The following is the presidential address delivered before the New Zealand Institute on the 17th January, 1925, by Dr. P. Marshall:—
It is generally recognized that the address of the President at our annual meeting is most fittingly devoted to considerations concerning the status of the Institute in the world of science, and to those conditions that most particularly affect its work and welfare.
At each annual meeting for the last few years we have had to lament the death during the preceding twelve months of men who have been prominent in the work of the Institute itself or of its affiliated societies. The past year has been no exception; and the names of Captain G. Mair, Dr. A. K. Newman, L. Birks, and C. M. Louisson will in future not be found in our lists of members.
In 1871 Captain G. Mair's name makes its first appearance, and from time to time thereafter he contributed papers to our annual volume of Transactions. A careful student of Maori life, and an ardent collector, he made thorough use of his opportunities, to the great benefit of the Auckland Museum.
Dr. A. K. Newman also became a member of the Institute in the “seventies,” and has contributed articles to our Transactions on several occasions. Though in later years his main study dealt with Maori life, he took a great interest in astronomy, and at the last meeting of the Governors of the New Zealand Institute he was a member of a deputation which approached the Institute on the subject of the Carter bequest.
The untimely death of Mr. L. Birks is deplored by all. Though not long resident in the Dominion, he had taken an active part in the doings of the Wellington Philosophical Institute.
Dr. Fulton was a keen naturalist who was particularly interested in our native birds. He was a strong supporter of the Otago Institute, of which he was President in 1918.
The most notable scientific work of the year in New Zealand has undoubtedly been the expedition to the Chatham Islands organized by the Otago Institute. We eagerly await the publication of the observations made and of descriptions of the collections that were obtained.
All members of the Board of Governors are, of course, aware that the Institute, so far at least as its present constitution is concerned, was founded in November, 1867. In May, 1869, the first volume of the Transactions appeared, and from that date until some interruption during the upheaval due to the great war an annual volume has regularly been issued. The series of fifty-five volumes constitutes a record of scientific and intellectual activity of which we may well feel proud.
During the Great War enrolment of soldiers reduced the personnel of the Government Printing Office, and the occurrence of extra parliamentary sessions prevented the Printing Office from performing much work that was not connected with purely official publications. In addition, the issue of volume 16 of the Transactions of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science rightly had priority before our Transactions in
publication, and still further delayed the appearance of our annual volume. The accumulation of delays due to such causes was so serious that the articles which were accepted for printing could not be published at the expected date.
For these reasons the issue of the volume of Transactions became seriously irregular. The return to conditions which are more nearly normal during the present year has, I am glad to say, enabled our Editor, who has been most energetic and unsparing of himself, to make up for time which under the circumstances was unavoidably lost.
As a result the papers and proceedings which should have been published in 1922 did not appear until December, 1923. The articles which were accepted for publication in 1922 and 1923 were published in a single volume—No. 55 of our series—as directed by the Board of Governors, in September, 1924.
Now that the ground has been cleared and all arrears have been published, we have every reason to think that the next volume will appear on the due date. While this is satisfactory and reflects great credit on our Editor, another aspect of the matter is by no means a subject of congratulation.
The charges for printing and issue are constantly mounting up, and the total reached its highest point in the publication of the last volume. The situation that has arisen is one that must receive the earnest consideration of the Board of Governors.
The heavy strain that the issue of our annual volume has exerted on the finances of the Institute for several years past has more than once been the subject of urgent remark by gentlemen who have previously occupied the presidential chair, but the position has now become so acute that it seems that the Board of Governors will have to take some decided action.
If you turn to the table of receipts and expenditure you will find that the ordinary revenue amounts to only £1,325, while the ordinary expenditure is £1,882, if we exclude on both sides sums connected with research grants and trust funds, which, of course, cannot be appropriated for the ordinary purposes of the Institute. It is obvious that if we wish to maintain the high scientific status of the Institute as gauged by the quality of our volume of Transactions we must find means to increase our revenue or we must decrease our expenditure.
Oar revenue at present, as the Governors are aware, is derived from a Government grant, a levy on members, and by the sale of publications. Whether an increase in any of these sources of revenue can be hoped for is a matter that should be most carefully considered.
Our expenditure is incurred in the printing of the Transactions, the salary of the Assistant Secretary and Librarian, the travelling-expenses of the Governors, with incidentals amounting to about £20. It is clear that at the present time the cost of printing alone is considerably more than our revenue, and unless this is reduced we cannot possibly pay our way. Those who know the amount and nature of the work of the Assistant Secretary and Librarian are doubtless aware that increase rather than decrease under this head is most reasonable. The other items of expenditure are comparatively insignificant.
The cost of printing has increased enormously of recent years. I find that the first volume, printed in 1869, cost 14s. 2d. per page. In the twenty-second volume, 1889, each page cost 9s. 5d. The cost was only
8s. 10d. for the thirty-seventh volume in 1904. It was not until 1916 that the cost rose to £1 for each page. The greatest cost was in 1920, when it rose to £2 2s. The cost for the last volume was greater than for that which preceded it, and amounted to £1 14s. 6d. It has often been suggested that the expense of printing could be reduced if the work were entrusted to a private firm. Hitherto the Governors have always taken the view that, even if the apparent cost were less, the extra labour, of the Editor, and the cost of reading, revision, and corrections, would be so great as to overwhelm the apparent benefit.
The only other way in which the cost could be reduced is apparently by a reduction of the size of the volume. Such a suggestion, when viewed in the light of the interests of scientific research in New Zealand and of the intrinsic importance of the researches themselves, is to my mind unthinkable. You are aware that the Publication Committee exercises a considerable amount of discretion in regard to the material sent up from affiliated Societies and Institutes for publication, and it would be unwise, in my opinion, to be more stringent than at present in the selection of papers.
