EXPERIMENT, (from the Latin experimentum,) a trial, an act, or operation designed to discover sonic unknown truth, principle, or effect, or to establish it when discovered. In philosophy, it means the result of certain applications, dis positions, or combinations, of natural bodies, made with sonic particular view. The history of physical science from the commencement of the present century, strikingly demon strates how powerful an instrument experiment is in the discovery of facts. Experiments are said to be mechanical, or chemical, or electrical, or magnetical, &c., according to the subject to which they more immediately belong. The object of making experiments is to ascertain either certain causes or certain phenomena ; and for the proper attainment of these objects, care must be had to institute, experiments that admit of no equivocal result, and su as to answer the purpose in the quickest and most direct way. The main object, however, of the inquiry can seldom be determined by a single decisive experiment ; hence, iu most eases. it becomes necessary to divide the question into parts, and to ascertain each part separately by one or more appropriate experiments. When the experiment is so prescribed. as to decide the question without any possible doubt or equip ()cation, it has in that case frequently been called experimentum crueis ; a crucial experiment, meaning a capital or decisive experiment ; such as supersedes the necessity of instituting inore experiments firr the same purpose. of the expression experi mention cowls has by some been derived from its being a kind of torture, whereby the nature of the question is, as it were, extorted by force. It has been also attributed, by others, though with less apparent probability, to the guide er instruction which it affords, like that of a direction-post, is shaped somewhat like a cross.
It is not practicable to give any instructions for the right performance of experiments in general ; for not only every subject, but particular question belonging to any sub ject, must be determined by a particular mode of investiga tion. The experimenter can only be instructed by practice. The nature of the subject, a strict attention to every apparent eircinnstance, an accurate statement of partieulars, and an unprejudiced mode of reasoning, will easily su!st a proper train of experiments which the subject in question may admit of It deserves to be rein:Irked, that though in the investigation of any subject, the philosopher proposes it cer tain order of investigation, (and it is always proper to propose to oneself' some such plan or train of experiments;) yet it is but seldom that the proposed plan can, or deserves to be, strictly executed ; for the result of the first or second experi ment frequently points out a new tract, or a more road; in Consequence of which, new and different trials must be instituted ; it is in the ready adoption ()f such plans ns may be best suited to the last indications, that the genius of the philosopher is rendered conspicuous.
Such mode rutty suffice fur the determination of any doubt ful point ; but when a discovery has been made, and is to be explained to other persons, then it is Of use to show the sante result by different experiments ; fOr it is not only a satistite. t ion to have several concurring proofs of the same proposition ; but it is also rendered intelligible to a greater number of readers or hearers; it being seldom the ease, that the same experiment conveys au equal degree of conviction and satis faction to the mind of everybody.