbedded, common, small, roundish hail-stones, are seen transparently;
just as they appeared in the great hail-stone itself originally.

Fig. 1, is a representation of the flat bottom of the stone.

Fig. 2, is a representation of the top of the stone.

And fig. 3, shews the whole solid appearance sideways.

Whilst Mr. Rashleigh was taking the measures, it melted so fast, that he
could not, in the end, take the _exact weight_, as he fully intended to
have done. But as this model in glass weighs exactly 1 ounce, 16
pennyweights, 23 grains, we may fairly conclude, that the hail-stone
itself weighed much above half an ounce.

For it is well known, that the specific gravity of common glass, of
which sort this model is made, is to that of water, as 2.620 to 1.000.
And the specific gravity of common water, is to ice, as 8 to 7.[CC]--And
computing according to this standard, I make the exact weight of the
hail-stone to have been 295 grains.

From the singular manner in which the small, prior, common hail-stones
appear to have been imbedded in this larger one, whilst they were
falling to the earth; there is reason to be convinced, that it was
formed in the atmosphere, by a sudden extraordinary congelation _almost
instantaneously_, out of rain suddenly condensed, which was mingled with
the common hail.

And it was very remarkable, that its dissolution, and melting, also, was
much more rapid than that of the common small white hail-stones: as was
the case, in like manner, with the other numerous large ones.

Perhaps it ought to be here added:--that on the 18th of May, in the year
1680, some hail-stones are recorded to have fallen in London, near
_Gresham college_, which were seen and examined by the celebrated _Dr.
Hooke_; and were some of them not less than two inches over, and others
three inches.

This which fell in Cornwall was only about one inch and three quarters
long; an inch, or in some parts an inch and a quarter broad; and between
half an inch, and three quarters of an inch thick. And its weight was
near an ounce.--How much more tremendous then were those others, that
have been described as having fallen in France?--the accounts of some of
them may very probably have been exaggerated: but the reality was
nevertheless as wonderful, surely, as any thing related concerning the
ages of antiquity.

A proneness to credulity is ever blameable. And it is very possible,
that sometimes, in a very wonderful narration, a jest may be intended to
be palmed upon the world, instead of any elucidation of truth.--But
facts, _positively affirmed_, should be hearkened to with patience: and,
at least, so far recorded, as to give an opportunity of verifying
whether similar events do afterwards happen; and of comparing such
events one with another.

To what has been said, therefore, concerning the fall of stones in
Tuscany, and concerning these strange showers of hail, in France, and in
England, it might perhaps too justly be deemed an unwarrantable
omission, on this occasion, not to mention the very strange fact that
is affirmed to have happened the last year, near _the Wold Cottage_ in

I leave the fact to rest on the support of the testimonies referred to
in the printed paper, which is in so many persons' hands; and that is
given to those who have the curiosity to examine the stone itself, now
exhibiting in London;--and shall only relate the substance of the
account shortly, as it is given to us.

In the afternoon of the 13th of December, 1795, near the Wold Cottage,
noises were heard in the air, by various persons, like the report of a
pistol; or of guns at a distance at sea; though there was neither any
thunder or lightning at the time:--two distinct concussions of the earth
were said to be perceived:--and an hissing noise, was also affirmed to
be heard by other persons, as of something passing through the air;--and
a labouring man plainly saw (as we are told) that something was so
passing; and beheld a stone, as it seemed, at last, (about ten yards, or
thirty feet, distant from the ground) descending, and striking into the
ground, which flew up all about him: and in falling, sparks of fire,
seemed to fly from it.

Afterwards he went to the place, in company with others; who had
witnessed part of the phænomena, and dug the stone up from the place,
where it was buried about twenty-one inches deep.

It smelt, (as it is said,) very strongly of sulphur, when it was dug up:
and was even warm, and smoked:--it was found to be thirty inches in
length, and twenty-eight and a half inches in breadth. And it weighed
fifty-six pounds.

Such is the account.--I affirm nothing.--Neither do I pretend either
absolutely to believe: or to disbelieve.--I have not an opportunity to
examine the whole of the evidence.--But it may be examined: and so I
leave it to be.

