The Moon and Lunar Influence by Albany Poyntz

From the stars in general to the moon in particular, there is but a step; nor will we separate the midnight luminary from the company in which we usually find her. Lovers and poets have from time immemorial found solace in her beams; while the early philosophers pretended that she swallowed stones in the manner of the mountebanks, in order to cast them down upon us in the form of aërolites. This conclusion is as absurd as a thousand others, of which the moon has been the object. The ingenuousness of the old lady, who on hearing continually of new moons, inquired anxiously what became of the old ones, is scarcely more surprising than the complex mass of commentaries and hypotheses which regard the influence of the orb of night.

In former centuries, it was the custom to attribute the decay of public monuments to the influence of the moon upon the surface of granite and stone. Naturalists, however, having watched the work of animalculæ among oysters, madrepores and corals, attributed this to the true cause. In the year 1666, a physician of Caen remarked upon a stone wall of southern aspect forming part of the Abbey of the Benedictines, a number of cavities, into the deep sinuosities of which the hand could be inserted. Instead of attributing this to the moon, he ascertained that they were worked by insects whom he found concealed in the cavities. Experiment opens the safest road to truth; while absurd theories transmitted from generation to generation, obstruct the steps of a temple already sufficiently difficult of ascent.

Thomas Moult, the author of an almanack superior to the general run of those popular publications, devoted himself to conjectures on the variations of the weather as influenced by the moon; and consulted the observations previously made by the Abbé Toaldo, who had noted down the effect of eleven hundred and six moons upon the weather. He found that nine hundred and fifty were accompanied by changes of weather; while the other one hundred and fifty six, produced no effect. The proportion being as one to six, the chances are that a new moon will produce a change of weather; the influence being susceptible of increase from various circumstances, in the proportion of thirty-three to one, when the new moon is at its perigæum.

Physicians formerly believed the phases of the moon to influence certain diseases. Hippocrates and Galen assigned them as the cause of periodical returns of epilepsy; while people of deranged intellect are vulgarly styled lunatics. Bertholon observed the paroxysms of a maniac during one year, and declared them to be aggravated by the full moon. It has been asserted that among maritime populations, a greater number of deaths occurred at the ebb than at the flow of the tide. At Brest, Rochefort and St. Malo, a register was kept for thirty months of the number of deaths, and the hours at which they took place; when the number was found to be less at the hours supposed most fatal. The doctrine of Aristotle, which had still many adherents, was overthrown by experience.

Dr. Mead, an English physician, wrote a treatise on the influence of the moon upon the human constitution, which has also fallen into oblivion.