Her Majesty the Queen. A Series of Studies of the Sovereign and the Reign. VI.—After Sixty Years [6/6]
Evolution, Prehistory, Geology, Biology, Archaeology, Materialism, Matter Theory, Microbiology, Astronomy, Spectroscopy, Photography, Mapping, Light, Electromagnetism, Ether, Physics, Engineers, Steam-power, Electricity, Telegraphy
Begins a review of the numerous achievements of Queen Victoria's sixty-year reign, by remarking upon the 'marvellous shifting of the perspective' of time and space held by 'our grandfathers'. The Victorians have 'awakened to a sense of the antiquity of our lineage', and 'are beginning to discern somewhat of the massy foundations upon which long æons since was based the evolutionary process'. While the 'Elizabethan age owed much of its stimulus and inspiration to the discovery of another world across the Atlantic', these discoveries cannot be 'compared with the rapid unfolding of the marvellous records of the eternity of past time with which we have been familiarised by the researches of the biologist, the reading of the book on geology, and the patient digging of the archæologist'. (535) Although the Queen's record reign is often called 'a Materialist age, which has chained the soul of man to inert matter', in fact 'science proclaims that there is no such thing as inert matter, that every atom is alive, and that our mortal bodies are vast composite conglomerations of living organisms' (535–36). By advances in fields such as microbiology ('the microbe was practically unknown when the Queen came to the throne'), astronomy, and spectroscopy, 'science has revealed to us a new Heaven and a new Earth' which are 'infinitely marvellous', and 'Behind each discovery that advances our knowledge, the infinite unknown indefinitely recedes'. However, 'far more stupendous are the discoveries that have been made not in the infinitely distant abysses of space, but in the infinitesimally small molecules which are all around. Science has sent its Röntgen ray through the darkened veil, and revealed the Invisible, and summoned all men to enjoy it as their inheritance'. (536) Also pronounces the Queen's reign the 'Age of the Engineer', and insists that the 'Master-men of the Reign have been, not the politicians and statesmen, the soldiers and sailors, the poets and artists—they have been the engineers, the shipbuilders, the electricians, the men who have yoked the thunderbolts of Jupiter to the hammer of Vulcan, and have usurped the authority of Neptune over the waves at the same time they have outstripped the herald Mercury by the speed of their despatches. The steam-engine, the steamship, and the electric wire have, in sixty years, effected a more revolutionary change in the conception of distance than all the millenniums that have passed since the Stone Age' (537).
© Science in the Nineteenth-Century Periodical Project, Universities of Leeds and Sheffield, 2005 - 2020
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