his Excellency sir George F. Bowen, G.C.M.G.
Delivered to the Members of the New Zealand Institute, at the
Anniversary Meeting, held on the 23rd July, 1870.
In opening the proceedings of the New Zealand Institute for the session of 1870, it is very gratifying that I am again, as in my anniversary address of last year, enabled to congratulate the members and the community at large on the increasing success and popularity of this association. During the recess, the Otago Institute has been affiliated; and it is understood that in Nelson also, a society has been organized which will soon seek incorporation with us, and so complete the union of all the principal provinces and cities of the colony with this central body.
The volume of our Transactions and Proceedings, in 1869, has been already long enough in the hands of the members of the Institute and of the general public, to warrant my belief that they will be prepared to follow me in a rapid glance at its contents. A brief annual review of this kind is the customary, and, on this occasion, the agreeable duty of the office which I have the honour to hold as your President.
When we consider the great variety of subjects discussed in the pages of our Transactions, and the number of persons who appear there as contributors and lecturers, it will, I think, be generally agreed that a large amount of intellectual activity and of practical zeal exists among our associates, although we are debarred by the geographical circumstances of the colony from achieving frequent meetings.
One of the first and most interesting papers to which those who have
opened the volume now before us will have probably turned, is the instructive account given by Mr. Potts of Canterbury, of his observations on the habits of a considerable portion of the birds of New Zealand. In my inaugural address, delivered two years ago, I took occasion to advert to the urgent necessity of obtaining and placing on record in due time, our existing knowledge of this subject;—seeing that in the opinion alike of scientific enquirers and of practical observers, the indigenous fauna of these islands (of which the birds form the most prominent division), is fast disappearing before the species recently introduced from other countries. It is, therefore, equally important and gratifying to possess in so early a volume of our Transactions, the history of nearly one-half of the birds peculiar to these islands, narrated in so charming a manner. It is to be hoped that Mr. Potts will add to our obligations by completing the work which he has so well begun—and I am sure that we shall all concur with him in regretting and discouraging any wanton destruction, especially of the more curious species of native ornithology.
The other zoological papers of last year are chiefly devoted to the cetacea inhabiting the seas around our coasts. This is a wide and comparatively untouched field for research. It is obvious that the acquisition of more full and correct information concerning the whale fisheries of the southern ocean, has an especial bearing on the commercial interests of New Zealand.
We have received a valuable addition to the series of our botanical treatises, in the papers of Mr. Kirk. In that, respecting naturalized plants, botanists will find data for future observations of the changes which are gradually modifying the flora of this country. Two highly suggestive and clearly written papers by Captain Hutton and Mr. Nottidge, on the structure of the leaf of the flax plant (Phormium tenax), are of particular moment at the present time, when so much attention is given to the collection and export of this valuable indigenous product. It cannot be too often repeated, that the main object of the New Zealand Parliament in founding and endowing this Institute, was to supply practical suggestions and assistance in the development of the natural resources of these islands.
I regret that time will not permit me to remark, in detail, on many interesting papers contributed respecting chemistry, geology, and a variety of miscellaneous subjects. It is obvious that we are gradually collecting here a long series of local observations, which cannot fail to prove of practical use hereafter. Let it never be forgotten that all great practical discoveries in all ages and countries have been the result of much study,
and of the co-operation of many minds. So it has been truly remarked that the telescope and the microscope did not flash their wonders upon a startled world, but crept into being with steps so slow, that the impression is too faint to trace the history of their birth. So again, the improvements in the steam engine were so gradual that, in the memory of men still alive, a Court of Law pronounced a solemn judgment that even Watt had contributed nothing essential towards them. So once more, the compass cannot point to the period when it first offered its inestimable services to the seaman. These are but well known examples of a great law of nature. The growth of scientific discoveries is ever slow; nor does it, like the Prophet's gourd, spring into full fruit in a single night. “The great discoveries of science leave behind them no boundary line of demarcation from those which have preceded; but, like the full day succeeding the dawn of the sun, follow that which fully foretold their approach.”
