Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 76.djvu/115

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greater part of the populace in the cities of antiquity, of the middle ages, and of our own times in many cities of the orient, we can but feel that the application of science to sanitation, to sewerage, water supply, and housing, has been of immense benefit, although it has by no means kept up with the needs of civilization. The discoveries of preventive medicine have removed the terrors from small-pox and yellow fever, and made impossible the wholesale devastation of great cities by plagues which were common only a few centuries ago. In our own days we have seen the work of the microscopist reveal the cause of the most various diseases, from malaria and cholera to the hookworm disease, while the marvelous work of the surgeon's knife fills us with amazement. If it be desirable to live long, science has largely contributed to benefit mankind in this way. With the improvement in the conditions of work has come the possibility for increased amusement. Music is stored up in the phonograph, to be carried to the remotest corners of Asia and Africa, while the kinematograph has rendered all corners of the earth accessible to the multitude, and has vivified the scenes of history.

Not the least important of the works of science is its effect in the promotion of general peace. As the nations are more closely linked together by the means of transportation and communication, their interests become more nearly alike, and they do not so easily plunge into wars. The applications of science to war have at the same time made it more terrible and deadly, so that nations do not dare to expose themselves to the chance of physical or commercial extermination thereby involved. If the development of the aeroplane shall make it possible for a fast cruiser like the Lusitania to be sent out equipped with rapid flying-machines which, on catching the strongest battleship shall make it possible to sail over her at too great a height to be shot at, but near enough to drop high explosives that shall destroy her, war will be at an end. The late Edward Atkinson once stated that all that was necessary to end war was the invention of a gun that should pick off generals at headquarters as the Boer sharpshooters picked off the British captains and colonels.

But I have said enough in praise of the works of science. It is no doubt possible to exaggerate their praise. A most judicious and learned observer, his Excellency James Bryce, in a Phi Beta Kappa address at Harvard two years ago, has examined the question, "What is progress," and whether all our modern improvements have constituted real progress from the times of the ancients. His conclusion is somewhat disappointing, and at the end the beam inclines very slightly in the positive direction. He does consider it probable, however, that the advances of science have rendered more tolerable human life, and have lengthened its span. We must not forget, indeed, that with