INVENTIONS THAT OUGHT TO BE INVENTED
Hudson Maxim, born in 1853, was part of the inventing Maxim family, little brother of Hiram Stevens, who built the first machine labeled a "flying car" but is far more famous for his Maxim machine gun, and uncle to Hiram Percy, who created the silencer. Hudson, as committed to weaponry as his family, invented smokeless powder and held a number of patents for high explosives.
Inventors are legendarily terrible businessmen, a trait Hudson proved by failing over and over, both under his own leadership and when he lent his name to others. He made money by selling his patents to the DuPont corporation and spent his last quarter century pontificating in hundreds of now-forgotten articles, pamphlets, and books until his death in 1927.
Carper's Law states that "The Future is Never About the Future. It Is Always About Today." Whenever that "today" happens to be. Predictions of the Future tell readers what is important about, missing from, and wanted in their current world and that was equally true a century ago when Hudson published "Inventions That Ought to Be Invented" in the October 1903 issue of Women's Home Companion. Usually future historians have to do mental spelunking in articles about the future to understand exactly what then-obvious but now-obscure needs those future inventions were designed to alleviate; Hudson forthrightly tells us. Some context is still required to fully grasp the contemporary 1903 world, so I've annotated the article with comments of my own.
I was blown away to discover that the text of "Inventions That Ought to Be Invented" is not to be found on the Internet, even though it is often name-checked in articles about past predictions. Fortunately, Roy Brosseau included it in his massive compilation Looking Forward: Life in the Twentieth Century As Predicted in the Pages of American Magazines From 1895 to 1905, three hundred oversize pages crammed with articles, advertisements, and cartoons, available used for pennies. Get it if you have any interest in the period.
Hudson ranges widely, almost wildly, from the hugest possible global issues to tiny everyday nuisances. His track record in predictions is about as good, or bad, in the big ones as the small ones. One throwaway sentence needs to be emphasized here, on a site called Flying Cars and Food Pills: "All kinds of nutriment will be condensed into tabloids containing in very tiny compass the essentials to sustain life in full vigor for long periods." He consigns those food pills to explorers, since bigger and better foods will be easily available in every household in his future; it's the confidence that science could understand and compress life's essentials that was so typical in that turn of the century optimism that all problems could be conquered.
As a bonus, I'm also reprinting a follow-up, a more standard predictions of the future piece, "Man's Machine-Made Millennium," published in the November 1908 Cosmopolitan magazine and illustrated by William R. Leigh.
Inventions That Ought to be Invented
by Hudson Maxim
Women's Home Companion, October 1903
One of the most startling characterizations of the new age of civilization is the accelerating velocity of exploration, discovery and invention. The nineteenth century witnesses greater progress in the sciences and in the practical arts of life than all the other epochs of history put together; but even those who know most about the achievements of that marvelous period are already amazed at the promise of incalculably greater accomplishments during the twentieth century.
One of the distinctive features of the new era is the prompt application to material uses of each and every result of scientific research. In the Middle Ages inventors were few, and slow in action, but in these days every fresh discovery is seized upon with eager utilitarian aims. Ardent expectations are cherished respecting many definite, practical and useful expedients not yet contrived, but looked upon as sure of realization. Some of these I may specify. They are but samples of coming wonders, but they are among the things likely to be soonest invented.
