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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 12, Issue 3 (June 1, 1937)

From School to University

From School to University.

At Nelson College the Havelock boy quickly justified his old teacher's faith in him. He won scholarships, and became dux of the college, and in 1889 gained a University Scholarship which took him to Canterbury College. Then, in that congenial home of scholarship the lad's studies inclined strongly to original research in the fascinating world of physical science.

Under Professor Bickerton he studied wireless waves, then called “Hertzian waves.” That was about the year 1893. These were some of the first world experiments in the wonderful wireless. Continued afterwards at Cambridge they led to the construction of the first magnetic detector of wireless waves, afterwards completed and patented by Marconi.

Dr. Marsden tells this little story of a prophecy made by Rutherford while he was a student at Canterbury College. At one of the meetings of the College Debating Society in 1890 the subject was “Is Sculpture or Architecture the Greater Art?”

Ernest Rutherford, then eighteen years old, in his first year at college, gave his views. The architectural beauty of the new College Hall was discussed, and Rutherford complained that the view of the building from the street was spoiled by the intrusion of an ugly great telegraph post, loaded with wires. The day would come, he said, when the telegraph post and the telegraph wires would be unnecessary, for science was on the threshold of further discoveries that would abolish both. Even at that date the eager student had peered with accurate page 16 vision into the amazing future, which has already seen so much of his dream realised.