Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 87.djvu/262

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In 1869 Lister announced his method of antiseptic surgery. Helmholtz had published his "Physiological Optics" in 1866, and in 1879 Wundt, his greatest pupil, had established the psychological laboratory in Leipzig, coincident with the beginnings of experimental psychology by James at Harvard. In the very closing years of the last century and the first decade of the present, physics, which in popular favor had suffered a temporary eclipse by biology and psychology, was revivified by the discoveries of Röntgen and Madame Curie, and now disports itself with a youthful exuberance suggestive of the renaissance, while chemistry and all the sciences allied to medicine engage men and money in a fabulous way. In the field of human affairs, we are attempting to apply the methods of science not only to health, but to education, to industry, and commerce, to marriage, religion and government.

To believe that the great economic change of the last one hundred years and the triumphant march of science have been merely coincident, but not causally connected, would be a great mistake. Without tracing in detail this causal sequence, one can get a vivid idea of the relation of the two phenomena by trying to imagine the result of eliminating science and its achievements from our modern life. Out go the electric light, the gas, the gasoline and the kerosene. Our world which now knows no night is plunged half its time into a darkness relieved only by the flicker of tallow candles and burning wood. The telegraph, telephone, and railroad which have shrivelled this earth into a mere fragment of its former size crumble into ashes, and San Francisco moves away from New York ten times farther than it now is. Ocean steamers become sail boats, distancing London from New York fifty, sixty, seventy days instead of six as at present. Instead of eating foods gathered from the ends of the earth, the average citizen is limited to the products of his own locality and to primitive methods of food preparation. Rapid communication between distant places becomes impossible; books and newspapers, few and expensive; common interests and understanding grow more difficult; illiteracy increases, suspicion arises, popular government over wide areas becomes impracticable, and our twentieth-century civilization a fool's dream.

The consequent shrinkage in the wealth of the world, would be enormous, our civilization of a surplus would become one of deficit, every class would suffer retrenchment, but most of all the workers, who, by reason of birth, tradition or other limitations, would feel most keenly the scantiness of the world's supply of material goods.

In this perspective we see how science has worked for the liberation of all classes of society. In the long process of civic emancipation it has finally opened the way for the rise of the man who works with his hands. Nor will the former masters of society be willing to cut short the beneficent results of science, for it adds to the pleasure and efficiency