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Author Topic: A Voice From The Past  (Read 1018 times)
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« on: June 17, 2007, 01:19:38 am »

Time and Clocks

By H. H. Cunynghame M.A.  C.B.  M.I.E.E

Originally Published in 1906 in London by Archibald Constable & Co. Ltd.

Introduction [Excerpt]

“When we read the works of Homer, or Virgil, or Plato, or turn to the later productions of Dante, of Shakespeare, of Milton, and the host of writers and poets who have done so much to instruct and amuse us, and to make our lives good and agreeable, we are apt to look with some disappointment upon present times.  And when we turn to the field of art and compare Greek statues and Gothic or Renaissance architecture with our modern efforts, we must feel bound to admit our inferiority to our ancestors.  And this leads us perhaps to question whether our age is the equal of those which have gone before, or whether the human intellect is not on the decline.

This feeling, however, proceeds from a failure to remember that each age of the world has its peculiar points of strength, as well as of weakness.  During one period that self-denying patriotism and zeal for the common good will be developing, which is necessary for the formation of society.  During another, the study of the principles of morality and religion will be in the ascendant.  During another the arts will take the lead; during another, poetry, tragedy, and lyric poetry and prose will be cultivated; during another, music will take its turn, and out of rude peasant songs will evolve the harmony of the opera.

To our age is reserved the glory of being easily the foremost in scientific discovery.  Future ages may despise our literature, surpass us in poetry, complain  that in philosophy we have done nothing, and even deride and forget our music; but they will only be able to look back with admiration on the band of scientific thinks who in the seventeenth century reduced to a system the laws that govern the motions of worlds no less than those of atoms, and who in the eighteenth and nineteenth founded the sciences of chemistry, electricity, sound, heat, light, and who gave to mankind the steam-engine, the telegraph, railways, the methods of making huge structures of iron, the dynamo, the telephone, and the thousand applications of science to the service of man.

And future students of history who shall be familiar with the conditions of our life will, I think, be also struck with the surprise at our estimate of our own peculiar capabilities and faculties.  They will note with astonishment that a gentleman of the nineteenth century, an age mighty in science, and by no means pre-eminent in art, literature and philosophy, should have considered it disgraceful to be ignorant of the accent with which a Greek or a Roman thought fit to pronounce a word, should have been ashamed to be unable to construe a Latin aphorism, and yet should have considered it no shame at all not to know how a telephone was made and why it worked.  They will smile when they observe that our highest university degrees, our most lucrative rewards, were given for the study of dead languages or archaeological investigations, and that science, our glory and that for which we have shown real ability, should only have occupied a secondary place in our education. 

They will smile when they learn that we considered that a knowledge of public affairs could only be acquired by a grounding in Greek particles, or that it could ever have been thought that men could not command an army without a study of the tactics employed at the battle of Marathon. “

There is a place for us out there, we need only pick the spot.  Rise up out of mediocrity and let us bring about our own Golden Age.
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