I will commence with what may be reckoned our domestic primaries, or the matters which affect us immediately in the immediate circle of home life. I refer to inventions which have to do with light, heat and food. Obviously there is scope for an immense revolution. Hundreds of electricians are at this moment striving to construct lamps in which nothing is consumed save the electrical energy applied to them – lamps that have the radiance of the sun and the coldness of the moon. The reason why determined study is thus being prosecuted with respect to illuminants is the need for lamps of longer life and purer light than the arc and incandescent lamps now in vogue. The economy of these is not high enough. They are not very superior to the best forms of gas, which for cheapness still holds its own. (1)
With regard to the great fuel problem, it is well known that Mr. Edison is concentrating much of his attention on the higher economics of the use of coal. Coal is King to-day. The immediate task of scientists is to draw from this commodity something like its real value in work, so as to obviate the enormous waste involved in present methods. Mr. Edison declares that a bucketful of coal should drive an express-train from New York to Philadelphia, and a few tons be sufficient for the largest ocean steamship, whose bunkers must now hold thousands. The Oceanic consumes a ton of coal every three minutes, or about five hundred tons a day, during her voyage between New York and Liverpool. But a single pound of coal burned under perfect conditions would so as much work as the strongest hod-carrier climbing stairs or ladder with brick and mortar during a weary day of ten hours working time. At present we waste six sevenths of the value of coal. Our inventors will know no rest until they have found the furnace, the engine or the appliance, or whatever it might be, which will substitute absolute economy for this immense extravagance. (2)
Both for domestic and for manufacturing purposes engineers and men of science are diligently studying the art of harnessing the direct rays of the sun. They anticipate the time when the world’s supplies of coal, petroleum and other combustibles will be practically exhausted. Vast regions of the earth’s surface are sunburnt to aridity, and everywhere the sun’s heat is constantly deluging that surface with stores of latent potential energy which might be made available for the purposes of civilized humanity. Water-power and wind-power both derive their energy from the sun’s rays, and many clever inventions yet unheard of will have for their special object the application of each of these sources of activity. But the defect in each case is the lack of certainty. Wind and tide are variable and intermittent. Therefore, scientists look with great expectations to the perfection of the solar engine, which was produced by Ericcson in an elementary form. Some day there will be discovered a method for gathering and storing the energy of the direct rays of the sun for use in producing a heat-motor. But the practical sun-engine is still among the “uninvented inventions.” (3)
Science will be more and more concerned with problems of food-supply. Here the chemist comes into evidence. Scientists predict wonderful results as the ultimate rewards of the research now going on quietly in many a laboratory. The way will be found of growing strawberries as large as fine apples, and raspberries and blackberries will be produced of such dimensions that one will suffice for the fruit course of each person. Cranberries, gooseberries and currents will be as large as oranges. One cantaloupe will supply a large family. Melons, cherries, grapes, plums, apples, pears and peaches will be seedless. All varieties of summer fruits will be of such a hardy nature that they will be capable of storage all through the winter, as potatoes now are. Cheap native rubber will be grown, and will be harvested by machinery all over this country. Roses will be as big as cabbages, violets will be the size of fine orchids, and a heart’s ease will be of the sunflower magnitude. There will be practiced the constant transfer of the perfume of any scented flower to another that is naturally inodorous. Plants will be rendered microbe-proof. How will all these wonders in culture be achieved? By the discovery of new methods of applying electric agency in glass gardens, so that at one and the same time currents will be passed through the soil to make plants grow faster and larger, and also to exterminate weeds and to destroy bacteria; while plants will be bathed all night in electric-light, to stimulate their progress. All this will be done, but the way to bring it to pass has yet to be invented. (4)
This further brings up the question of the supply of nitrogen, that infinitely abundant elementary gas on which agriculture is absolutely dependent. Some way must be devised of restoring to their old fertility the vast worn-out fields of the world. The agricultural chemist declares that fixed nitrogen is indispensable for this vital redemption. Now, nitrogen, though everywhere so plentifully diffused, is exceedingly difficult to fix. It forms in bulk and weight three-fourths of the atmosphere, yet it challenges man to bring it into subjugation. To catch the elusive and flirtatious floating nitrogen is one of the most cherished objects of present-day explorers among Nature’s secrets. Experiments conducted under the direction of William H. Bauldin, Jr., formerly of Baltimore, seemed to promise a solution of this problem, when a disastrous explosion ended the life of the chief engineer of the works. Thus the question is still in abeyance, but undoubtedly before the great niter-beds of Chili and Peru are exhausted, some means will have been devised of making nitric acid cheaply from the air. (5)
One of the dreams of medical men is likely to be realized in the near future. Few drugs will be swallowed or taken into the stomach unless needed for the direct treatment of that organ itself. The methods of administration of healing medicaments will be revolutionized in the days of our great-grandchildren. With the aid of diagnosis by X-rays, and by the medium of electric currents, drugs will be applied to various organs through the skin and flesh, and the treatment will be painless. It will be easy with the instruments that are certain to be invented – of which the microscope, the photographic camera and the X-ray apparatus are but the pioneers – for the pathologist, physician and surgeon to see the interior of the body and to explore its recesses as it is now to survey the exterior. (6) Furthermore, food will be made for travelers in the pemmican style known to North American Indians. All kinds of nutriment will be condensed into tabloids containing in very tiny compass the essentials to sustain life in full vigor for long periods. (7)
The inventors of the future will revolutionize the culinary department. The kitchen and scullery will no longer be repellent or suggestive of domestic slavery. Drudgery will be a thing of the past for the cook. Electricity will be a cheap handmaid of the dining-room, for the electric current will be utilized with small expense, while when the new and miracle-working metal called radium is better known, and possessed in sufficient quantities, agencies for supplying both heat and light will be available which are as yet unthought of.
