Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 13.djvu/29

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is that this new instrument, although disappointing the first expectations of its discoverer, has furnished a very striking confirmation of this wonderful theory. Indeed, the confirmation is so remote and yet so close, so unexpected and yet so strong, that the new phenomena almost seem to be a direct manifestation of the molecular motion which our theory assumes; and when a new discovery thus confirms the accuracy of a previous generalization, and gives us additional reason to believe that the glimpses we have gained into the order of Nature are trustworthy, it excites, with reason, among scientific scholars the warmest interest.

And when we consider the vast scope of the molecular theory, the order on order of existences which it opens to the imagination, how can we fail to be impressed with the position in which it places man midway between the molecular cosmos on the one side and the stellar cosmos on the other—a position in which he is able in some measure, at least, to study and interpret both?

Since the time to which we referred at the beginning of this lecture, when man's dwelling-place was looked at as the centre of a creation which was solely subservient to his wants, there has been a reaction to the opposite extreme, and we have heard much of the utter insignificance of the earth in a universe among whose immensities all human belongings are but as a drop in the ocean. When now, however, we learn from Sir William Thomson that the drop of water in our comparison is itself a universe, consisting of units so small that, were the drop magnified to the size of the earth, these units would not exceed in magnitude a cricket-ball,[1] and when, on studying chemistry, we still further learn that these units are not single masses but systems of atoms, we may leave the illusions of the imagination from the one side to correct those from the other, and all will teach us the great lesson that man's place in Nature is not to be estimated by relations of magnitude, but by the intelligence which makes the whole creation his own.

But, if it is man's privilege to follow both the atoms and the stars in their courses, he finds that while thus exercising the highest attributes of his nature he is ever in the presence of an immeasurably superior intelligence, before which he must bow and adore, and thus come to him both the assurance and the pledge of a kinship in which his only real glory can be found.

  1. Nature, No. 22, March 31, 1870.