Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

small, more than doubled the amount of tuition to be undertaken, it is to the juniors very largely indeed that science students owe the, in many cases, really excellent courses, especially in practical work, that have been provided. In my own subject, from a knowledge of two Scottish Universities, I can say that when I was a student there was nothing then to approach it in thoroughness, and it can be compared without hesitation to what is done, so far as systematic training is concerned, anywhere. The juniors have seen the needs and tried to meet them, until sometimes their whole time and energy has been absorbed in carrying on in a single department the work that in former days would have been spread among a whole faculty of professors. Whether you take as the criterion duties and responsibilities, or the national indispensableness of the training, or the contribution of the subject to the highest realms of philosophy and inspiration, a subject such as chemistry, in any university attempting to keep abreast of its work, should be represented not miserably by one professorship, but adequately by three or four. Research, worth the name, is a practical impossibility, and it is idle to pretend that a teacher can teach others to research, if he is not carrying on research himself, or indeed can teach first-class students at all for long very much better than they themselves could learn from books.

Of the income of the million pounds given by Carnegie to the Scottish Universities, with the primary object of promoting scientific study and research, up to 1915, 14 per cent. has been spent on research of all kinds, including historical, linguistic, and economic subjects. Twice as much has been saved, and the loss on the money saved, occasioned by the depreciation of British investments

IMPORTANCE OF RESEARCH

179

owing to the war, would have maintained several first-class Research Professorships since the Trust was founded. I may seem to exaggerate the importance of research in the scientific departments of the Scottish Universities, but the science students can be assured of this, that unless active and famous centres of original investigation spring up in Scotland, and make themselves known all over the scientific world, the whole body of students turned out will suffer grievously in competition with those trained from institutions where such centres exist.

There has lately been much valuable discussion in the Scientific Society and elsewhere of the needs of science students and their perplexities, animated by the commendable desire that the University should afford a serious life-training rather than a collection of academic distinctions and degrees. The state of war has hitherto prevented anything being actually accomplished in the way of bringing the training afforded in science into line with modern requirements, but now that the war is over these matters have a paramount claim for settlement, and it is to be hoped that the new magazine will serve as the focus through which the wants and difficulties of the science students may be brought into general notice and prominence.

As regards the grave and pressing question of the reform of the Science curriculum, I have heard but two kinds of objections. There is first the objection of vested interests, which I will not deal with here because I want to make myself as pleasant as I can, and no discussions are so unpleasant as those which turn on such points. And there is, secondly, the much more respectable objection, which takes the general form of the reproach that, in thus limiting the curriculum, we are seeking to narrow it. We are told that the scientific man ought to be a person of good general education and general information, if his profession is to hold its own among other professions. . . . Did I not say that you had to read Huxley's address of 1874 if you wish to be abreast of the times?

It is a somewhat portentous moment, perhaps, to launch a new venture. True, it is peace, and we are soon to have bonfires, but there is peace, as sudden and strange, in the centre of the hurrying typhoon, which but heralds its renewal from another quarter. It was at some such moment that H.M.S. Caliope put to sea from the harbour of Samoa, upon which every other vessel there, riding powerlessly at anchor, was about to be piled, and pitting the science of which she was the embodiment against the forces against her, came through with her flag flying the right way up. Science seeks no treacherous anchorage in the wreck-strewn harbours of make-believe, but a clear course with unthrottled power to drive on.

Let us wish then for the new launch a voyage as adventurous and triumphant, and power in its engine-room to tow out a whole regatta!

i

THE IDEALS OF A SCIENCE SCHOOL

I HAVE chosen, for my farewell address to the Scientific Association, the ideals of a science school, because there is no subject in which greater misconceptions exist at the present time. The deluded victims of our curiously archaic system of classical education point to the manifold evils of the world which they have misgoverned and the terrible consequences of science under their misdirection as the proof of the superiority of the ancient culture and ideals. I wish to show that the ideals of science, no less than its achievements, compare favourably with their own, and that they must ultimately prevail and permeate the whole university with their spirit, because, like the age in which they have originated, they are creative, insatiable and prospective, whereas the ideals we owe to the age of the revival of learning and the rediscovery of the civilisation of ancient and extinct races are essentially imitative, self-sufficing and retrospective. I would not waste your or my own time with a theme so trite, and which only in academical circles is still actively and bitterly opposed, if I did not believe the time of change is at hand. The old régime in our universities and schools is so discredited that now it is merely carrying on in the interregnum between war and peace. Science for more than a hundred years has had every vested

1 Farewell Address to the Scientific Association, Aberdeen University, 20th June 1919.

181

2 B

interest in the established order of things in league against it, happily, as we now may feel assured, quite in vain. Haphazard as we are as a nation, mere mental inertia and conservatism does not explain the unfortunate position in which we find ourselves to-day as regards the neglect of science in our universities and educational institutions. Without the powerful and active opposition of the representatives of the established and organised religions, clinging to old creeds which have ceased to be credible, the classical element alone would have been powerless. Men of common sense may be trusted not to commit the cause, say, of temperance to brewers, or to hand over key industries to the control of foreign rivals and competitors. So in the new régime, which may not be better but at least can hardly be worse, I trust there may be sufficient men of ordinary common sense not to entrust the direction of science in our universities to the unholy alliance of the pagan classics and the Christian Church which hitherto has been dominant therein.

It is only because of the lessons we, as a nation, have learned in the war that I have thought it worth while raising again such questions while I have been in Aberdeen. I am well aware that for more than fifty years scientific men in this country have given their testimony in vain, regarding the evil consequences of the survival of the classical system of education and the ignorance and misunderstanding of science. The sphere of knowledge in which, by common consent, this age is the greatest that the world has ever seen remains still outside the understanding of those in whose hands our national and educational destinies have been committed. Its rightful place has been taken by the studies of the languages, history and customs of two, or, if we include the ancient Hebrews, three nations, which,

« AnteriorContinuar »