“No, we really know nothing about it, after all. We have managed to do a great many things with it. We have learned some of its properties, but it holds fast its inner secrets. The great universe of electrical discovery has hardly been entered.” But electricity is not the only modern mystery.
Take photography, that wizard-like science. The man who, fifty years ago, would have predicted the moving picture which has already become commonplace to us, would have been rejected as a madman. Tele-photography is almost as remarkable as the moving picture. Color-photography will yet be reduced to perfection. The chemists are constantly astounding us with suggestions so remarkable that they are weird.
Luther Burbank creating new species of plant life, Max Standfuss doing the like with insects, make the Arabian Nights commonplace and dull. Think of the Roentgen rays! Think of the achievement of the wonderful young Italian! Marconi’s invention seems uncanny, so impossible does it appear even when you watch his magic instrument at work.
In the laboratories of Europe and America investigations are this very moment being made into Nature’s securest secrets. The mystery of to-day will be to-morrow’s accepted and commonplace truth. One seizes one’s head and closes one’s eyes in bewilderment at the possibilities of science in every direction.
All the great inventions, all the great discoveries, made! How like the egotism of the infinitesimal mind of the human race that thought this!
If all the great inventions and discoveries have been made, man has already mastered all of the laws of God’s universe, and applied them practically to all conditions and substances in existence. How absurd!
The field of invention and scientific discovery is like that strange and awful manifestation known as the “Milky Way.” We see it with our naked eye—numberless stars and a pale, growing blur around and behind them, and we childishly call it the “Milky Way.”
That miracle called the telescope is invented; we look again, and there are more and new stars—but, still farther on in the infinite depths, the blur of light. Higher and higher goes the power of telescope after telescope, but all that they reveal is a bewildering infinitude of more new stars—and beyond that again the “Milky Way.”
This is an old and commonplace illustration, I know very well; but it exactly represents the possibilities of new and vast inventions, of strange and priceless discoveries, wherever you turn your eye.
The only question is whether you have the eye. The conditions are there to be discovered—begging for discovery. If you have vision and do not produce a great invention, the fault is not in the universe about you. Of course, if you haven’t vision, do not attempt it. Darius Green and his flying machine are ridiculous always.
What I have said of invention, war, statesmanship, literature, journalism, and the law, may be applied to every conceivable field of human thought. I merely wish to impress upon the great mass of young Americans that not only have all the great things not been done, but that the greatest of great things are yet to come.