Though the means are as yet undevised, there will be no intermission of research until everybody can see and hear everybody without the slightest regard to intervals of space, no matter how great. The coming age will demand wireless telephone and telegraph circuits which will span the circuit of the globe, so that it will be as easy to telephone from New York to Pekin as from New York to Brooklyn. Our descendants will not be satisfied if the scientists of the next generation do not enable them with greatest facility and economy to witness by perfected kinematographs the weddings of any of their friends at the antipodes, the battles being fought on the other side of the world, and the races of horses, yachts and boats in every land. Balloons will rise high above contending armies, and with automatic cameras will “snap-shot” the whole scene, bringing down forthwith to the respective generals perfect pictures of their enemies’ forces. (8)
There is much to be done in the way of improving transportation. In this sphere invention has but initiated its attempts. Many observers imagine that aerial navigation is to be the realm of immediate scientific advancement, but though the aeronaut is one of the foremost of present-day scientific sensationalists, the engineer knows that he really holds the field. The possibilities of navigating the air, although its navigation is sure to come, offer to practical minds a far less inviting field of achievement in the lines of transportation that the necessary improvements on terra firma. On land and sea vehicles for travel will be in use which will render all those known at this hour only eligible for a museum of antique and obsolete curiosities. The automobile has come, but that is only pointing out the way of possibility. So far as velocity is concerned, the automobile has accomplished wonders, but it attains speed only on deadly conditions. What inventors have to contrive a train that will cover two miles a minute, and cross the American continent at that rate without danger of disaster. They have to produce a ship which will cross from Liverpool to New York in three days. They must ponder the problems involved until they can solve the difficult of avoiding collisions by the invention of automatic stoppage of trains and ships the moment there is any danger ahead. (9)
One of the most essential items for the inventor of the near future to supply is a cheap and practical storage-battery. This is a desideratum which so far has baffled the electrical student. An inventor who can supply the want here indicated will find his fortune assured. He will be the magician of his time, for he will inaugurate a new era for the electric railway and accelerate the day of electric propulsion of long-distance trains for mail and passengers. (10)
Inventions are now being waited for which will bring science and art into closer relationship. Color-photography affords a most eligible field for the scientist’s ingenuity. A very feeble beginning has been made in this direction, which affords a mere hint of stupendous possibilities. Perhaps the thing most eagerly looked for is the actual portrait of an absent friend transmitted by telegraph. Allied to color-photography is the difficulty of producing multicolor printing. The best printing-presses yet devised can print three-colors at one impression; but the presses of the future will transfer to paper imprints embodying perhaps a dozen different tints.
This allusion to art colors brings to mind that the manufacturers of dress-fabrics have not yet been enabled to produce delicate hues in their stuffs which defy the influence of sun and rain. Inventors will yet produce expedients for preventing every delicate art shade from fading, so that all dress-colors will be “fast.” Moreover, the mercerizing process will be so perfected that cheap cotton and wool fabrics cannot be distinguished from silk. (11)
In all departments of common every-day life there are outcries for the products of the inventor’s genius. Take, for instance, the solicitude of manufacturers of popular and genuine beverages for a non-refillable bottle. One of the most notorious of the swindlers of the commercial world is the great “wine fake.” For many a year, the proprietors of the vineyards of Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Hungary have complained with no little bitterness of the adulteration of their choicest wines by unscrupulous middlemen. They therefore ask for a bottle which can only be used once – that is to say, when it is filled in their own cellars at the vineyards. Distillers, manufacturers of medicine and makers of choice perfumery all suffer immense loss through the lack of some receptacle which when once its contents have been poured out can never be refilled with an inferior article and sold as the original. (12)
Most interesting of all, because of their bearing on philanthropy, are the discoveries connected with the operation of certain attributes of radium, the remarkable element which has created so memorable a sensation in scientific circles. The astonishing substance gives out both heat and light to an almost incredible degree of intensity. It holds out hope of giving to the blind some possibility of visual perception. If a tube containing radium is held to the closed eye or against the temples, a very powerful impression of light is produced. This is supposed to be due to the action of the radium on the phosphorescence in the pupil of the eye, and possibly also on its action on the nerve-centers. It is reported from Berlin that Doctor Lunden by means of the action of radium rays has actually restored the sight of two blind Russian boys, enabling them to see more or less clearly. (13)
(1) Implicit in Maxim's words is the core dilemma of technological predictions: will young technologies continue to improve to meet all needs or are radical new technologies necessary? Maxim goes back and forth in this article, and he's right to do so - both approaches are always required. Guessing which is which is harder. Wrong guesses produce much of the quaintness of obsolete visions of the future, but that's hindsight. Understanding what's deficient and where improvements need to be made is the important step that should be applauded.
