"These prophecies will seem strange, almost impossible . . . " So began John Elfreth Watkins Jr. in December 1900 as he looked ahead, sometimes with startling prescience, to what life might be like 100 years hence. Culled from the "most learned and conservative minds in America," dozens of his predictions were published that month in the Ladies Home Journal.

Among them:

* The average American would be an inch or two taller by 2000 because of "vast reforms in medicine, sanitation, food and athletics. He will live fifty years instead of thirty-five as at present--for he will reside in the suburbs. The trip from suburban home to office will require a few minutes only."

* Ready-cooked meals would be bought at food stores and "served hot or cold to private houses in pneumatic tubes or automobile wagons." Afterward, all dishes would be returned to the store for chemical cleaning in specially equipped electric laboratories.

* Invisible light rays would make the body transparent, "lay bare the vital organs, through the living flesh, of men and animals. . . . Not only will it be possible for a physician to actually see a living, throbbing heart inside the chest, but he will be able to magnify and photograph any part of it."

* America's large cities would be pleasant, uncongested metropolises with nearly all traffic routed underground or high above ground. Traffic "will be confined to broad subways or tunnels, well lighted and well ventilated, or to high trestles with 'moving-sidewalk' stairways leading to the top. . . . Cities, therefore, will be free from all noises."

* The alphabet would have shed C, X and Q as unnecessary letters. "Spelling by sound will have been adopted, first by the newspapers. English will be a language of condensed words expressing condensed ideas."

* Events would be seen and heard around the world the instant they happen. "Persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span."