This, however, I will say: that _first_ I saw a fragment of this stone;
which had come into the hands of Sir Charles Blagden, from the Duke of
Leeds: and afterwards I saw the stone itself.--That it plainly had a
dark, black crust; with several concave impressions on the outside,
which must have been made before it was quite hardened; just like what
is related concerning the crusts of those stones that fell in
Italy.--That its substance was not _properly_ of a _granite kind_, as
described in the printed paper; but a sort of _grit stone_; composed
(somewhat like the stones said to have fallen in Italy) of sand and
ashes.--That it contained very many particles, obviously of the
appearance of gold, and silver, and iron; (or rather more truly of
_pyrites_).--That there were also several small rusty specks; probably
from decomposed pyrites;--and some striated marks;--that it does not
effervesce with acids;--and that, as far as I have ever seen, or known,
or have been able to obtain any information, no _such_ stone has ever
been found, before this time, in Yorkshire; or in any part of England.
Nor can I easily conceive that such a species of stone could be formed,
by art, to impose upon the public.

Whether, therefore, it might, or might not, possibly be the effect of
ashes flung out from _Heckla_, and wafted to England; like those flung
out from Vesuvius, and (as I am disposed to believe) wafted to Tuscany,
I have nothing to affirm.

I wish to be understood to preserve mere records, the full authority for
which, deserves to be investigated more and more.

Having, nevertheless, gone so far as to say thus much; I ought to add,
that the memorial of such sort of large stones having fallen from the
clouds is still preserved also in Germany.

For one is recorded to have fallen in _Alsace_, in the midst of a storm
of hail, November 29th, A. D. 1630;[DD] which is said to be preserved in
the great church of _Anxissem_: and to be like a large dark sort of
flint-stone; having its surface operated upon by fire: and to be of very
many pounds weight.

And another is said to be still preserved at Vienna.

This last is described by _Abbé Stutz_, Assistant in the Imperial
cabinet of curiosities at Vienna, in a book printed in German, at
_Leipsyc_, in 1790: entitled _Bergbaukimde_ (or _the Science of

After describing two other stones, said to have fallen from the clouds:
one in the _Eichstedt_ country in Germany; and another in the _Bechin_
circle, in Bohemia, in July, 1753; concerning the _real_ falling of
which he had expressed some doubts; he proceeds to describe the falling
of two, (whereof this was one,) not far from _Agram_, the capital of
_Croatia_, in Hungary; which caused him to change his opinion; and to
believe, that the falling of such stones from heaven, was very possible.

His words, fairly translated,[EE] in the beginning of his narrative,
are, "These accounts put me in mind of a mass of iron, weighing
seventy-one pounds, which was sent to the imperial collection of natural
curiosities: about the origin of which _many mouths have been distorted
with scoffing laughter_. If, in the _Eichstedt_ specimen, the effects of
fire appear _tolerably_ evident; they are, in this, not to be
mistaken.--Its surface is full of spherical impressions, like the mass
of iron, which the celebrated _Pallas_ found on the Jenisei river;
except that here the impressions are larger, and less deep; and it
wants both the yellow glass, which fills up the hollows of the
_Siberian_ iron; and the _sand stone_, which is found in the _Eichstedt_
specimen; the whole mass being solid, compact, and black, like hammered

And his words in the end of the narrative are,

"There is a great step from the disbelief of tales, to the finding out
the true cause of a phænomenon which appears wonderful to us. And
probably I should have committed the fault into which we so naturally
fall, respecting things we cannot explain; and have rather denied the
whole history, than have determined to believe any thing _so
incredible_; if various new writings, on electricity, and thunder, had
not fortunately, at that time come into my hands; concerning remarkable
experiments of reviving _metallic calces_ by the electric spark.
Lightning is an electrical stroke on a large scale.--If then the
reduction of iron can be obtained, by the discharge of an electrical
machine; why should not this be accomplished as well, and with much
greater effect by the very powerful discharge of the lightning of the

The substance of the account of the fall of stones, in Hungary, as given
by him, after the most accurate inquiries, is what I shall now add in
the following abridged detail; and it was verified by _Wolfgang
Kukulyewich, Spiritual vicar of Francis Baron Clobuschiczky, Bishop of
Agram_, who caused seven eye witnesses to be examined, concerning the
actual falling of these stones on the 26th of May, 1751;--which
witnesses were ready to testify all they affirmed, upon oath,--and one
of them was Mr. George Marsich, Curate, as we should call him, of the

According to their accounts; about six o'clock, in the afternoon of the
day just mentioned, there was seen towards the east, a kind of fiery
ball; which, after it had burst into two parts, with a great report,
exceeding that of a cannon, fell from the sky, in the form, and
appearance of _two chains_ entangled in one another:--and also with a
loud noise, as of a great number of carriages rolled along. And after
this a black smoke appeared; and a part of the ball seemed to fall in an
arable field of one _Michael Koturnass_; on the fall of which to the
ground a still greater noise was heard; and a shock perceived, something
like an earthquake.

