Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 56.djvu/628

This page has been validated.

the alumni of Hamilton College in 1888 he maintained that we were living in a revolutionary period, which is marked by a great advance in knowledge and a vastly larger control of the forces of Nature; by a large increase in freedom of thought and action; by a sudden and remarkable addition to the mobility of man, accompanied by an unexampled growth of great cities; and by an incalculable addition to the wealth of the world. Accompanying these great changes in the material and intellectual world were certain moral transformations appearing to grow out of them. All these advances were ascribed to a movement—a new method of investigating Nature—that began, so far as its particular and continuous development is concerned, about three hundred years ago, but to which no date or founder's name could be attached. This new philosophy thoroughly respected Nature, was humble, patient in the accumulation of facts and the trial of its theories, comprehensive, progressive, and hopeful. It has given us the marvelous increase of knowledge which especially marks the nineteenth century; it has impressed its influence upon all branches of study, and has wrought great improvements in methods and results; and has rendered an immense and inestimable service to Christian theology, and done much to broaden and rationalize it and thus to perpetuate and strengthen its hold on the world. Finally, the method of science was pronounced "the best gift that God has given to the mind of man." A similar train of thought as to the material aspects is apparent, though in a somewhat different form, in an address on The Stored (or Fossil) Power of the World, delivered in 1894.

A considerable part of Professor Orton's presidential address at the last meeting of the American Association was devoted to a summary of the conclusions derived from Alfred Russell Wallace's book, The Wonderful Century, that the progress accomplished in the present century far outweighs the entire progress of the human race from the beginning up to 1800. In this address, also, the author felicitously spoke of the scope of the American Association as possibly including the whole continent, and its object as the advancement of science, the discovery of new truth. "It is possible that we could make ourselves more interesting to the general public if we occasionally forswore our loyalty to our name and spent a portion of our time in restating established truths." But the discoveries recorded, though often fragmentary and devoid of special interest to the outside world, all had a place in the great temple of knowledge; and the speaker hoped that although no great discoveries should be reported this time, the meeting might still be a memorable one through the inspiration it would give to the multitude of workers in the several fields of science.