Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/496

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pose, be more than a few thousand years old. Five thousand years nearly exhausts all historical time. Ten thousand years certainly does. Though we have no earlier historical record, yet other records are not wanting. Geology tells us that ten thousand years is but a mere moment in the span of the earth's history. We learn from geology that even the career of man himself has lasted far more than ten thousand years. Yet man is but the latest addition to the succession of life on the earth. For the chronology of the earlier epochs of the earth's history we require majestic units to give adequate expression to our dates. Thousands of years are not sufficient, nor tens of thousands, nor hundreds of thousands. The course of geological time is to be reckoned in millions of years.

The corridors of time through which I wish to give you a glimpse are these dignified millions. Yet our retrospect will only extend to a certain definite epoch in the past history of our earth. We speak of nothing anterior to the time when our earth assumed the dignity of maternity, and brought forth its first and only child. We shall trace the development of that child which, though millions of years old, is still in dependence on its parent. We shall describe the influence of the parent over the child, and the not less remarkable reaction of the child upon the parent. We shall foreshadow the destiny which still awaits the mother and child when millions of years shall have elapsed.

At the time of its birth the earth was not, as we see it now, clothed with vegetation and teeming with animal life. It was a huge inorganic mass, too hot for life, perhaps hot enough to be soft or viscid, if not actually molten. The offspring was what might be expected from such a parent. It was also a rude inorganic mass. Time has wrought wondrous changes in both parent and child. Time has transformed the earth into an abode of organic life. It has transformed the earth's offspring into our silvery moon.

It will be my duty to sketch for you the manner in which these changes have been brought about. To a great extent we can do this with no hesitating steps; we are guided by a light which can not deceive. It is the light of mathematical reasoning. These discoveries are of an astronomical character, but they have not been made by telescopes. They have been made by diligent labors of the most abstruse kind. The mathematical astronomer sits at his desk, and not in an observatory. He has in his hand a pen, and not a telescope. Before him lies a sheet of paper, and not the starry heavens. He is no doubt furnished with a few facts from observation. It is his province to interpret those facts, to inform them with life, and to infer the unknown from the known. It is thus discoveries are made which are the sublimest efforts of human genius.

The argument on which I invite you to follow me is founded on a very simple matter. Many of those present go every summer to the sea-side. Those who do so are well acquainted with the daily ebb and