NATURAL science is the latest of man’s great achievements. The other important agents of civilization long ago attained their full stature, and many of the finest products of human endeavor, like literature and the fine arts, have been through many centuries the common possession of the race. Even music, the most modern of the arts, is no longer young. But only in the last half century has science reached maturity and revealed its titanic power for good and evil in the reconstruction of the surroundings of our life. Yet to-day, after a few brief decades of the scientific era, agriculture, transportation and communication, food, clothing and shelter, birth and death themselves—in truth almost all of man’s experiences and activities—are different from what they were before, and the earth which he inhabits is transformed so that it is with difficulty that he can imagine the conditions of life in past centuries.

Meantime, these very changes which science has wrought have combined with the great generalizations of science to modify philosophy and to direct the current of religious thought. Here again the effects are sometimes good, sometimes evil, but they are always profound and widely influential. Most wonderful of all is the growth of natural knowledge itself, the basis of these changes. Ever more extensive and complete is the description of nature; all things are counted, measured, and figured, then analyzed and classified. Out of such orderly knowledge generalizations and laws arise, and with the help of experiment and mathematical analysis receive their confirmation, until at length positive knowledge appears to extend to almost all phenomena, and, except the origin of things, little seems quite obscure or wholly unknown, while much is very securely established.

The history of science and of its influence on civilization is in some respects the simplest of the departments of history, for it is less complicated by those incalculable forces which, springing from man’s passions and personal interests, make up much of the charm and difficulty of general history. Deprived of these psychological elements, the history of science is in fact more nearly a part of the natural history of man; it is concerned with the latest stage of his struggle with the environment, with his cunning and deliberate devices to master it, and with the marvelous structure of theoretical knowledge which he has built up in the process.

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