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Chapter 1 Roger Bacon

  • When comparing the present condition of society with that of past centurie_he question naturally arises, what will the future be ? Will the sam_rogress which, in our own times especially, has been of such vast dimensions,
  • and manifested itself in so many directions, continue to he 'progressive ? An_f so— for who could think of reaction, since the art of printing has guarde_gainst any future of the human mind being ever effaced—where is to be th_ltimate goal of the progress of our successors ? Where are we to look for th_ruits of those innumerable germs which the present generation is sowing fo_he benefit of those that will come after them ?
  • These, and similar other questions, occupied my mind when, seated on_fternoon in my comfortable arm-chair, I allowed my thoughts freely to wande_mid the manes of those that preceded us. I thought of our own Musschen-broek,
  • Gravesande, Huyghens, and Stevin, and of what would be their surprise wer_hey to reappear on this earth, and gaze upon the marvellous works of moder_achinery; I passed in review a Newton and Galileo, with so many others,
  • founders of an edifice which they themselves would not now recognise. _hought of steam engines and electric telegraphs, of railways and steamboats,
  • of mountain tunnels and suspension bridges, of photography and gasworks, o_he amazing strides lately made by chemistry, of telescopes and microscopes,
  • of diving bells and aeronautics; aye, and of a hundred other things, which, i_otley array, wildly crossed my mind, though all corresponding in this tha_hey loudly proclaimed the vast and enormous difference between the presen_nd the past. The line of demarcation between the one and the other reveale_tself still more clearly to me as my thoughts carried me further back int_he past and the ghost of Roger Bacon seemed to rise before my imagination.
  • This thirteenth-century child was a scholar who surpassed all hi_ontemporaries in sound judgment and knowledge of natural science; alas ! Hi_ate was the ordinary one in store for all those whose light shone above tha_f others in those darkest of ages. He was accused of witchcraft, and cas_nto a dungeon, there doomed to sigh for ten weary years, after which, as th_umour goes, he died in his prison. The memory of that illustrious man calle_o my mind some passages of his writings, from which it will be seen how he,
  • as if endowed with the seer's gift, did actually foretell, some six hundre_ears ago, that which since, and chiefly in our own time, has become an arra_f realities. [[1]](footnotes.xml#footnote_1)* For example:
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  • "It is possible," says he, " to construct spying-glasses by which the mos_istant objects can be drawn near to us, so that we shall be able to read th_ost minute writing at an almost incredible distance, to see all kinds o_iminutive objects, and to make the stars appear wherever we choose."
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  • "We might make waggons that could move along with great velocity, and withou_eing drawn by animals."
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  • "Similar other machines ntight be had, as, for example, bridges withou_illars or supports of any kind."
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  • "There might be contrivances for the purpose of navigation without navigators,
  • so that the greatest vessels would be handled by one single man, and at th_ame time move onward with greater speed than those with numerous crews."
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  • As I pondered over such remarkable observations as those, I sank into absolut_everie; all surrounding objects seemed gradually to disappear from my sight,
  • until I got into that peculiar condition in which, while everything materia_bout us is at rest and passive, the mind, on the contrary, proves uncommonl_ctive and alert. I felt myself suddenly in the midst of an immense city;
  • where I did not know, but about me I saw a vast square, and in it a statel_difice with a lofty tower, on which I fancied I read the followin_nscription:
  • ** A.D. 2071.**
  • ******January 1st.**
  • I could scarcely believe my own eyes, and must have approached the tower wit_ooks highly expressive of curiosity and amazement; for an elderly gentleman,
  • accompanied by a young lady, stepped forward to speak to me.
  • " I see, sir, that you are a stranger in Londinia; if any information could b_f service to you "
  • These kind words caused me to stop; I looked at the man who stood before me,
  • and was at once struck and impressed by his thoughtful and noble features. No_as I slow in recognising him. He was the very man with whom I had been fo_ome time past engaged in my thoughts.
  • " You are Roger Bacon," said I.
  • "To be sure!" was his reply; "at the same time allow me the pleasure o_ntroducing you to this young lady friend of mine, Miss Phantasia."
  • I happened to be in that frame of mind to which one might apply the Horatia_nil mirari_. Nothing of what I saw surprised me, not even the appearance i_he flesh of a man like Bacon, who had taken his departure from our plane_ome five hundred years ago. I therefore simply accepted his obliging offer,
  • and began by asking for an explanation of the figures and words on the tower.
  • " On yonder tower, over the clock-face ? " answered he. " Why, that mean_imply this, that we have arrived at the first day of the new year 2071."