(2) Charles D. Lanier said something like this in an 1893 article about Edison; Maxim is apparently the first to put it into Edison's words. Once in this form they were cited endlessly. Of course, they merely expressed Edison's frustration about the limitations of burning coal to drive steam engines for power and never represented a real invention.
(3) A near-perfect forecast of potentialities and the difficulties in achieving them. Maxim might surprised only that we managed to stretch fossil fuels out for another century before necessity is turning us to explore these technologies.
(4) Luther Burbank had already achieved fame for his achievements in hybridizing fruits and vegetables, part of a revolution in plant breeding aided by research in the many land grant colleges that specialized in A & M, Agricultural and Mechanical Arts. The gigantism is harder to explain, although its common in predictions of the period. If the Future is about the Present, though, the explosive growth in every other aspect of American culture was sure to be unconsciously expressed in seemingly non-relevant predictions.
(5) Fritz Haber would in fact win the Nobel Prize for his industrial process that converted atmospheric nitrogen to ammonia.
(6) The X-Ray shook not merely the medical profession but also worldwide preconceptions about what might be possible. Seeing through flesh, an impossibility made mundane, made other impossibilities tantalizingly close. Neither electricity nor the functioning of the human body were well understood but almost any future medicine was sure to be better than contemporary ignorance.
(7) Food pills! They were always called tabloids or capsules or some other locution, but the concept is right there. The only variation was that "practical" men saw food pills as conveniences for travelers, as freeze-dried foods are today, rather than everyday meal replacements.
(8) Another uncannily correct extrapolation. The Future would always trend toward easier and quicker communication, both for professionals and down to the personal level.
(9) Maxim not surprisingly underestimates the potential accomplishments of cars and planes, but his general thrust is spot-on, even down to the dangers of ever-speedier craft.
(10) Baffles us still, although battery technology has hugely advanced. Perfected storage batteries would transform wind and solar power; something that cheap fossil fuels obviated to our now cost.
(11) This is why we tend to think of the past as a world in black & white. The big breakthroughs in color technologies were post-WWII, with the 50s awash in color: color television, Technicolor films, color home movies, color pictures in magazines (imagine a b&w Playboy), Populuxe designs, and colorful artificial fabrics. All had to await new technologies to burst forth.
(12) The rare contemporary complaint that has been almost completely fulfilled. There are future echoes of this problem, nevertheless, foremost in tamper-resistant and tamper-evident packaging. We can easily reclose and keep products fresh for far longer than Maxim dreamed of, as well.
(13) Radium seemed a miracle in every way, and would be used to try to cure every ailment. Even at the time, though, powerful voices were warning of its danger. Practical Druggist, in its September 1903 issue, also cited this work by Doctor Lunden, but then quoted Pierre Curie as saying "that he would not venture into a room containing one kilogramme of [radium], as it would probably destroy his eyesight, burn off his skin, and even kill him." Which it did, less than three years later. Even the sanest prognosticators can't see the Future with pure clarity.
Man's Machine-Made Millennium
by Hudson Maxim
Illustrated by William R. Leigh
Cosmopolitan Magazine, November 1908
Editor's Note. — It is a wonderful picture that Hudson Maxim has conceived in his scientific mind and thrown on the screen in this article. Daringly peering into the future, he makes one gasp as he predicts the machine-made millennium.
The discovery of a radio-motor, says Mr. Maxim, will make power so cheap that none will work save for recreation; crystallization of fertilizer out of the atmosphere will make the earth so prolific that farming will he a pastime; disinfectant solutions forced through the body will exterminate all germs, and disease will be eliminated; life insurance companies will become simply accident insurance companies, and man's life will run its allotted span; criminals will no longer he imprisoned, but will he segregated in a great reservation where they will live out their lives, the right to propagate their kind denied them, thus eventually cleansing the world of its criminal element; the mastery of the air will liberate mankind from the limitations of navigable rivers and railroad tracts; gold will be so common that it will be used for rifle bullets; diamonds as big as the Kohinoor will be made for a dollar, and the city of the future will not be a collection of buildings, but one vast arcaded building with its subdivisions carefully allotted for the needs of its inhabitants.
Could we fly out through space, and with a speed sufficiently great, we should overtake the rays of reflected light that left our earth thousands and millions of years ago; and had we infinite eyes we could, as we went, look back and behold the history of our earth unravel, see the return of man to the ape-like thing, see him and all animate forms finally converge upon the moneron plunged in the azoic sea.
