The Spike Golden Jubilee Number May 1949
The Inaugural Lectures
The Inaugural Lectures
In the week following the public welcome to the professors each delivered an inaugural lecture. As Sir Robert Stout's bound copy of these lectures can be consulted in the Victoria University College Library only a short reference can be made to them. J. Rankine Brown produced an excellent case for the study of Latin and Greek, particularly Latin, as subjects calculated to lead to accuracy of expression in speech and writing and to prevent slipshod phraseology.
Mackenzie was equally emphatic on the study of classical forms as the basis of literary training. Unfortunately, to many the address was hard to follow owing to his strong Scottish accent. Maclaurin was most interesting in dealing with Mathematics, surprising many by the statement that it was now accepted that Euclid's axioms were no longer necessary for geometry except as near approximations to the truth. Next he spoke of wireless telegraphy, explaining that wireless waves were predicted on purely theoretical grounds by the great Cambridge mathmetician, J. Clerk Maxwell, who translated Faraday's brilliant experimental work into mathematical language, and indicated how the wireless waves should be capable of detection; but Maxwell failed in the actual experiment. Hertz, Professor of Mathematics and later of Physics at Karlsruhe after a long series of experiments succeeded in finding a ready means of producing and detecting the waves, and the properties of the waves were exactly as predicted by Maxwell; later the discoveries were put on a commercial basis by Marconi.
Maclaurin then proceeded to show that many biological studies derived from the theory of Evolution were capable of mathematical treatment. The lecture was a masterly popular treatment of a most difficult subject.
Easterfield's lecture was entitled "Research as the prime factor in a Scientific Education." The lecture was delivered without reference to notes and contains several howlers. The main points may be stated in this way (1) That it is equally the duty of a scientific teacher to make new knowledge as to teach that which is already known, (2) That every science student should be regarded as potentially a research student if given the opportunity and encouragement, (3) That research is a great educator in itself, (4) That research habits carried into practice are of fundamental value to the human race. The lecture was well received but next morning I was told that it ough not to have been delivered as it might cause offence in other colleges. It was therefore of no little satisfaction to find that the Evening Post gave a leader headed "A laboratory for Wellington"; also a very appreciative critique of the lecture.
Two days later the Council of the Pharmaceutical Association came as a deputation to ask for help in improving the education of young pharmacists. This was followed by a visit from a man who asked me to assist him in a research on making gold from sawdust in which he claimed to have been very successful already.