This extract is the opening section from the full article, which also foresaw such advances in electrical usage as electric trains, economical aluminium extraction, and electric gardening.
The New England Magazine, July, 1892, pages 623-625:
By Elihu Thompson
TRUE science, bound by no fetters, its theories tenable only so long as they are useful in connecting facts, its progress limited only by the life of the race on the earth, and its field unbounded, -- is not only vastly enlarging the mental horizon, but is, at the same time, conferring incalculable practical benefits. Did this statement need emphasis, it is found in the growth of no particular branch of science more than in electricity. While in the near past the extension of its industrial applications has been phenomenal, we must not forget that during the same period its theories have become equally expanded and shorn of crudity.
With the vast accumulation of new facts, electricity has come to be understood as intimately related in its nature and actions to that necessary something which has been called the universal ether, filling all space and permeating the most solid objects. By the electrical vibrations of this medium, the stars not only declare their very presence, but transmit to us indications of their directions and rates of motion, their temperatures, and even the kind of matter which composes them. The beam of light is an electrical phenomenon, it is an electrical oscillation or vibration of such extraordinary rapidity, hundreds of trillions per second, as to become unrealizable in thought. It is conveyed in the ether at the rate of nearly two hundred thousand miles per second. So are also other electrical actions.
It would be outside the scope of an article like the present to dwell upon the possible directions of development of electrical theories in so far as they may include other phenomena than light, so recently demonstrated to be electrical in its nature. The fact that electrical action is so intimately related to the phenomena of heat, chemical energy, and crystallization leads us to think that future discoveries can but tend towards further harmonies of these great forces.
Electrical attraction and repulsion, magnetism, light, and radiant heat are now known to be dependent in some way on the properties of the ether of space. Gravitational force must be similarly dependent. Cohesion and chemical affinity are, without doubt, manifestations depending on the same medium. The future scientific investigator will find his field of work gradually expanding. The growth of electricity as a branch of science must be at least commensurate with that of the broader science of physics.
But let us turn to a brief consideration of the possible advances in the practical applications of electric energy in the arts and industries. Let us examine the subject from the standpoint of effect on our methods of work and conditions of life.
There is required no special scientific taste or training to enable people to appreciate immediately practical aspects.
As a swift messenger, as a conveyer of intelligence, electricity has in the telegraph been familiarly known for about half a century. So far as appears from the present outlook, future telegraphic progress promises no great revolutions. Methods and means will, no doubt, become more and more refined, and greater speeds be attained. The more general introduction of multiplex systems will increase the capacity of the lines and decrease the costs. More attention will be given to permanence of lines and to securing immunity from extended interruptions due to storms.
It may be remarked here, however, that electricians are not without some hope that signalling or telegraphing for moderate distances without wires, and even through dense fog may be an accomplished fact soon. Had we the means of obtaining electric oscillations of several millions per second, or waves similar to light waves, but of vastly lower rate of vibration, it might be possible by suitable reflectors to cause them to be carried a mile or so through a fog, and to recognize their presence by instruments constructed for the purpose. Many of the difficulties and dangers which now beset the navigator would, at least, be lessened, if not removed. Signalling or telegraphing without wires is no new proposal, and there have been many such proposals which are extravagant and impracticable. The fact is, however, the essential means are not yet forthcoming.