Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 27.djvu/327

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RAILROADS, TELEGRAPHS, AND CIVILIZATION.

RAILROADS, TELEGRAPHS, AND CIVILIZATION.
By Herr C. HERZOG.

THERE has hardly been a more quiet decade in the political history of the nineteenth century than the one between 1830 and 1840. Yet that decade was the cradle of a new epoch, in which inventions first came into view, or were brought to practical completion, which have had a deeper and more permanent influence than any political event could have upon the shaping of human society. The first steam-railroad in Europe was built in the beginning of this decade, after George Stephenson had solved the problem of the locomotive in 1829. In 1833 Gauss and Weber fixed the first telegraph-wire between the Observatory and the Physical Cabinet in Göttingen, and thereby laid the foundation of electro-magnetic telegraphy, building on which Morse in 1836 invented the writing-telegraph. In this year, 1836, also, the first screw-steamer was built in England, and the transatlantic steam-traffic was opened two years later, or in 1838.

Only a few sharp and enlightened minds could have been able at that time to form a conception of the effects which these discoveries were destined to exercise upon the world; but their development from those feeble beginnings to the present day has immeasurably surpassed the most sanguine expectations.

The length of the railways, of which three hundred and thirty-two kilometres were in operation in 1830, had risen in 1883 to more than 444,000 kilometres; and, if the lines were joined one to another, they would have gone around the earth in its longest circumference more than ten times! Like a net, the meshes of which are continually drawing closer together, their lines are woven over all the countries of Europe; in both Americas, they have made way into the hitherto pathless wilderness; they have climbed the Rocky Mountains of the North and the Cordilleras of Peru, and have broken through the nation-dividing walls of the Alps; the largest streams of the earth wear the yoke of their bridges; in Southern Africa, in the East Indies, and in Japan, they are pressing unintermittingly into new regions, and even in the Chinese Empire trial-surveys are making for advantageous routes.

Steamship navigation has grown on a similarly grand scale. Nearly ten thousand steamers, with a capacity of seven million tons, traverse the ocean, and connect all parts of the earth with one another. Independent of wind and tide, they maintain communications with a swiftness, security, and regularity rivaling those of the railways, whose complement they are in providing for the world's trade.

More rapidly and extensively than both of these has the telegraph taken possession of the world. The conductor which, in 1833, con-