What a wonder-world would the panorama be, could we similarly take wing into the future and follow man up the ascending scale until he shall have reached the zenith of physical, intellectual, and ethical life, whence he will look back upon us, his progenitors, with the same curious regard that moves us as we look down the line of our ascent upon the little lemur, parent of the ape-progenitor of man! Following down the descending scale, we should see the cooling sun grow dim and the parching earth drink up the seas, and see man become a cave-dweller again, mining for moisture, more precious then than gold.
FORETELLING THE FUTURE
No man is able to foretell the future except from his knowledge of the present, and what he foresees must result from present tendencies. There can be no effect without a cause, and there can be no cause which is not in itself an effect of a preceding cause. Every effect is in turn a cause for other effects exactly equal to itself. There can be no more effects in nature, therefore, than are exactly equal to producing causes.
Every atom in existence follows a course mathematically exact—a course determined for it by the combined forces exerted upon it of all the other atoms in existence and as exact as the orbit of a star. We know, therefore, that the sum of all the forces of all nature at the present moment is exactly the sum of the combined forces exerted between atoms. Hence we know that all events of history, and all phenomena, and all evolutions of organic and inorganic, animate and inanimate nature, during all time, have been exactly those that have resulted from the sum of the combined forces of all the atoms in existence acting upon one another.
There is no haphazard in nature. There is no such thing as luck or chance. Our lives are part and parcel of the great cosmic procession, and even our free will is predestined to will as it does, for we can no more will without a cause for willing than a sun can be deflected from its orbit without cause for that deflection.
Standing here upon the threshold of all that is yet to be, had we infinite knowledge of causes now operating, and of their trend, we should have infinite foresight too; but our knowledge is so small and our powers are so finite that we can at best but speculate and generalize.
WHAT WE CAN PREDICT
Yet there is much that we can predict with some degree of assurance. It is safe to predict that man's advancement from now on will be vastly more rapid than it has ever been before, and possibly the millennium of intellectual achievement may not be so far ahead as has been the habit of our conjecture.
The present is an age of mechanical and chemical engineering and invention, an age of science, an age of material achievement; and it will be followed by a sociological age, an era of achievement in ethics and philosophy and the development of higher physical health—an age of intellectual and moral perfecting.
Even at the present time, from a humane point of view, we are standing miles higher than the ancients stood. In olden times there was no recognition of such a thing as inalienable human rights; and when one people were able to rob or enslave another people with profit, it was looked upon as weakness and bad business not to rob and enslave them.
When Julius Cæsar fell upon the German camp, while negotiations for peace were pending, and surprised and slew two hundred and fifty thousand men, women, and children in a few hours, it was thought a very masterful stroke of Roman policy, for the Romans saw no use in those Germans.
One of the greatest blessings of modern civilization is that it widens the range of human usefulness. It would now be considered an extravagance and a waste of human life to fall upon a neighboring people and cut them down to the last person.
There is a growing recognition of the fact that this world we live in is only a larger country. Patriotism is outgrowing national boundary lines. There is a growing spirit of international brotherhood, a growing knowledge of the truth that all mankind feeds at a common board and sits by a common fireside and that selfish sea-gull ethics do not pay.
The warmth of the fire is better enjoyed when shared than when monopolized at the cost of crowding others into the cold. The half of a sweet morsel shared is better than the whole unshared. Mutuality in the enjoyment of possessions is what gives them most value.
MUTUALITY IN POSSESSIONS
Carnegie is but placing libraries in his larger house. J. P. Morgan, in his gifts of valuable paintings to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, is but hanging them upon the walls of the great house he shares with others. Rockefeller is expending millions to better his environment and to purchase the goodwill of the tenantry of the great house in which he and his children must live. Philanthropists expend large sums every year on the great human habitation, thereby making it more comfortable for themselves.
A great French philosopher once truly said: "All law, all philosophy, all wisdom, depend upon the practice of these principles. Moderate thyself. Instruct thyself. Live for thy fellow creatures that they may live for thee." He is the best business man who abides by this teaching.
There is a no more common error of belief than the one that altruism is a mere matter of sentiment, for it has a practical business side, a side befitting cold, calculating policy. Perfect selfishness and perfect altruism lead to a common goal, where life is found to be an equation—the individual on one side, other people on the other side.
If two persons were to proceed with equal wisdom, one actuated by purely selfish motives and by policy, the other by purely altruistic motives with no idea of policy, the one would serve others by his own self-service, and the other would serve himself by his service to others. The unselfish man would find it necessary to conserve himself in the interest of others, and the selfish man would find that he must conserve others equally in the interest of himself.
