Observations upon experimental philosophy to which is added The description of a new blazing world
Newcastle, Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of, 1624?-1674.

9. Of the Eyes of Flies.

I Cannot wonder enough at the strange discovery made by the help of the Microscope concerning the great number of eyes observed in Flies; as that, for ex∣ample, in a gray Drone-flie should be found clusters which contain about 14000 eyes: which if it be really so, then those Creatures must needs have more of the 〈◊◊〉 sense then those that have but two, or one eye; 〈◊◊◊〉 cannot believe, that so many 〈◊◊〉 be made for no more use then one or two eyes are: for though Art, the emulating Ape of Nature, makes often vain and useless things, yet I can∣not perceive that Nature her self doth so. But a greater wonder it is to me, that Man with the twinkling of one eye, can observe so many in so small a Creature, if it be not a deceit of the optick instrument: for as I Page  24 have mentioned above, Art produces most com∣monly hermaphroditical figures, and it may be, perhaps, that those little pearls or globes, which were taken for eyes in the mentioned Flie, are onely transparent knobs, or glossie shining spherical parts of its body, making refractions of the rayes of light, and reflecting the pictures of exterior objects, there being many Creatures, that have such shining protuberan∣ces and globular parts, and those full of quick motion, which yet are not eyes. Truly, my reason can hard∣ly be perswaded to believe, that this Artificial Informer (I mean the Microscope) should be so true as it is generally thought; for in my opinion it more deludes, then informs: It is well known, that if a fi∣gure be longer, broader and bigger then its nature re∣quires, it is not its natural figure, and therefore those Creatures, or parts of Creatures, which by Art ap∣pear bigger then naturally they are, cannot be judged according to their natural figure, since they do not appear in their natural shape; but in an artificial one, that is, in a shape or figure magnified by Art, and extended beyond their natural figure; and since Man cannot judg otherwise of a figure then it appears, besides, if the Reflections and Positious of Light be so various and different as Experimental Philophers con∣fess themselves, and the instrument not very exact, (for who knows but hereafter there may be many faults discovered of our modern Microscopes which Page  25 we are not able to perceive at the present) how shall the object be truly known? Wherefore I can hardly believe the Truth of this Experiment concerning the numerous Eyes of Flies; they may have, as I said be∣fore, glossy and shining globular protuberances, but not so many eyes; as for example, Bubbles of Water, Ice, as also Blisters and watry Pimples, and hundreds the like, are shining and transparent Hemispheres, re∣flecting light, but yet not eyes; Nay, if Flies should have so many numerous Eyes, why can they not see the approach of a Spider until it be just at them; also how comes it that sometimes, as for example, in cold weather, they seem blind, so as one may take or kill them, and they cannot so much as perceive their ene∣mies approach? surely if they had 14000 Eyes, all this number would seem useless to them, since other Crea∣tures which have but two can make more advantage of those two eyes, then they of their vast number. But perchance some will say, That Flies having so many eyes, are more apt to be blind then others that have but few, by reason the number is the cause that each parti∣cular is the weaker. To which I answer, That if two Eyes be stronger then a Thousand, then Nature is to be blamed that she gives such numbers of Eyes to so little a Creature. But Nature is wiser then we or any Creature is able to conceive; and surely she works not to no purpose, or in vain; but there appears as much wisdom in the fabrick and ftructure of her Page  26 works, as there is variety in them. Lastly, I cannot well conceive the truth of the opinion of those, that think all eyes must have a transparent liquor, or humor within them, for in Crabs and Lobsters Eyes I can perceive none such; and there may also be many other animal Creatures which have none: for Nature is not tied to one way, but as she makes various Creatures, so she may and doth also make their parts and organs variously, and not the same in all, or after one and the same manner or way.