I will now pass on to the lectures printed among the Transactions. The first is the brilliant essay on the “Nature of Art,” by Mr. Fitzgerald, to whom we all listened with so much pleasure. The profound questions dealt with in the lectures of Mr. Justice Richmond on “Man's Place in Creation,” and on “The Modern Aspect of Natural Theology,” are treated in a lucid and attractive style, that cannot fail to secure many readers who are generally repelled by subjects of this nature. In the lecture of our indefatigable associate, Mr. Travers, “On the Changes effected in the Natural Features of a new country by the introduction of Civilized Races,” we recognize a strong desire to render practical aid in the work of colonization, by directing attention to the remarkable potency of small causes ever recurring in their effect on the natural economy of these islands. The lecture by Mr. Felix Wakefield “On certain Modern Projects of Inter-Communication, and their relation to New Zealand,” was very opportune, for in the interval between its delivery and its publication, the Colonial Government has brought into operation the postal service via San Francisco, which he foreshadowed. Mr. Crawford's lecture “On the Geology of the Province of Wellington,” has an immediate local interest; and it is satisfactory that so practised an observer speaks rather hopefully of the prospect of the discovery of gold fields in this part of the colony. The four lectures on “Mining in New Zealand,” by Dr. Hector, furnish, in a condensed form, very suggestive and encouraging information respecting our mining industries. By a comparison of the mineral bearing regions of Australia with those of New Zealand, our able and learned Director places before us in a striking manner the wide extent
of country we possess, in which it may fairly be expected that valuable minerals will be found.
I must not conclude this brief sketch of the proceedings of the past year, without drawing attention to the anniversary addresses delivered to the Affiliated Societies, by Mr. Crawford, at Wellington; by Mr. Gillies, at Auckland; by Mr. Justice Ward, at Otago; and by Dr. Haast, at Canterbury.
I will now proceed to the examination of a question of the highest practical importance to the future progress of this community,—I mean the assistance which this Institute can furnish towards the supply of technical and scientific instruction. It is well known that the relation of industrial education to industrial progress has for many years past excited keen interest in England and throughout Europe. In 1868, a Select Committee of the House of Commons was appointed to enquire and report on this entire subject, and strongly recommended that ample public provision should be made for Schools of Arts and Mines, and generally for furnishing instruction in theoretical and applied science to the industrial classes. As the duties of the Governor of a colony possessing Parliamentary institutions are social rather than political, I have made it my business to study the voluminous report of the above mentioned Committee, and many other works of authority bearing on the same question; and I shall indeed be proud and happy if the information thus collected can in any way be turned to the advantage of this community.
Let us begin by stating the exact meaning to be attached to the terms technical and scientific education. To quote a writer of authority :— “The education which acquaints a man with the natural principles of the art or calling which he professes is, to him, technical education. The general knowledge of the fundamental principles and laws which govern all material things is the result of scientific education. Thus the latter would include the former; and, were it rightly conducted, a general scientific education would form the basis on which a particular technical education might be afterwards raised; and a young man who had first acquired an elementary knowledge of the physical or natural sciences, would find it easy to build upon this foundation, and to secure a competent and increasing knowledge of the scientific conditions of his particular art or trade.”
The late International Exhibitions in London and Paris have forced the most eminent of the English men of science to the candid but painful admission that, in virtue of the better industrial education
provided by Continental nations, England must, at no distant day,— unless she bestirs herself in time,—find those nations outstripping her in the arts of both peace and war. As sure as “knowledge is power,” this must be the result. The concurrent testimony of those best qualified to decide on this question, has been summed up in the following terms :— “Broadly viewed, the whole system of technical education has, at this late day, to take root and grow in the English soil. The more we consider this deficiency, the more marvellous and melancholy does it appear. England, which has asserted and assumed her manufacturing pre-eminence over all countries,—England, which at least for many years maintained her asserted industrial supremacy,—has done so, in spite of the absence of early education in the very groundwork of her supremacy. She has been the birthplace and cradle of most of those great mechanical inventions which have changed the face of society, and given wings to commerce. The steam engine, the locomotive engine, the application of steam to manifold uses, the steam hammer, the planing machine, the spinning jenny, the power loom, and numerous other machines—all owe their invention or improvement to our country; and the nearly exclusive use of these machines and implements for many past years has been the principal cause of our manufacturing pre-eminence. But free trade, international exhibitions, and extended international intercourse, have made these wonderful machines and appliances known and available to all Europe. During the last century we held our local and our natural advantages without serious rivalry, while we were separated from the rest of Europe by the sea, and exempted from long and desolating wars. All our natural possessions of coal and iron and other materials, were then almost exclusively in our own hands and under our own command. The case, however, at present is essentially different. Other countries enjoy peace, other countries have displayed energy and enterprise, and have seen and admired and adopted our tools and our machines.”
