Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 9.djvu/461

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been validated.

chargeable in a great degree to our superior knowledge. We have discovered that their premises were false, and of course we care nothing for their conclusions. I assert that poetry, painting, sculpture, and architecture, never within an equal period produced so many great works as since 1770, but I have not here the space to argue that point.

I think the proof is sufficient that there has been an immense change in human life for the better since the middle of the last century—a change great enough to require the recognition of a new era in culture. The preponderant influence and characteristic of our time suggest that it should be called "The Age of Steam;" and this, like the universally-accepted stone, bronze, and iron ages, suggests that industry is the most important feature of culture. No other name has been offered, no other force can compete with it. The improvements in printing and in the manufacture of iron and cloth, great as they are, are yet dependent for much of their value on the steam which drives the press, the rolling-mill, and the loom, and transports their products to market. The electric telegraph is inferior to either of these three: Watt's invention remains master of the field. It has made a new era, which ranks with that of bronze, and the two surpass in importance all the others.

When savages learned to make bronze, their former weapons and tools of stone and bone were thrown away. The flint knife, which lost its brittle edge at the first cut into wood, was replaced by tough metal which could be sharpened anew every day, and would last for years. The clumsy obsidian spear-head, that flew to pieces at the first throw, was superseded by another of better shape and more durable material, fitted for the wear of centuries. The savage armed with flint weapons was no match for the man of bronze, and thus the latter could take the most fertile valleys and reduce the former to slavery. The possession of metallic hoes, spades, and sickles, was the beginning of systematic agriculture. The soil began to produce abundantly; the supply of food was larger and more constant; population became dense; buildings of cut stone were erected for temples, fortifications, and granaries; the accumulation of property became possible and reputable; nations were organized and armies drilled. All these changes were the necessary results of the discovery of the art of making bronze. Previously men were in the stone age, without durable houses, without national government, without cities, without any accumulation of property, division of labor, literature, or prospect of progress.

The iron and printing ages made revolutions in society, but they were far less important than those of bronze and steam. The bronze revolution was the greater, looked at from a relative standpoint, but, considered absolutely, it was small in comparison, and very slow in progress, with the influence of steam. The ancient Egyptians asserted