At the present juncture I think that it is not out of place to refer to the prominent, and in fact dominant, part that the New Zealand Institute has taken for fifty-six years in fostering the development of scientific activity and thought in the interest of the whole Dominion. It has placed the result of the researches in New Zealand before the world at large, to the great advantage of the country from material as well as scientific aspects.
It is well known that when a worker in the domain of science in any part of the world wishes to obtain information in regard to any bearing of his research on New Zealand he turns at once to the Transactions of the New Zealand Institute. It is safe to say that thousands of scientific inquireis in many countries have obtained all their knowledge of New Zealand and of its scientific interests from the pages of our volumes. A series of our Transactions is to be found on the shelves of important scientific libraries everywhere, and this fact more than any other has given our country a recognized place in the world of study and knowledge.
Scientific workers in New Zealand are placed in a position of considerable disadvantage. There is always a great deal of difficulty here in obtaining access to the records of scientific research and progress elsewhere, and without these a person who undertakes research is often groping blindfold. Here again our Institute is of valuable assistance, for in our library are to be found series of scientific journals of great variety which are received in exchange for our own publications from learned societies in nearly all countries. In many cases the results of scientific research in New Zealand would be almost nugatory without the assistance obtained from this library. Maintenance of our annual volume up to its present standard is necessary in order that we may continue to obtain these exchanges which are essential for research work.
Another necessity for the aspiring and energetic man of science is an organ in which his work may be published and circulated. Here the New Zealand Institute has achieved its most noteworthy claim to recognition on the part of all patriotic citizens. There are many scientific men in this country whose reputation is world-wide in their own specialty, but whose work would have remained unknown, or would have been stunted if it had ever found expression without the opportunities that the Institute has afforded.
Professor W. J. Parker, when lecturing in Dunedin in 1892, remarked that at that time the New Zealand University was not a university in the proper sense of the word because it had not then produced a single graduate who had ventured on the publication of research work. It is noteworthy that the University has not yet been able to provide for the publication of the research work of its honours graduates, which in Professor Parker's opinion was the one line of activity in which they could win full academic status for their University.
The opportunities that the University has been unable to provide have been afforded by the New Zealand Institute, with the result that it has in large measure completed the construction of the intellectual edifice built up by the Senate of the New Zealand University, and has thereby relieved that body of a large annual expenditure. To what extent this has taken place is probably but little realized, but some estimate can be made from the indexes of the Transactions that have been published. For the first twenty years of publication of the Transactions the University had, of course, produced few matured students, and an output of researches by them could hardly be expected. For that period not more than 1 per cent. of our published articles could be credited to them. In the second period of twenty years the proportion is 35 per cent. For the succeeding period of ten years—from 1909 to 1919–65 per cent. of the articles were written by graduates of the University and other people of New Zealand birth. In the last five years the percentage has risen to 73.
This stimulation of intellectual research and provision for its expression must be regarded as a national work of the highest value. Still greater, however, is its importance for the individual. Some New Zealand men who began their career by publishing in our Transactions have risen to fame and eminence, and several who have hardly published anything outside them are now recognized authorities in all parts of the world in their subjects of research. We can point without difficulty to men of New Zealand birth who by virtue of the work they have published in our Transactions have now established themselves as authors whose work must be consulted by all who write comprehensive treatises on parasitic fungi, development of ferns, seaweeds, anatomy of flowering-plants, petrology, geomorphology, volcanic action, mollusca, crustacea, soils, ethnology—to name only a few of those important subjects in which valuable study has been done and a wide reputation gained. It is true that chemical and physical researches are less represented, partly because journals specially devoted to those subjects with a more frequent issue are preferred by authors as channels for publication.
It is safe to say that some of those who have achieved extended and high fame in their subject would have languished and remained unknown, and perhaps unproductive, but for the opportunities that have been afforded to them by the New Zealand Institute. To one who has been constantly engaged in scientific research since 1890, it gives me the most intense satisfaction to contemplate the extent to which New Zealand students, by painstaking and ardent research, have triumphed over their difficulties, and through the medium of the New Zealand Institute have acquired a recognized position of fame in the particular subject in which they have undertaken research.
My own personal experience makes me feel a special debt of gratitude, for I found that researches published in New Zealand gained for me a cordial reception at the bands of scientific men in Europe. At the British
Museum and at Jermyn Street every possible facility was given me to study and utilize all the collections and literature at the disposal of those great institutions.
Afterwards, when I attended the International Congress of Geologists at Brussels, at which thirty-eight nations were represented, I found that all those with whom I spoke had derived nearly all their knowledge of New Zealand from the papers of our Transactions. As showing the recognition of the high standing of science in Europe, it is interesting to record that all national delegates were individually presented to the King of Belgium, who, when speaking to the New Zealand delegate, remarked that he had visited New Zealand soldiers on the battlefield, and was glad to find that the country was represented in the arts of peace as well as those of war.
Every author who writes a research for the Transactions must spend much time in its preparation. In most cases he incurs considerable expenditure. From these he reaps no material reward. These researches do much to remove the chance of a charge of intellectual apathy and sluggishness being urged against our country. Above all, they have made and are making every year important additions to the sum of human knowledge.
In whatever way we deal with the present unfortunate financial position in which we find ourselves, we should, in my opinion, take measures to maintain our annual volume without any reduction in size or form. With our limited resources we have done well, and means must be found to maintain our effort with no diminution