Observ. I. Of The Point Of A Sharp Small Needle.
As in Geometry, the most natural way of beginning is from a Mathematical point; so is the same method in Observations and Natural history the most genuine, simple, and instructive. We must first endevour to make letters, and draw single strokes true, before we venture to write whole Sentences, or to draw large Pictures.
And in Physical Enquiries, we must endevour to follow Nature in the more plain and easie ways she treads in the most simple and uncompounded bodies, to trace her steps, and be acquainted with her manner of walking there, before we venture our selves into the multitude of meanders she has in bodies of a more complicated nature; lest, being unable to distinguish and judge of our way, we quickly lose both Nature our Guide, and our selves too, and are left to wander in the labyrinth of groundless opinions; wanting both judgment, that light, and experience, that clew, which should direct our proceedings.
We will begin these our Inquiries therefore with the Observations of Bodies of the most simple nature first, and so gradually proceed to those of a more compounded one. In prosecution of which method, we shall begin with a Physical point; of which kind the Point of a Needle is commonly reckon'd for one; and is indeed, for the most part, made so sharp, that the naked eye cannot distinguish any parts of it: It very easily pierces, and makes its way through all kind of bodies softer then it self: But if view'd with a very good Microscope, we may find that the top of a Needle (though as to the sense very sharp) appears a broad, blunt, and very irregular end; not resembling a Cone, as is imagin'd, but onely a piece of a tapering body, with a great part of the top remov'd, or deficient. The Points of Pins are yet more blunt, and the Points of the most curious Mathematical Instruments do very seldome arrive at so great a sharpness; how much therefore can be built upon demonstrations made onely by the productions of the Ruler and Compasses, he will be better able to consider that shall but view those points and lines with a Microscope.