Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/802

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Yes—to the far better future; for there is no course of Nature more certain than is the upward progress of science. We may seem to move in circles, but they are the circles of a constantly ascending spiral; we may seem to sway from side to side, but it is only as on a steep ascent which must be climbed in zigzag.

What may be the knowledge of the future none can guess. If we could conceive a limit to the total sum of mental power which will be possessed by future multitudes of well-instructed men, yet could we not conceive a limit to the discovery of the properties of materials which they will bend to their service. We may find the limit of the power of our unaided limbs and senses; but we can not guess at a limit to the means by which they may be assisted, or to the invention of instruments which will become only a little more separate from our mental selves than are the outer sense-organs with which we are constructed.

In the certainty of this progress the great question for us is, what shall we contribute to it? It will not be easy to match the recent past. The advance of medical knowledge within one's memory is amazing, whether reckoned in the wonders of the science not yet applied, or in practical results in the general lengthening of life, or, which is still better, in the prevention and decrease of pain and misery, and in the increase of working power. I can not count or recount all that in this time has been done; and I suppose there are very few, if any, who can justly tell whether the progress of medicine has been equal to that of any other great branch of knowledge during the same time. I believe it has been; I know that the same rate of progress can not be maintained without the constant and wise work of thousands of good intellects; and the mere maintenance of the same rate is not enough, for the rate of the progress of science should constantly increase. That in the last fifty years was at least twice as great as that in the previous fifty. What will it be in the next, or, for a more useful question, what shall we contribute to it?

I have no right to prescribe for more than this week. In this let us do heartily the proper work of the Congress, teaching, learning, discussing, looking for new lines for research, planning for mutual help, forming new friendships. It will be hard work if we will do it well; but we have not met for mere amusement or for recreation, though for that I hope you will find fair provision, and enjoy it the better for the work preceding it.

And when we part let us bear away with us, not only much more knowledge than we came with, but some of the lessons for our conduct in the future which we may learn in reflecting the work of our Congress.

In the number and intensity of the questions brought before us, we may see something of our responsibility. If we could gather into thought the amounts of misery or happiness, of helplessness or of