If, for argument's sake, we were to assume a condition of mechanical and scientific perfection, where every want except human companionship and sympathy could be supplied by pressing a button, there is no place in the world that would not be a prison-house if these requisites to happiness were lacking.
The first step to be taken toward the coming millennium is to fit the great human procession for millennial possibilities. There can be no millennium, no way of making complete living common, until there shall have been weeded out of the great human garden the obnoxious plants that now grow rank in the hothouse of unbridled passions, fertilized by drugs and watered with alcohol.
"The wrong are weak: the right are strong:
This mean the two terms, right and wrong.
And truth sought out to any length
Finds all wrong weakness; all right, strength."
Thus it is that, before we pass into any human paradise, we must go by the somber prison-house, the reformatory, and the hospital.
Just as we now elect what immigrants shall come into our country to reside and mingle their blood with ours, so we have the right to choose—and shall soon know enough to exercise that right—what blood we shall let continue to flow into the great human stream. The reform will come not by punishing the offender, but by his isolation. The criminal will then be classed with the leper, and men will no more think of punishing for theft or than we now think of punishing for insanity or smallpox. But the public will be protected much more efficiently then than it is now. It is the ignorance of barbarism that leads us to imprison men for crimes they cannot help committing, releasing them after a stated period with the impulse toward crime unchecked. This is as unwise as it would be to imprison a leper when the first flush of his disease appeared, then to release him to mingle with the human throng and contaminate others, and again to imprison him for that contamination, releasing him again after punishment, to continue the contagion.
The remedy will be the establishment of a great institution for the reception and isolation of all human derelicts. It will be a national institution. It will not be like any prison we now know, for it will be wardened by kindness. A large tract of fertile country will be set apart. It will be an enormous garden, and the tenantry of that great park will have their little farms and cottages. There will be cities with beautiful residences, schools, colleges, clubs, libraries, and art-galleries—in short, every convenience and luxury common to the civilized life of that time. There will be but one restriction—the lives of all who enter there, although lived and ended in comfort and even luxury, shall not be perpetuated in others. There will be no son and no daughter to inherit the property of the thrifty manufacturer, house-owner, or landholder, for all property will belong to the commonwealth, and on the death of a tenant the property occupied by him will revert to the commonwealth to be assigned to some new offender sent in from the outer world.
Man is a warring animal. The first sun of civilization's dawn broke through a war cloud, and what light it has since shed upon mankind has been through rifts in clouds of war. The history of nations is the history of wars; but while armies of men have met and hewn each other down, there have been enemies in the ranks of the combatants on every side far more deadly than he of the two-edged sword.
WAR WITH DISEASE
In every war pestilence has slain dozens to every one that has fallen in battle. There are no rifts in the clouds of war waged with the deadly germs of disease. It is a constant and ever-present bloody battle. The beautiful daughter, health and happiness smiling in her face, kisses a playmate on whose lips are the bacilli of tuberculosis, and she falls a victim to the White Plague; or it is diphtheria, or scarlet fever, or typhoid, or any of the legionaries of ghost-boned pestilence.
We have no weapon with which we can attack that enemy. We must stand by, impotent spectators, while our loved ones are actually devoured by the microscopic wolves of disease. We have a few antitoxins which help a little, some new methods of treatment, and the surgeon's knife. But what we need is a tower of refuge with a veritable pool of Bethesda, where the victim of disease may enter and pass out purified and clean.
What is needed is the discovery of some electro-chemical process by which the germs of disease may be killed in the living tissues, lymph, and blood without injury to the cells of the living body. Such a desideratum is one of the reasonable probabilities of the near future, wherein the victim of any germ disease whatsoever can be made clean and whole in a day. He who shall discover or invent this thing will be the greatest benefactor of the human race that history has ever had or can ever know. For there is no room for another so great.
Chemists, electricians, and physicians should give this problem serious attention. I have the following suggestion to make, which may possibly help some:
It has been known for a long time that if a diaphragm be introduced into an electrolyte, and an electric current of sufficiently high voltage be employed, the contents of one electrode chamber will be forced through the diaphragm into the other electrode chamber until a certain difference of pressure will have been established between the solutions in the two compartments. This is called electro-osmosis, or cataphoresis. Tanners employ electro-osmosis in the tanning of hides to force a tanning solution into the skins, thereby saving much time and expense.
My suggestion is to interpose the human body as a part of the diaphragm in electro-osmosis, or cataphoresis, and thus to force remedial agents or germ-destroying chemicals into and through the human tissues, lymph, and blood. If the human body were to compose a portion of such a partition, might not a solution of chlorin, for instance, be employed in one of the compartments, and a current of electricity of such character be used as would force the chlorin into and through the human tissues, lymph, and blood, destroying the germs of disease without such concentration as would injuriously affect the tissues and fluids of the body?