This piece was afterwards soon dug out of the ground; which had been
particularly noted to be plain and level, and ploughed just before; but
where it was now found to have made a great fissure, or cleft, an ell
wide, whilst it singed the earth on the sides.

The other piece, which fell in a meadow, was also dug up; and weighed
sixteen pounds.

And it is fairly observed, that the unadorned manner in which the whole
account from _Agram_ is written; the agreement of the different
witnesses, who had no reason to accord in a lie; and the similarity of
this history to that of the _Eichstedt_ stone; makes it at least very
probable, that there was indeed something real, and worth notice, in the

The _Eichstedt_ stone (somewhat like that said to have fallen so lately
in Yorkshire) is described as having been composed of ash-grey sand
stone, with fine grains intermixed all through it, partly of real native
iron, and partly of yellowish brown ochre of iron: and as being about as
hard as building stone.--It is said not to effervesce with acids, and
evidently to consist of small particles of siliceous stone and iron.--It
had also a solid malleable coat of native iron, as was supposed, quite
free from sulphur, and about two lines thick; which quite covered its
surface; resembling a blackish glazing. And the whole mass exhibited
evident marks of having been exposed to fire.

A plain testimony of the falling of this was affirmed to be, produced as
follows; that a labourer, at a brick-kiln, in winter, when the earth was
covered with snow, saw it fall down out of the air immediately after a
violent clap of thunder;--and that he instantly ran up to take it out of
the snow; but found he could not do so, on account of its heat; and was
obliged therefore to wait, to let it cool. That it was about half a foot
in diameter; and was entirely covered with a black coat like iron.[FF]

And I must now add that there is a record;[GG] that stones, to the
number of some hundreds, did once fall in the neighbourhood of a place
called _Abdua_; which were very large and heavy;--of the colour of rusty
iron;--smooth, and hard;--and of a sulphureous smell:--and which were
observed to fall from a vehement whirlwind; that appeared (like that in
Tuscany) as an atmosphere of fire.

Here I intended to have concluded all my observations. But a recent
publication, which I knew not of, when these sheets were written,
obliges me to add a few more pages.

In a very singular tract, published in 1794, at Riga, by Dr. _Chladni_,
concerning the supposed origin of the mass of iron found by Dr. Pallas
in Siberia; which the Tartars still affirm to be _an holy thing_, and,
_to have fallen from heaven_; and concerning what have been supposed, by
him, to be similar phænomena; some circumstances are also mentioned,
which it would be an unjust omission not to take notice of shortly, on
the present occasion.

With the author's hypothesis I do not presume to interfere; but surely
his facts, which he affirms in support of his ideas, deserve much
attention; and ought to be inserted, before I conclude these
observations: and the rather, as they were adduced to maintain
conclusions very different from these now offered to the consideration
of the curious.

On the 21st of May, 1676, a fire ball was seen to come from
Dalmatia,[HH] proceeding over the Adriatic sea; it passed obliquely over
Italy; where an hissing noise was heard; it burst SSW from Leghorn, with
a terrible report; _and the pieces are said to have fallen into the
sea_, with the same sort of noise, as when red hot iron is quenched or
extinguished in water. Its height was computed to be not less than
thirty-eight Italian miles; and it is said to have moved with immense
velocity. Its form was oblong, at least as the luminous appearance
seemed in its passage.

_Avicenna_ mentions, (Averrhoes, lib. 2do Meteor. cap. 2.) that he had
seen at Cordova, in Spain, a sulphureous stone that had fallen from

In _Spangenberg_'s Chron. Saxon, an account is found, that at Magdeburg,
in A. D. 998, two great stones, fell down in a storm of thunder: one in
the town itself; the other near the Elbe, in the open country.

The well known, and celebrated _Cardan_, in his book, _De Varietate
Rerum_, lib. 14. cap. 72. tells us, that he himself, in the year 1510,
had seen one hundred and twenty stones fall from heaven; among which
one weighed one hundred and twenty; and another sixty pounds. That they
were mostly of an _iron colour_, and very hard, and smelt of brimstone.
He remarks, moreover, that about three o'clock, a great fire was to be
seen in the heavens; and that about five o'clock the stones fell down
with a rushing noise.

And _Julius Scaliger_ (in his book _De Subtilitate Exerc._ p. 333.)
affirms, that he had in his possession a piece of iron (as he calls it,)
which had fallen from heaven in _Savoy_.

