« AnteriorContinuar »
one that leads a thousand can follow, and, when the path followed is the path of natural knowledge, each of these thousand can teach another thousand new means of livelihood.
You cannot starve into non-productiveness a poet, an artist, a parson, or any great thinker of the old type, nearly as easily as you can starve a scientific genius. Because they are more self-contained. To them the brain is both the raw material and the machine for finishing and producing it. But, to the devotees of the newer philosophy, the raw material is not in the brain but is to be sought for in external nature; and in handling this raw material, mastery over materials by scientific methods of experiment is, at least, of equal importance with mastery over the processes of thought. In other words, laboratories are required, and, though an artist without a studio, or an evangelist without a church, might conceivably find under the blue dome of heaven a substitute, a scientific man without a laboratory is in most branches a misnomer.
As science advances and most of the more accessible fields of knowledge have been gleaned of their harvest, the need for more and more powerful and elaborate appliances and more and more costly materials ever grows. Yet, if one-tenth of one per cent. of all the added wealth that scientific men have, without acknowledgment and without reward, earned for the community were repaid, it would suffice them, beyond their wildest dreams of avarice, for laboratories and maintenance.
Suppose, then, we have found capable scientific men, not necessarily any outstanding genius like Newton, not one in a million, but say we have picked out the best of every thousand in the community, the chances are that the thousand, which we have picked out of a million, will contain any potential
RESEARCH VERSUS TEACHING
Newton the age may have produced, and a number of thoroughly useful understudies as well.
Many people suppose thereby that the work is finished and all has been done that should be done. They have forgotten, however, the primary purpose it was all about. The problem which I stated that this democracy has not solved is the finding for each man his proper life-work and then letting him do it. We have assumed, in our discussion of the relations between science and the State, that the men to advance science and the buildings in which they are to work have been found. It remains, therefore, only to let the scientific men alone to do their work. But this is precisely what is almost never done in this country. The candidates go through a long and severe course of training, selection and apprenticeship at apprentice's wages, fitting themselves for their life-work. They must show some evidence of the capacity of making original investigations and discoveries before they are put in charge of one or other of the laboratories of the country, and when they get there they teach.
Now the teaching and training of students for scientific professions and for scientific investigation is almost as vital and important to the welfare of the country as the making of scientific discoveries. But it is a totally different business to that of scientific investigation. Some try more or less successfully to do both, but, in Scotland at least, it is the teaching function of the university, rather than its equally important function as the natural home of scientific investigation, which has hitherto claimed an altogether disproportionate share. I cannot recall a single Research Professor in any university of the United Kingdom. In America, Johns Hopkins University, for example, entirely devotes itself to research. Here everything else comes first. Re
search is not treated as anyone's business in life, but as a thing to be pursued as a hobby in odd moments between the various and manifold duties of a professor and his staff, and in vacations.
But teaching research-that is again a serious business. It would be a thousand pities if some potential genius, for lack of research scholarships and fellowships, was lost to this country. Everyone must have at least a chance of proving their capacity for research. Most excellent. But what I want to know is why trouble if, as soon as that capacity is proved, the possessor is to be put in a position where it will never again be possible for him to devote himself to research as a business, but merely as a recreation in the interval of teaching! Before the war, at least, these research scholarships and fellowships were a veritable cul-de-sac to the many, through the general apathy and neglect of science by which this country is distinguished. There literally were not teaching posts, let alone research posts, open for more than a very few of the successful. Too many found themselves stranded without any opening whatever, whereas if they had eschewed research and devoted themselves to any ordinary profession, a very much lower scale of capacity would have ensured them an ample and expanding livelihood.
Extravagant comparisons have been appearing in the press lately between the Scottish and the English educational systems, in favour of the former. But if this is justifiable at all, it can only be with regard to one side of the question-the education of the general masses of the population, and that, admittedly, refers to a past generation rather than to-day. In regard to this equally important question of scientific research and investigation, Scotland is as far behind England as England is behind the rest of
NEEDS OF RESEARCH
the world. In the newer universities of England, in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, London, and so on, there is at least an honest attempt being made to make them real homes of research. In Scotland, the country to which Mr Carnegie, in 1901, gave a million pounds for this very object, the money has been largely diverted from that purpose, and routine teaching is yearly absorbing a larger part of it.
To sum up, scientific research is capable of raising the general standard of life, without limit, by the solution it affords of the material and physical problems that prevent progress. But for it to do so, it must no longer be treated as a hobby or parttime occupation of the leisure hours of busy teachers, engaged in catering for the needs of the multitude in education, but as a serious business distinct altogether from teaching, perhaps the most serious and momentous of all the manifold activities of the State. For from it flows the knowledge of Nature, upon which every advance that governs the material prosperity of the nation depends, which the inventors, technologists, engineers and medical men apply to useful purposes, and which, through them, makes all the difference between unemployment and prosperity, disease and health, retrogression and progress, and lastly, which, in time of war, is as necessary to the defence of the realm as the courage of brave deeds and the endurance of stout hearts. In its highest and most fruitful forms scientific research needs that same overpowering and divine passion for truth, that horror of, and detestation for, even the shadow of a lie, which is the common necessary antecedent of all forms of creative work. But it needs laboratories and special homes for its successful prosecution, freedom from interruption and distraction, and a lifetime's devotion-all of these, always as it progresses, more and more. It is, if only for these reasons, more
easy to stultify and prevent than any other form of creative work. In itself, it may make little or no general appeal to the aspirations and instincts of the community, whose material interests nevertheless are practically governed by it.
The problem of how this is to be achieved, as well as the satisfaction of the educational needs of the multitude, a totally different question, is the problem which, in my opinion, this democracy has not solved, and which it must solve if it is to justify its right to survive.