Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/34

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Few of the great men who have helped to make our century memorable in the history of thought are witnesses of its end, and all who have profited by the labors of Wallace will rejoice that he has been permitted to stand on the threshold of a new century, and, reviewing the past, to give us his impressions of the wonderful century.

We men of the nineteenth century, he says, have not been slow to praise it. The wise and the foolish, the learned and the unlearned, the poet and the pressman, the rich and the poor, alike swell the chorus of admiration for the marvelous inventions and discoveries of our own age, and especially for those innumerable applications of science which now form part of our daily life, and which remind us every hour of our immense superiority over our comparatively ignorant forefathers.

Our century, he tells us, has been characterized by a marvelous and altogether unprecedented progress in the knowledge of the universe and of its complex forces, and also in the application of that knowledge to an infinite variety of purposes calculated, if properly utilized, to supply all the wants of every human being and to add greatly to the comforts, the enjoyments, and the refinements of life. The bounds of human knowledge have been so far extended that new vistas have opened to us in nearly all directions where it had been thought that we could never penetrate, and the more we learn the more we seem capable of learning in the ever-widening expanse of the universe. It may, he says, be truly said of the men of science that they have become as gods knowing good and evil, since they have been able not only to utilize the most recondite powers of Nature in their service, but have in many cases been able to discover the sources of much of the evil that afflicts humanity, to abolish pain, to lengthen life, and to add immensely to the intellectual as well as the physical enjoyments of our race.

In order to get any adequate measure for comparison with the nineteenth century we must take not any preceding century, but the whole preceding epoch of human history. We must take into consideration not only the changes effected in science, in the arts, in the possibilities of human intercourse, and in the extension of our knowledge both of the earth and of the whole visible universe, but the means our century has furnished for future advancement.

Our author, who has borne such a distinguished part in the intellectual progress of our century, shows clearly that in means for the discovery of truth, for the extension of our control over Nature, and for the alleviation of the ills that beset mankind, the inheritance of the twentieth century from the nineteenth will be