Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 41.djvu/555

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539
THE ROYAL SOCIETY.

matters, wrote in his work on the progress of knowledge since the days of Aristotle: "Should these heroes [the F. R. S.] go on as they have happily "begun," he said, "they will fill the world with wonders; and posterity will find many things that are now rumors verified into practical realities. It may be, some ages hence, a voyage to the southern unknown tracts, yea, possibly, the moon, will not be more strange than one to America. To them that come after us, it may be as ordinary to "buy a pair of wings to fly into remotest regions, as now a pair of boots to ride a journey; and to confer at the distance of the Indies, by sympathetic conveyances, may be as usual to future times, as to us in a literary correspondence. The restoration of grey hairs to juvenilty, and renewing the exhausted marrow, may at length be effected without a miracle; and the turning the now comparative desert world into a paradise, may not improbably be expected from late agriculture. Those that judge from the narrowness of former principles and successes will smile at these paradoxical expectations. Antiquity could not have believed the almost incredible force of our cannons, and would have as coldly entertained the wonders of the telescope." Disraeli smiles at these dreams at the dawn of philosophy. "What would he have thought had Glanville prophesied of steamships, railroads, telegraphs, sewing-machines, telephones, and other inventions of the nineteenth century, which were unknown in Disraeli's lifetime?

Gold-making was a favorite pursuit in the seventeenth century with our scientists. Sir Kenelm Digby's devotion to alchemy, which he regarded as science, led him to lavish money on impostors, and seek knowledge from very unlikely sources. He once went in disguise to consult the philosopher Descartes, and, hoping to obtain from him the secret of making aurum potabile, complained that life was too short for the accomplishment of the designs of a scientist. Descartes, though he did not give Digby the recipe for the golden elixir, replied that he had considered that matter; "to render a man immortal was what he could not promise, but that he was very sure it was possible to lengthen out his life to the period of the patriarchs." Sir Kenelm's wellknown weapon, salve, or powder of sympathy, was recommended by him as a valuable remedy, though it was, of course, the most ridiculous quackery. "The wound was never to be brought into contact with the powder, which was merely powdered vitriol. A bandage was to be taken from the wound, immersed in the powder, and kept there till the wound healed." He was a firm believer in astrology, and attributed his happy marriage to the beautiful and talented Yenetia Stanley, after a somewhat protracted courtship, to astrological influences. Digby gave Evelyn, at Paris, in 1651, some water which he "intended for a disolvent