_Wolf_ (in _Lection. Memorab._ Tom. II. p. 911.) mentions a great
triangular stone, described by _Sebastian Brandt_, (which seems to have
been the identical stone I have already mentioned as having been
preserved in the church of Anxissem,) and which was said to have fallen
from heaven, in the year 1493, at Ensisheim or Ensheim.

_Muschenbroek_,[II] speaking of the same stone, says, that the stone was
blackish, weighed about 300lb. and that marks of fire were to be seen
upon it; but apprehended (in which he seems to have been mistaken) that
the date of the fall was 1630.

_Chladni_ also mentions another instance (from _Nic. Huknanfii_ Hist.
Hungar. lib. 20. fol. 394.) of five stones, said to have fallen from
heaven at _Miscoz_, in Transylvania, in a terrible thunder storm and
commotion of the air, which were as big as a man's head, very heavy, of
a pale yellow, and iron, or rusty colour; and of a strong sulphureous
smell; and that four of them were kept in the treasury room at Vienna.

He adds, (from _John Binbard_'s Thuring. Chron. p. 193.) that on the
26th of July, 1581, between one and two o'clock in the afternoon, a
stone fell down in _Thuringia_, with a clap of thunder, which made the
earth shake; at which time a small light cloud was to be seen, the sky
being otherwise clear. It weighed 39lb.; was of a blue and brownish
colour. It gave sparks, when struck with a flint, as steel does. It had
sunk five quarters of an ell deep in the ground; so that the soil, at
the time, was struck up to twice a man's height; and the stone itself
was so hot, that no one could bear to touch it. It is said to have been
afterwards carried to Dresden.

He adds, also, that in the 31st Essay of the Breslau Collections, p. 44,
is found an account by Dr. _Rost_; that on the 22d of June, 1723, about
two o'clock in the afternoon, in the country of Pleskowicz, some miles
from _Reichstadt_, in Bohemia, a small cloud was seen, the sky being
otherwise clear; whereupon, at one place twenty-five, at another eight,
great and small stones fell down, with a loud report, and without any
lightning being perceived. The stones appeared externally black,
internally like a metallic ore, and smelt strongly of brimstone.

And I shall conclude all _Chladni_'s remarkable facts, in addition to
those which I had myself collected, before ever I heard of his curious
book, with a short summary of what he calls one of the _newest_ accounts
of this kind, extracted from the _Histoire de l'Académie des Sciences_,
1769, p. 20.

It is an account of three masses, which fell down with thunder, in
provinces very distant from one another; and which were sent to the
Academy in 1769. They were sent from _Maine_, _Artois_, and _Cotentin_:
and it is affirmed, that when they fell an hissing was heard; and that
they were found hot. All three were like one another; all three were of
the same colour, and nearly of the same grain; and small metallic and
pyritical particles could be distinguished in them; and, externally,
all three were covered with an hard ferruginous coat: and, on chemical
investigation, they were found to contain iron, and sulphur.[JJ]

Considering, then, all these facts so positively affirmed, concerning
these various, most curious phænomena:--the explosions;--the
sparks;--the lights;--the hissing noises;--the stones seen to fall;--the
stones dug up hot, and even smoking;--and some scorching, and even
burning other bodies in their passage;--we cannot but also bring to
remembrance, what Sir John Pringle affirmed to have been observed;
concerning a fiery meteor, seen on Sunday, the 26th of November, 1758,
in several parts of England and Scotland.[KK]

That the head, which appeared about half the diameter of the moon, was
of a bright white, like iron when almost in a melting heat;[LL] the
tail, which appeared about 8° in length, was of a duskish red, burst
in the atmosphere, when the head was about 7° above the horizon, and
disappeared; and in the room thereof were seen three bodies like stars,
within the compass of a little more than three degrees from the head,
which also kept descending with the head.

That before this, in another place, near Ancram in Scotland, (where the
same meteor was seen) one-third of the tail, towards the extremity,
appeared _to break off_, and to separate into sparks, resembling
stars.--That soon after this the body of the meteor had its light
extinguished, with an explosion; but, as it seemed to the observer
there, _the form of the entire figure of the body, quite black, was
seen to go still forwards in the air_.[MM] By some persons, also, an
hissing noise[NN] was apprehended to be heard.

Whether this might, or might not be an ignited body, of the kind we have
been describing, falling to the earth, deserves consideration. Sir John
Pringle seems to have been convinced that it was really _a solid
substance_; but fairly adds,[OO] that if such meteors had really ever
fallen to the earth, there must have been, long ago, so strong evidence
of the fact, as to leave no room to doubt.

Perhaps, in the preceding accounts, we have such evidence, _now_ fairly
collected together; at least in a certain degree.

