Retrospect may involve regret, but can scarcely involve anxiety. To one who fully appreciates the actual, and above all the potential, importance of this society in its bearing upon the general progress of scientific research in every field of physical inquiry, the responsibilities of president will not be lightly, while they may certainly be proudly, undertaken.

I think it may be now fairly taken for granted that, as this society has, from the outset, promoted and pointed to the higher scientific perfection of the microscope, so now, more than ever, it is its special function to place this in the forefront as its raison d'etre. The microscope has been long enough in the hands of amateur and expert alike to establish itself as an instrument having an application to every actual and conceivable department of human research; and while in the earliest days of this society it was possible for a zealous Fellow to have seen, and been more or less familiar with, all the applications to which it then had been put, it is different to-day. Specialists in the most diverse areas of research are assiduously applying the instrument to their various subjects, and with results that, if we would estimate aright, we must survey with instructed vision the whole ground which advancing science covers.

From this it is manifest that this society cannot hope to infold, or at least to organically bind to itself, men whose objects of research are so diverse.

But these are all none the less linked by one inseverable bond; it is the microscope; and while, amid the inconceivable diversity of its applications, it remains manifest that this society has for its primary object the constant progress of the instrument - whether in its mechanical construction or its optical appliances; whether the improvements shall bear upon the use of high powers or low powers; whether it shall be improvement that shall apply to its commercial employment, its easier professional application, or its most exalted scientific use; so long as this shall be the undoubted aim of the Royal Microscopical Society, its existence may well be the pride of Englishmen, and will commend itself more and more to men of all countries.

This, and this only, can lift such a society out of what I believe has ceased to be its danger, that of forgetting that in proportion as the optical principles of the microscope are understood, and the theory of microscopical vision is made plain, the value of the instrument over every region to which it can be applied, and in all the varied hands that use it, is increased without definable limit. It is therefore by such means that the true interests of science are promoted.

It is one of the most admirable features of this society that it has become cosmopolitan in its character in relation to the instrument, and all the ever-improving methods of research employed with it. From meeting to meeting it is not one country, or one continent even, that is represented on our tables. Nay, more, not only are we made familiar with improvements brought from every civilized part of the world, referring alike to the microscope itself and every instrument devised by specialists for its employment in every department of research; but also, by the admirable persistence of Mr. Crisp and Mr. Jno. Mayall, Jr., we are familiarized with every discovery of the old forms of the instrument wherever found or originally employed.

The value of all this cannot be overestimated, for it will, even where prejudices as to our judgment may exist, gradually make it more and more clear that this society exists to promote and acknowledge improvements in every constituent of the microscope, come from whatever source they may; and, in connection with this, to promote by demonstrations, exhibitions, and monographs the finest applications of the finest instruments for their respective purposes.

To give all this its highest value, of course, the theoretical side of our instrument must occupy the attention of the most accomplished experts. We may not despair that our somewhat too practical past in this respect may right itself in our own country; but meantime the splendid work of German students and experts is placed by the wise editors of our journal within the reach of all.

I know of no higher hope for this important society than that it may continue in ever increasing strength to promote, criticise, and welcome from every quarter of the world whatever will improve the microscope in itself and in any of its applications, from the most simple to the most complex and important in which its employment is possible.

There are two points of some practical interest to which I desire for a few moments to call your attention. The former has reference to the group of organisms to which I have for so many years directed your attention, viz., the "monads," which throughout I have called "putrefactive organisms."

There can be no longer any doubt that the destructive process of putrefaction is essentially a process of fermentation.

The fermentative saprophyte is as absolutely essential to the setting up of destructive rotting or putrescence in a putrescible fluid as the torula is to the setting up of alcoholic fermentation in a saccharine fluid. Make the presence of torulae impossible, and you exclude with certainty fermentative action.

In precisely the same way, provide a proteinaceous solution, capable of the highest putrescence, but absolutely sterilized, and placed in an optically pure or absolutely calcined air; and while these conditions are maintained, no matter what length of time may be suffered to elapse, the putrescible fluid will remain absolutely without trace of decay.

But suffer the slightest infection of the protected and pure air to take place, or, from some putrescent source, inoculate your sterilized fluid with the minutest atom, and shortly turbidity, offensive scent, and destructive putrescence ensue.