Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 78.djvu/463

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SCIENCE AT THE MEDIEVAL UNIVERSITIES

which it could be kept from wandering away from the actual date thereafter. He discovered many of the properties of lenses and is said to have invented spectacles and announced very emphatically that light did not travel instantaneously but moved with a definite velocity. He is sometimes said to have invented gunpowder, but of course he did not, though he studied this substance in various forms very carefully and drew a number of conclusions in his observations. He was sure that some time or other man would learn to control the energies exhibited by explosives and that then he would be able to accomplish many things that seemed quite impossible under their present conditions. He said, for instance:

Art can construct instruments of navigation, such that the largest vessels governed by a single man will traverse rivers and seas more rapidly than if they were filled with oarsmen. One may also make carriages which without the aid of any animal will run with remarkable swiftness.

In these days when the automobile is with us and when the principal source of energy for motor purposes is derived from explosives of various kinds this expression of Roger Bacon represents a prophecy marvelously surprising in its fulfilment. It is no wonder that the book whence it comes bears the title "De Secretis Artis et Naturæ." Roger Bacon even went to the extent, however, of declaring that man would some time be able to fly. He was even sure that with sufficient pains he could himself construct a flying machine. He did not expect to use explosives for his motor power, however, but thought that a windlass properly arranged, worked by hand, might enable a man to make sufficient movement to carry himself aloft or at least to support himself in the air, if there were enough surface to enable him to use his lifting power to advantage. He was in intimate relations by letter with many other distinguished inventors and investigators besides Peregrinus and was a source of incentive and encouragement to them all.

The more one knows of Aquinas the more surprise there is at his anticipation of many modern scientific ideas. At the conclusion of a course on cosmology delivered at the University of Paris he said that "nothing at all would ever be reduced to nothingness" (nihil omnino in nihilum redigetur). He was teaching the doctrine that man could not destroy matter and God would not annihilate it. In other words, he was teaching the indestructibility of matter even more emphatically than we do. He saw the many changes that take place in material substances around us, but he taught that these were only changes of form and not substantial changes and that the same amount of matter always remained in the world. At the same time he was teaching that the forms in matter by which he meant the combinations of energies which distinguish the various kinds of matter are not destroyed. In