I have already shown that the Government and Parliament of Great Britain are at last fully alive to the danger of neglecting any longer that systematic education, that scientific and practical training,—in a word, all that tends to convert the mere workman into the artizan, and the mere empiric into the artistic and scientific manager of great industrial enterprises. It is keenly felt in the mother country that the inquiry now is not whether she has gained the highest place and reputation, but whether she can retain them; and that to rest (so to speak) on her oars, is to drift backwards, for the tide of the world's lifetime is fast ebbing.
If you are convinced that it is of urgent importance to the parent state to promote the advancement of Art and Science, the soul and life of industry, you will readily appreciate the still more practical value to this new country, which has yet to be subdued and replenished for the use of civilized man, of the Museum, the Laboratory, and the other scientific appliances collected under this roof through the vise liberality of the Colonial Legislature. If the Government and the Institute are agreed in the desire at once to utilize this establishment by making it for New Zealand what the Ecole Centrale of Paris* is for France: that is, the heart and centre of technical and scientific education for this colony, it will be easy to devise a scheme, by which promising young men may be selected from every province and instructed here, with very little additional cost to the public, in natural philosophy, chemistry, and zoology, together with the theory and practice of mining, and the elements of certain arts and manufacturing processes.
It will not, I hope, be forgotten that I am now addressing you not as the Governor of the colony, but simply as a member of the governing body of the Institute. After careful enquiry, the Board has, at the desire of Government, recommended a scheme of this kind in general terms.—(See Report of Board of Governors, for 1870, p. 13.)
I have already detained you too long. Nor, indeed, is it necessary that I should, before the present audience, point to the general want of scientific knowledge, in its simplest and most elementary forms, as the main origin of the speculative manias by which the popular mind in new countries is frequently misled; still less need I enlarge here on the vital importance of diffusing blessings of a sound and practical instruction throughout all classes of the rising generation of this community. It is the character of the education placed within their reach which will enable them to continue the noble work begun by the early settlers, who encountered the hardships incident to the first colonization of these islands; and hereafter to determine the destiny of New Zealand by the manner in which they shall wield the unfettered powers of self government conferred on this country by its Constitution.
I will now conclude this imperfect address by quoting the eloquent
[Footnote] * This is now the most celebrated school of applied sciences in the world, and so great have been the services rendered by it, that M. Michel Chevalier once said, “If the Ecole Centrale were not in existence, it would be necessary to create it as the complement of the Treaties of Commerce.”
warning and exhortation of one of the great chieftains of art and science,—I mean Dr. Lyon Playfair:—“Practice and science must now join together in close alliance, or the former will soon emigrate to other lands. The time is past when practice can go on in the blind and vain confidence of a shallow empiricism, severed from science like a tree from its roots. The rudest sailor may steer his ship in the direction of a land mark, but without compass and sextant he does not traverse the expanse of ocean. Ignorance may walk in the path dimly lighted by advancing knowledge, but she stands in dismay when science passes her, and she is unable to follow, like the foolish virgin having no oil in her lamp. Depend upon it, an empirical knowledge of practice is not the way now to succeed in the struggle of individuals, or in the struggle of nations. Intellect is on the stretch to get forward, and that nation which holds not by it will soon be left behind. For a long time, practice, standing still in the pride of empiricism, and in the ungrateful forgetfulness of what science has done in its development, reared upon its portal the old and vulgar adage that ‘an ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory.’ This wretched inscription acted like a Gorgon's head, and turned to stone the aspirations of science. Believe it not; for a grain of theory, if that be an expression for science, will, when planted, like the mustard seed of scripture, grow and wax into the greatest of trees. The pressure and difficulties of the age, and the rapid advancement of intellect in continental nations, have been the Perseus to cut off this Medusa's head from the industry of England, and to fix it on the shield of Minerva, who turns to stone those that believe that science should be ignored by practice; but, reversing her shield, wisely conducts such as are willing to go further under her guidance. It is now rare to find men who openly avow, although they actually entertain, a belief in a necessary antagonism between theory and practice. Theory is in fact the rule, and practice its example. Theory is but the attempt to furnish an intelligent explanation of what is empirically ascertained to be true, and is always useful, even when wrong. Theories are the leaves of the tree of science, bringing nutriment to the parent stem while they last, and by their fall and decay affording the materials for the new leaves which are to succeed.”