It is well known that chlorin is one of the most powerful germicides known to science, a far less concentrated solution of it being required as a germicide than of most other germ-destroying agents, such, for example, as carbolic acid and corrosive sublimate, or permanganate of potash. If the bandages of a fresh wound be immediately wet and kept wet with a weak chlorin solution rendered slightly saline with common salt, the wound will nearly always heal by first intention, and there will be no soreness. This evidences that a chlorin solution sufficiently strong to kill infectious germs may be employed without injuriously affecting the tissues of the body.
The animal organism is a complex one. It is a sort of electric generator. The blood is alkaline, while the lymph or juice of the flesh is acid, and they are separated by an impervious membrane, so that a person may have a disease of the blood without having a disease of the lymphatics, and may have a disease of the lymphatics, such as tuberculosis of the lymphatics, known as scrofula, without producing tuberculosis of the blood. Hence, in order to be sure of destroying every disease germ in lymph and blood, bone and muscle, it would be necessary to penetrate them all, and simultaneously, with a germ-destroying agent, and such would be the aim of germicidal electro-osmosis.
CONQUEST OF THE AIR
The conquest of the air, which we are already beginning to realize, is one of the great achievements that will make for the millennium. Whatever facilitates travel and transportation makes the remote near, the foreigner a countryman, and the alien a neighbor and a friend.
The great Fulton taught us how to defy the hurricane and to reduce the ocean to a ferry. Franklin discovered the Archimedean lever in the electric switch and turned on a power that is lifting the world. Morse made electricity our Mercury, annihilating time and space in the transmission of intelligence, and Alexander Graham Bell has brought the world's ear to our desk and makes it listen. Now, with the advent of the flying-machine, we shall soon be able to leave the earth-road and go coursing on the unobstructed sky-way. We shall soon have our automobiles of the air, and shall then be able to tour the Siberian sky, the Arctic waste, and chase the mirage over arid Saharas as commonly as we now tour an adjacent state.
NEW SOURCES OF ENERGY
There is one stupendous problem which man must soon solve, for upon its solution hangs the very possibility of continued human civilization and progress. We must have a supply of heat and power inexhaustible in quantity and cheap of production. This problem solved, human ascent becomes easy.
Had we an engine which would utilize the energy latent in coal with an economy equal to that with which the sea-gull utilizes the carbon it consumes in its food, we should be able to develop ten times the energy that we now do from the fuel we consume to turn the wheels of industry and trade. But, even were we able to invent such an engine, it would not long suffice to supply our needs, for the great coal-beds could last but a few centuries. At the present rate of coal-consumption all those great stores of carbon that the sun stored up for us in the carboniferous period will be exhausted in a few generations.
Not only this, but we are also burning up our air, as Lord Kelvin has shown us. Every ton of coal consumed renders unfit for breathing twelve tons of air. So that, even if we had coal enough to last us indefinitely, we should not have enough oxygen in the air to burn it up, but should fill the air with carbonic acid gas to suffocation.
Possibly we shall invent some motor which will utilize efficiently the heat of the solar rays. It is estimated that the total amount of energy received by the earth from the sun is equal to that which would be developed by a continuous Niagara seventy-five thousand miles wide—wide enough to encircle the earth three times. But this enormous energy, great as it is, is received upon such a vast area that the great difficulty lies in its concentration. Water-power is an indirect utilization of the heat of the solar rays, but were every stream and fall harnessed to maximum duty, the energy developed would not long be sufficient for man's needs.
The discovery of radiant matter has opened a new vista to our view and possibilities so stupendous that we hardly dare, with our present knowledge, to deem them probable. We have discovered that the internal molecular energy of matter is perfectly inconceivable in amount, and if we ever succeed in harnessing it to human use we shall be able to light, heat, and run the world from the dynamo.
Every molecule of matter is made up of a vast number of small particles known as corpuscles, and these corpuscles are constantly moving about at a velocity of a hundred thousand miles a second—more than half the speed of light. This means that in one pound of ponderable substance there is sufficient energy to hurl a one-pound projectile at a velocity of a hundred thousand miles a second.
