Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 10.djvu/336

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322
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

forever in the memory. The exquisite delight we experience in listening to the works of our great composers arises thus in mechanical movements, which are the issue of mathematical combinations. The unseen world is under the influence of number!

But what is number except there be one who numbers? When Pompey, in his Syrian war, broke into the holy of holies at Jerusalem, he expressed, as Tacitus tells us, his astonishment that there was no image of a divinity within; the shrine was silent and empty. And so, though after death we may anatomize and explore the inmost recesses of the brain, the veiled Genius that once presided there has eluded us, and has not left so much as a phantom-trace, a shadow of himself.

The experiments of Galvani and Volta have not yet reached their conclusion; those of Faraday and Du Bois-Reymond have only yielded a preliminary suggestion as to the nervous force. Excepting the great sympathetic nerve, the nervous fibres themselves are, as is well known, of two classes—those that gather the impressions of external things and convey them to the nerve-centres, and those that transmit the dictates of the will from within outwardly. The capabilities of one of the former—the apparatus for sight—have been greatly improved by various optical contrivances, such as microscopes and telescopes, an earnest of what may hereafter be done as respects the four other special organs of sense; and, as concerns the second class, the result of mental operations, the resolves of the will, may be transmitted with greater velocity than even in the living system itself, and that across vast terrestrial distances, or even beneath the sea. Telegraphic wires are, strictly speaking, continuations of the centrifugal nerves, and we are not without reason for believing that it is the same influence which is active in both cases.

In a scientific point of view, such improvements in the capabilities of the organs for receiving external impressions, such extensions to the distances to which the results of intellectual acts and the dictates of the will may be conveyed, constitute a true development, an evolution, none the less real though it may be of an artificial kind. If we reflect carefully on these things, bearing in mind what is now known of the course of development in the animal series, we shall not fail to remark what a singular interest gathers round these artificial developments—artificial they can scarcely be called, since they themselves have arisen interiorly. They are the result of intellectual acts. Man has been developing himself. He, so far as the earth is concerned, is becoming omnipresent. The electrical nerves of society are spread in a plexus all over Europe and America; their commissural strands run under the Atlantic and the Pacific.

 

In many of the addresses that have been made during the past-summer, on the Centennial occasion, the shortcomings of the United