Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 18, No. 1. March 3, 1954
The Duke and the Scientists — Comments by Prof. Richardson
The Duke and the Scientists
Comments by Prof. Richardson
A Major event in the history of Now Zealand science took place on January 13, 1954, in the Lecture Hall of the Dominion Museum, when His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh addressed a meeting of 350 scientists representative of all scientific organisations in this Dominion. The address was broadcast throughout the country, His Royal Highness surveyed the relationships between scientists and the community, the needs of scientists, the interdependence of scientists both on the national and international levels, and emphasised the fact that scientific endeavour is a necessity for the progress of this nation and of the Commonwealth.
The address has been freely reported. Its content is well known and accessible to those who would consult it in its detail. The young scientist, impatient for the full manifestation of his science, reading the address may not recognise its value and the function it performs. It does not praise past accomplishments at any great length. It gives no estimate in pounds and pence of the increased wealth which has come to this community from scientific endeavour, nor any forecast of future wealth. It points out no particular line along which scientific endeavour in this country should be directed. The address is given in broad, general terms.
The address is important for our science not solely in the status of His Royal Highness, nor in terms of the content of his address, it gains its great value because at no other time in the history of the development of science in this country has there been as clean a statement of the basic difficulties confronting science and scientists placed before such a wide audience in New Zealand. We recognise that the throne binds the people of our nation, and ties together the nations of our Commonwealth. His Royal Highness, in giving this address performed this traditional function of Royalty. He brought together in common understanding two parts of our community, the non-scientists and the scientists. He spoke equally to both. Pew, hearing His Royal Highness, appreciated this aspect of the address which he gave, but even without recognition of the function which he performed, the address still achieved mode of this purpose than any other address has accomplished. During the excitement and pleasures of the Royal visit, a very large part of our community paused and gave close attention to the place, the function and the needs of science and scientists in New Zealand.
The address was no dictatorial pronouncement that the public should, without understanding, accept and support our scientific effort, His Royal Highness spoke to the scientists, and gave them clear warning that a public understanding of the work of scientists is essential of the public is to support and encourage scientific endeavour. It was emphasised that part of the work of the scientist is to inform the public so that there can be understanding of the reasons for expenditures which are made against the public purse.
His Royal Highness laboured no one point in thin and other respects but spoke in a manner which accomplished his own advice. The address could be as readily understood by the public who listened over the air as it was appreciated by the scientists seated before him. It was printed in the press throughout the country and could be understood by all who read His Royal Highness did not unduly laud past achievement, nor shake unripened fruit from the tree of science. In doing this, he left it as our duty that the one is not forgotten, and the other brought to proper fruition.
Seen in this light, the young scientist will begin to appreciate that although His Royal Highness spoke before scientists at a meeting convened by the senior scientific society in this country, the Royal Society of New Zealand, the address was given to the community as a whole. The attention of the public was held for a valuable Interval in the consideration of the meaning of scientific endeavour and the needs of scientists not solely in terms of expenditures and cash returns, but also in terms of the intellectual freedoms which are so rarely discussed in relation to science and are so essential to a healthy development of science. Yet the whole address was sound in its advice to scientists and those who are administrators of scientists.
As such, the address was an excellent example of leadership, not leadership just in the field of science; but leadership in the wider and more difficult field of human relationships which is the field of function of our Royalty. It was a contribution to assist the development of science in this country. It was not Intended, nor would it be Intended to bring about the immediate solution of any one or other difficulty impeding the progress of science here; but it will certainly help to solve such difficulties through the Increased measure of public sympathy towards science which can now be the more readily obtained if our scientists will only follow the example given them on this occasion. Let the young scientist read again His Royal Highness's address, knowing that the victories of science are not all won in the laboratory. He will see that His Royal Highness has skilfully prepared the way, for those who can follow.
We would take this opportunity of congratulating Mr. Burton on the very close run he gave the elected candidates. Indeed, he was successful in polling more votes than some candidates who had been past members of the Council.
While the Royal visit does not concern University students so such, to any great degree, there is one aspect which we thought should be of interest, at least to the scientific population, and that was the address given by The Duke of Edinburgh to a representative group of scientists at Wellington. We asked Professor Richardson, of the V.U.C. Zoology Dept, for some comments on it, and its relevance to scientists, and his interesting evaluation of the address appears on this page.