Atoms upon Atoms

THE Sentinel of February 9, gave an extract from the address of Mr. C. W. Hunt, ex-President of American Society of Mechanical Engineers, which contains the following momentously interesting statement: "More nearly touching him personally [the mechanical engineer] comes the work of the biologist, whose quest for the thing we call life has continued from the primitive man to the present time. Constantly flitting from his grasp, it has seemingly passed from fire and storm to mountain and deep, from animal and plant to seed, to cell, and now it has been followed to the molecule or atom, and yet it as completely eludes his grasp or even his comprehension as ever it has. But followed it certainly has been, by all the laws and forces of nature at the command of man, until the search for it is now in the molecule or the atom, a space physically so small that only the trained imagination can even faintly comprehend its minuteness."

What is the missing link between the atom and "the thing we call life"? Graphically stated, the modern atomic theory is this: "Matter is composed of minute particles called atoms." The smallest particle of dust we can see, when made a thousand times smaller is still thousands upon thousands of times too large for an atom. Truly it is "physically so small that only the trained imagination can even faintly comprehend its minuteness."

Let us reason a moment. "Imagination" is a faculty of the human mind. Through imagination we comprehend an atom. That atom exists only to the "trained imagination" of the human mind, according to Mr. Hunt, being unrecognizable by any of the five material senses. Reasoning backwards: If this single atom can be comprehended only by the "trained imagination," so can two atoms; so can two million atoms; so can all atoms forming all matter exist only to the human mind.

Meat, Drink, and the Doctors
March 2, 1899

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