Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 15.djvu/784

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764
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

and present of man have been enormously developed. Old, worn-out, useless theories have been discarded, new facts have taken their places, discoveries have followed discoveries, each discovery helping to form, link by link, the chain of human history.

We are beginning to perceive that we are but yet young in the knowledge of human history, that we have as yet picked up but a bright pebble of thought or glittering shell of theory, while before us lies the whole vast sea of human history unexplored. That we are beginning to acknowledge this is a good sign, for, when a man or mankind acknowledge their ignorance, they have at least a sure foundation to build upon.

Again, the spirit of bigotry, the spirit that told men to scorn and deride Galileo and Columbus, is fast passing away, and in its stead comes the spirit of rationality, a spirit that tells men to look upon a new idea or theory, even if it does run outside of the accustomed rut, with a reasoning if not favorable eye. And we have faith, as science grows to grander proportions and dispels some of the mist that now envelops it, that some day not far distant will bring forward an historic Edison that shall bring together the faint voice of the prehistoric past and the bright, clear voice of the present; that some future Champollion will discover, among the ruined cities of the Americas, an American Rosetta-stone that will complete the chain of human history. "The noblest study of mankind is man."

 

MICRO-ORGANISMS AND THEIR EFFECTS IN NATURE.
By WILLIAM S. BARNARD, Ph. D.,

PROFESSOR OF INVERTEBRATE ZOÖLOGY IN CORNELL UNIVERSITY.

WHAT is too small to be seen, people are generally apt to regard with contempt or indifference, as of no practical consequence. This is one of the grossest of popular errors. There is not only a profound scientific interest in the realm of microscopic life, which is every day becoming deeper as its organisms are viewed from the standpoint of evolution, but they have a significance in the economy of nature, a usefulness to man, and a value in the industrial arts, of which but few glimpses have as yet been popularly obtained. To the inquiry, Of what service are those swarms of infinitesimal objects which are revealed only through the microscope? do they subserve any other purpose than to amuse infatuated microscopists?—the reply is, that their operations in nature are on a grand and imposing scale, and that their influence on man and other organisms, as well as on the air, the water, and the solid earth, is nothing less than enormous.