I take all the facts, just as I find them affirmed. I have preserved a
faithful and an honest record.

For the sake of possible philosophical use;--let the philosophical, and
curious just preserve these facts in remembrance.

For the sake of philological advantage;--let the discerning weigh, and
judge. For (if such things be,) what has so often come to pass,
according to what is commonly called _the usual course of nature_; may
most undoubtedly, henceforth, without any hesitating doubts, be believed
to have been brought to pass, on an extraordinary occasion, in a still
more tremendous manner, by the immediate _fiat of the Almighty_.

Let no man scoff; lest he drives away the means of real
information.--And let all men _watch_, for the increase of science.--

The wisdom and power of God are far above not only the first
apprehensions, but even the highest ideas of man. And our truest wisdom,
and best improvement of knowledge, consist in searching out, and in
attending diligently, to what he has actually done: ever bearing in
mind those words of the holy Psalmist.[PP]

"_The works of The Lord are great: sought out of all them that have
pleasure therein._

"_The Lord hath so done his marvellous works, that they ought to be
had in remembrance._"


Since these sheets were printed, I have received from Sir Charles
Blagden, a present of one of the very small stones mentioned, p. 7, that
are affirmed to have fallen in Tuscany; and which has very lately been
brought carefully from Italy.

Its figure plainly indicates, that in the instant of its formation,
there was a strong effort towards crystallization. For it is an
irregular quadrilateral pyramid;--whose base, an imperfect kind of
square, has two of its adjoining sides about six-tenths of an inch long,
each; and the other two, each about five-tenths: whilst two of the
triangular sides of the pyramid, are about six-tenths, on every side of
each triangle, all of which are a little curved: and the other two
triangular sides, are only five-tenths on the sides where these two last

Its black crust, or coating, is such as has been described in the
preceding pages: and is also remarkable, for the appearance of a sort of
minute chequer work, formed by very fine white lines on the black


[A] In his Anatomy of Plants, p. 41-184.

[B] Vol. LXIII. p. 241--and Vol. LXIX. p. 35.

[C] In the Morsels of Criticism, p. 103.

[D] In the Philos. Trans. for 1795, p. 91, 92.

[E] This is mentioned by Sir William Hamilton himself, p. 105.

[F] See Philos. Trans. for 1795, p. 104, 105.

[G] See Lowthorp's Abridgement of the Philos. Trans. Vol. II. p. 143.

[H] Philos. Trans. Vol. XLIX. p. 510.

[I] Philos. Trans. Vol. LIII. p. 54.

[J] Condamine's Journal, p. 57.

[K] In his Experiments, p. 35.

[L] Pyramidographia, Vol. I. 89-91.

[M] Lib. 5.

[N] Lib. 2.

[O] In his Corinthiaca.

[P] Clem. Alex. lib. 1.--Stromatum.

[Q] In Vita Lysandri.

[R] Diogenes in Anaxag.

[S] Historia Nat. lib. 2. cap. 59.

[T] Lib. 1. Sec. 31.

[U] Haud aliter quam quum grandinem venti glomeratam in terras agunt,
crebri cecidere coelo lapides.

[V] Lib. 30. Sec. 28.

[W] Lib. 34. Sec. 45.

[X] Psalm 18. v. 13.

[Y] Psalm 148. v. 8.

[Z] Psalm 147. v. 17.

[AA] Psalm 148. v. 8.

[BB] Joshua, ch. 10. v. 11.

[CC] Hooke's Experiments, p. 134.

[DD] Vide Gesner.--and Ans de Boot Hist. Lapidum.

[EE] For which translation I am obliged to Sir Charles Blagden.

[FF] This account, from Abbé _Stutz_, and the following from Dr.
_Chladni_, I received, translated from the German, by the favour of Sir
Charles Blagden.

[GG] Vide Cardan _De Variet_, lib. 14. c. 72.

[HH] An account of this stone is given by Dr. Halley in the
Philosophical Trans. No. 341. And also there is an account of it by

[II] Essai de Physique, Tom. II. sect. 1557.

[JJ] All these facts are to be found mentioned in Chladni's book; first
at p. 8, and then from p. 34 to 37.

[KK] See the full account in the Philosophical Transactions, Vol. LI.
for 1759, p. 218, &c.

[LL] This is according to the account sent by the Rev. Mr. Michell,
Fellow of Queen's College, Cambridge, p. 223.

[MM] Ib. p. 237, 265, 269.

[NN] Ib. p. 265.

[OO] Ib. p. 272.

[PP] Psalm III. v. 2 and 4.

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