In 1909 Robert Peary, the US Polar explorer, was the first person to "discover" the North Pole. Of course he made headline news and became a household name. In that same year Louis Bleriot built a 24hp monoplane and then flew it across the channel from Calais to Dover - his name too has gone down in history.
Even in 1953, when Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tensing reached the top of the world - Everest - on the same day as the Queen's coronation, it made headline news around the world and every schoolchild knew of the exploit.
Now we take all these things in our stride. On Monday Ben Saunders is going to set off from Russia alone, to travel over land and water in a straight line to the North Pole and then on into Canada. Alas, no longer headline news.
In that one hundred years since 1909 we can now routinely fly over the North Pole on a flight from the UK to the US. We take flying as a matter of course, no different from catching a bus or going by train. If you can afford it you can go to Antarctica whenever you like. I don't expect it will be all that many centuries before the same can be said of going to the moon.
I wonder if Peary or Bleriot ever gave a thought to what progress would be made in their field in the future - I am sure they did - but did they imagine it would be so rapid and that it would become so matter of fact?
Has there ever been a century where such progress has been made? Where we have gone from carrier pigeon, so to speak, to instant communication - and that's not to speak of the progress in the medical field and in other areas.
Has this been the "best" century for progress? I would be interested to hear what you think. And on not so very unrelated a subject when you think about it - isn't it interesting how Mother Nature keeps on ticking over at her own pace what ever the weather. I went round my garden yesterday; snow is still lying and the temperature is still around freezing, yet the Spring flowers that should be out now are out and they are struggling and pushing their way through the snow. This is the day when, by tradition, birds begin to mate - they will carry on regardless of the weather - nature - be it wildlife, mountains, poles, the air - it is all here and it will carry on regardless. The sight of the Gertrude Jekyll rose buds against the snow cheered my heart on a morning when I have lost a friend to the ravages of cancer. It all makes you think, doesn't it?