Even a few hundred year ago, the condition of man roaming in the world at the mercy of the mighty forces of Nature, was miserable, if not pitiable. He had to suffer from the vagaries of weather and the far greater attack of diseases. When he went on a long journey, he usually despaired of returning in safety. Life in the pre-scientific age was ruled by accident, which was explained as destiny.
Science, however, has greatly relieved human sufferings; especially this is so in the case of medicine, and surgery. In ancient times a leper was left outside the city walls to live as long as he could on charity and then to die. We read that in the great plague of London (1665) people left their plague-stricken relatives to die and ran way to save their own lives.
Only the other day the Bubonic plague, smallpox and cholera would break out almost every year. The operation of patients was so painful that more victims died on the table. But now-a-days most diseases yield to treatment; and many more are prevented or checked by vaccination, injections of many kinds as also by micro-surgery and ultra-sonic treatment and transplantation of limbs or organs. Science has greatly relieved men of the fear of disease and untimed death. The death rate has decreased; the average life expectation has increased.
Apart from fighting diseases, science has made life much more comfortable with various amenities. Imagine the sufferings of our ancestors who had to walk for days in sun and rain over dusty or muddy roads to reach a distant place. But nowadays we can go to the end of the earth by jumbo jet, incredibly faster. Traveling has become a pleasure whether by land, sea, or air. The ordinary day-to-day business of living has become much more smooth and easy. We need no longer cover in the dark at night nor do we sweat in the heat as our ancestors did. We have air-conditioners. Power-driven vehicles have also eased the physical hardship of transport.
Life is for the people in the Western countries more comfortable than it is for us. Just imagine an average home in America. There are so many labour-saving devices to give the tired housewife more leisure. She can have an electric oven, an electric washer, an electric cleaner. She can finish her cooking in half-an-hour; her washing takes far less time as if she is getting things done by robots.
To the man in offices and factories also, science offers all sorts of pleasant amenities. If it is too cold, the office-room is kept comparatively warm by heaters. If it is too hot, it is air-conditioned. In the factories, all heavy and unpleasant work is done by machinery. Conditions in mines once used to be like hell; now the suffering of the workers have been much reduced and mitigated.
Science has become a handmaiden of culture. Book-production, that used to be a costly process in the last century, is now cheap and plentiful. The student enjoys facilities for writing and reading in a comfortable library, or for doing experiments in the laboratory, which his forefathers could not dream of. The lecturer is aided by apparatus and the microphone. Both the acquisition and spread of culture have become easier.
Science can also help relieve the pangs of hunger. During days of unscientific agriculture, man was at the mercy of the weather. In one year, there may be heavy rains; in the another, there may be severe drought. Today science has helped man conquer Nature. Scientific irrigation brings to the cultivator a ready supply of water: mechanized implements like the bulldozer and tractor help him to plough large tracts of land quickly and efficiently. Greater knowledge of soil chemistry has ensured proper use of manures and fertilizers. Refrigeration has helped long-term storage of food and its even distribution throughout the year. There is possibility of a plenty, which our forefathers could not dream of.
Of course, it is a fact that today the privileges of science belong to the rich. It is they who reap most of the advantages of science. But science is also changing man’s outlook on life, and as days go by, its benefits will be more and more enjoyed by the common man and reach the household of the poor. Science has removed many of the disabilities from which men suffered. Use of scientific methods has made the handicapped active. It will relieve much more in the years to come. Man will soon become “the master of things”.