Imágenes de página

Science was, not to say had been for many years, for the two youngest component Chairs in it were already thirty-three years old, and the next was just celebrating its tercentenary. What a gift is the creative type of mind of the lawgiver. Huxley's poor imagination could only suppose that "the establishment of a Faculty of Science in every university implies that of a corresponding number of Professorial Chairs, the incumbents of which need not be so burdened with teaching as to deprive them of ample leisure for original work." There is, however, now one Chair in the Faculty of Science which was not in existence half a century ago, but I have still to hear that its occupant is actually bored with his ample leisure.

Another perennial favourite of mine is the address by another of Aberdeen's Lord Rectors, delivered in Edinburgh in 1906.1 I was in Scotland then, and remember the hopes it gave rise to.

I can imagine the science students here, whose prospective grandparents are now attending our classes, turning to this address, as it is to be found in Nature, 25th October 1906, for something really fresh and up-to-date.

But Carnegie, alas! was, like Huxley, no lawyer. The magician's wand which could create Faculties of Science ready-made waved again. Cinderella and her elder sisters became hopelessly mixed. Whereas before we had arts, lo! now they were all sciences. Everything that ever has been, is or will be studied can at least be studied scientifically. An even more justifiable use of that blessed word will occur naturally to many of my readers, at least among the sporting fraternity. There is a science of the ring, of billiards, football, and so on. The Union Committee should certainly try to get a grant for 1 Quoted on p. 224 (Appendix).



a billiard table. We have the authority of the President of the Royal Society, Sir Joseph Thomson, as to its scientific uses. He tells how he once lured a sporting member of his class quite a long way into the kinetic theory of gases and the primrose paths of mathematical physics by tactful references to and illustrations from that very science.

Joking apart, however, the price paid for putting new wine into old bottles has become ruinous. Before the war had branded into the consciousness of the people what the lack of science brought in its train, in the eternal antagonism of authority to new knowledge, verbal subtleties like the above were a perfect god-send. When, however, we were at grips with a scientific enemy, whose science was of the Huxley type rather than that of the 1881 Commissioners, and with the character of which Carnegie was more familiar than his trustees, verbal subtleties did not save the situation, and youth paid the bill. If science is not to get ordinary decent fair-play in ancient educational establishments, it is the youth of the country who will pay again. It is not good to be young in a country that is governed by worm-eaten prejudices and absurd conjuring-tricks with words.

The teaching of a single main science subject, such as chemistry, which demands full lecture and practical courses almost without number for students drawn from the three Faculties of Arts, Medicine and Science, to-day involves probably more actual work than the teaching given in the whole Faculty of Arts a century ago. Of course it could not be done at all, but for the loyal and devoted staff of lecturers, assistants and demonstrators.

Throughout Scotland since, with the B.Sc., serious training in science began, which, though the numbers formerly attending were relatively

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



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 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!


« AnteriorContinuar »