Review of Reviews,  4 (1891), 213–24.

The Progress of the World



Regular Feature, Editorial, News-Commentary

Relevant illustrations:

table, eng.


Steamships, Military Technology, Public Health, Sanitation, Medical Practitioners, Error, Progress, Sex, Astronomy, Spectroscopy, Photography, Creation, Psychical Research, Scientific Practitioners

    Recent naval manoeuvres have created 'grave doubts as to the efficacy alike of the torpedo and the defensive netting provided against torpedo attack', and it seems likely that this nautical 'crinoline will be discarded in naval warfare' (216). In reporting Prince Edward's call for the prevention of disease through improved sanitation, insists that we must not become the 'bondslaves of the doctors' and 'sacrifice the liberty of all in order to save a few from the inconvenience of ill-health'. After all, in almost every age doctors 'have committed themselves to blunders which have made them the laughing-stock of their own profession in the next generation'. Although the medical profession has 'undoubtedly a splendid record of achievement to show as the result of improved sanitation', their 'greatest blunder [...] in this generation' has been the Contagious Diseases Act which attempted to eliminate 'syphilis by legislation' but instead only served to 'give an enormous stimulus to the vice by which it is propagated'. (221) With this ill-conceived piece of legislation doctors became 'the New Inquisitors'. At the meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Cardiff, William Huggins's presidential address described 'discoveries made in the starry heavens by the use of the spectroscope'. Although his account was not 'popularly intelligible', it left upon 'the mind a sense of the creative process of the first book of Genesis being endlessly renewed before our eyes in the star-sown deep of space'. At the same meeting 'one of the Presidents of the Parliament of Science [i.e. Oliver J Lodge] ventured mildly but firmly to enter his protest against the monstrous anti-scientific superstition of most men of science, that the occult phenomena of thought transference, clairvoyance and the like, ought not to be investigated'. At last, it seems that 'Light is breaking even in the darkest places of scientific arrogance and know-nothingism'. (222).

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