Descartes's Mechanical Philosophy. According to French philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650), the universe operated as a continuously running machine which God had set in motion. Since he rejected Newton's theory of gravity and idea of a vacuum in space, Descartes argued that instead the universe was composed of a "subtle matter" he named "plenum," which swirled in vortices like whirlpools and actually moved the planets by contact. Here, these vortices carry the planets around the Sun.
Thomas Wright presents an alternate view of the Milky Way galaxy in cross section. Plates XXXI and XXXII show the universe filled with many systems like our own, each a star-filled shell surrounding its own "eye of Providence" - from An Original Theory or New Hypothesis of the Universe, by Thomas Wright, 1750