GLIMPSES OF THE FUTURE
Every human want has its expression in terms of heat and power, and when heat and power are made cheap enough the earth will be a playground, and every land and every sea will pulse and vibrate under the human finger and the guidance of the human brain. When that day comes all our fields can be fertilized from the air by the formation of nitro compounds directly from atmospheric nitrogen by the electric current, and agriculture will become a pastime. There will be electrically heated hothouses covering thousands of acres, and the country farm, even in the northern clime, will have its summer and its winter crops. Methods will be discovered of stimulating the growth of plants by electrical warmth and light. In gardens so tended there will be currants as large as damsons, damsons the size of apples, apples as large as melons, strawberries as large as oranges, with the texture and flavor of old Kent. In short, fruits of all kinds will be raised, with flavors to suit the most fastidious taste.
Wireless telephony will then embrace the world, and it will be as easy to hold converse with the antipodes as it is to-day for New York to speak with Brooklyn.
The lonely farmhouse will be no more, but the people will group themselves in little cities with metropolitan recreations and amusements. Every little village will have its theater, but the actors will live and play in New York, London, or Paris. The country stage will be a screen, and "Hamlet," played in London, will be transmitted by teleview, telephone, and telharmonium and reproduced upon the stage screen at Chautauqua. The Patti of that time will need to make no farewell tours, for every country stage will tour the world. Last night, a London play; to-night, a Parisian success; and to-morrow evening, a howling New York farce, to be followed by three days of grand opera sent in from St. Petersburg.
On the great ocean liners passengers may at will enjoy drama, tragedy, or grand opera from New York, Paris, London, Berlin, Tokio, or Peking; and the cost of such a voyage will not be greater than the expense of a present day's outing.
Recent experiments have renewed the hope of the old alchemists that we may yet transmute the baser metals into gold. If we succeed, then gold will find new and extensive uses. Gold, slightly alloyed, would make ideal rifle balls, for it could be made to possess exactly the requisite hardness, while its density would give projectiles a tremendous carrying and penetrating power. Such a bullet would be recommended by the peace men, for who would not prefer a gold bullet to a lead one healed in his flesh?
The inventor of the first machine gun provided it with one barrel for shooting round bullets, and one barrel for shooting square bullets, the round bullets being for Christians and the square bullets for Turks. It is hard to make bullets of any description kind, but the round gold bullet would be the most merciful.
The warfare of the future will be like a chess tournament. Every move will be under the eyes of the world, for concealment and secret maneuvers will be impossible. Newspapers will have their aerial scouts hovering over camp and fleet and field, and every move of ocean craft or land squadron will be reproduced on maps in every stock-exchange and newspaper office throughout the world, and each move will be the study, plan, and conjecture of thousands of observers.
In 1896, at Faraday House, in London, I conducted some experiments with electric furnaces and succeeded in making microscopic diamonds by electro-deposition. I have since then been hoping to take up the work again. I am confident that either by the process I then discovered, or by some other, diamonds will soon be made cheaply and plentifully and large in size.
Artificial diamonds are needed much more in the arts than they are as gems. I predict that diamonds will soon be made so cheaply that they will be no more expensive than many other electro-chemical products. Diamonds as large as peas will then be sold at twenty-five cents each with a profit, and diamonds as large as the Kohinoor will not cost more than a dollar.
THE COMING CITY
The stranger visiting New York is awestruck by the sky-piercing office-buildings; but could that stranger go to sleep as Rip Van Winkle did and return after a few centuries he would find the larger part of the present city razed to earth and rebuilt, and from the old foundations would rise up monumental structures compared with which our mightiest buildings of to-day would be as a hunter's cabin of logs and boughs.
Instead of individual buildings, disunited and independent in architecture, that great city of the future will be as one enormous edifice. The present streets upon the surface of the ground will become the basement, and the business thoroughfares will be upon an enormous platform a story high; and stupendous banks of streets, arcades and corridors, parks and playgrounds will rise one above another, tier on tier, to eye-tiring heights, supported by vast columns several blocks in diameter at the base, traversed by great streets and thoroughfares and rising to a height of two thousand feet or more. Each tower will be so built as amply to house several hundred thousand persons, and there will be homes in sky-hung parks and gardens up in the clear, cool, pure air, and from their commercial work down near the earth business men will take express elevators to their homes in a veritable "airy, fairy dreamland of nightingales," where the clouds hover and smile in the evening sun long after the ink of night has engulfed the lower floors.
Viewed from a distance, the great city will have the aspect of a frail structure of webs and ribbons of steel through which the sun and air will find a freer access to the earth than they now find between the present city walls.
At night, when the millions of lights emblazon the sky and throw their united fire far into the outer dark, the city will resemble an enormous torch about which fast-fleeting flying-machines will flit and plunge like giant moths about a giant flame.
The night sky of the suburban dweller of that millennial time will be made meteoric with luminescent cloud-racing craft whose radiance will dim the stars and shame the envious moon.