Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 28.djvu/64

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56
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

mer. Far out in infinite space are stars which the human eye, looking through the most powerful telescope, fails to see; they are beyond its range. Yet this simple plate of glass can see them. It has a power beyond that of any human retina! Dark spaces, once considered blank, are to-day known to be full of suns, each perhaps with its retinue of planets, tilled it may be with beings like ourselves.

The future possibilities of this wonderful invention are beyond conception. It may be that for centuries hence, before war ends, and civilization triumphs in peace, the instantaneous photographic apparatus will be a part of every army equipment. There is no reason why a great battle could not be taken—aside, perhaps, from smoke-obscurity—as well as any great concourse of people. To-day the photographic artist is content to catch the movements of a race-horse or an athlete, or the panorama of a city crowd; then, perhaps, our distant posterity will be only satisfied with the instantaneous record of more important events. To-day, history is made up of confused and disputed statements; then, it may be read in the living pictures of the deeds themselves.


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A FREE COLONY OF LUNATICS.

By HENRY DE VARIGNY.

THE celebrated Belgian colony of the insane at Gheel has nothing in its external appearance suggestive of the ordinary lunatic asylum; its inhabitants give no superficial indications that a large proportion of them are madmen.

If one would conceive what Gheel is, he must imagine a town of five or six thousand souls, in no way different from other towns of like importance, surrounded by a number of hamlets containing altogether, perhaps, about as many more inhabitants. These people have been, from a very remote period, in the habit of taking insane persons to board in their houses. The lunatics live in constant contact with the family of their host. They share in their labors and their pleasures if so inclined and their means permit it. They come and go, in the enjoyment of an almost absolute liberty. It has, however, been found necessary for the good of the patients and of the settled population to organize administrative and medical services, in order to prevent dangerous and improper persons from being sent to the colony, and for the care of the mental and physical affections of the patients, and for securing to them proper accommodation and treatment; and an infirmary has been established for those who need medical care. But the administration makes very little show. The whole of the Gheel district is an asylum; and the streets and the surrounding country are the promenade of the lunatics.