Inaugural Address delivered May 16th, 1934,
The President, Wellington Philosophical Society, the Right Honorable the Prime Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen,—
In this address on the occasion of the establishment of the Royal Society of New Zealand, I propose to give a brief summary of the development of scientific research in New Zealand from the earliest times up till the present. The period under review is a long one, practically 160 years, for in 1768 Cook made this land really known to the world. From his arrival till the foundation of the New Zealand Institute, nearly 100 years passed, and all through this period the mode of approach to the scientific problems presented by the country was practically the same, viz., the visits by expeditions from Europe and America, the amassing of collections, chiefly botanical, to a less extent zoological, and to a minor degree geological, and their description in monographs of imposing dimensions by experts in various branches, the publications usually being at the expense of the government of the land where the expedition originated. The authors were in many cases but little acquainted with the environment of the organisms they described. The stimulating influence of being associated with a new land did not operate therefore to any degree, except in the case of those men of science who actually accompanied the expeditions, and even in their case the stay was relatively brief.
Cook was primarily a navigator, and his own particular sphere was coastal survey, and the making of astronomical and magnetic observations. He was, for that reason, the first physicist, or rather geophysicist, associated with New Zealand science. One must remember, too, that he was the first Fellow of the Royal Society who had the honour conferred on him for work in New Zealand: it was not for his survey work, however, but because he discovered a method for the mitigation of the ravages of scurvy.
Although Cook's work in the directions indicated was most notable, the scientific results of his expeditions, apart from the geographical and ethnological, were those associated with the natural history of the new land. He was himself a close and accurate observer of natural phenomena and of the customs and habits of native races, and he had with him a scientific staff of naturalists especially strong on the botanical side: but they were concerned with the making of collections for the enrichment of herbaria and gardens, and with systematic description rather than the study of plants in their natural surroundings. The time of plant ecology had not arrived.
Other expeditions, fitted out in the northern hemisphere, followed close on the heels of Cook. The French sent various ships. Lieutenant D'Urville was on the first, no mean botanist himself, and associated with him were the naturalists Lesson, a botanist, and Quoy and Gaimard, zoologists. all names to be connected with the descriptions of new plants and animals. Subsequent to his first expedition,
D'Urville came as admiral in command, and collections, especially of plants, molluscs, crabs, insects, and birds, were made by the staffs of all the ships.
The Americans sent an expedition headed by Admiral Wilkes in 1840, which made collections of birds, shells, and crustacea. Then Great Britain also sent, in 1841, the ships Erebus and Terror, under Sir James Clark Ross, and extensive collections of animals were made as well as of plants, for included in the staff was Joseph Hooker, afterwards Sir Joseph Hooker, who really laid the foundation of the systematic botany of New Zealand. Later on we have the visit of the Novara, sent by the Emperor of Austria in 1859, with a distinguished personnel in which was included Ferdinand von Hochstetter, the first geologist of repute to visit New Zealand and examine the country. Its physical features had already attracted attention, for we have numerous references to it in the later editions of Charles Lyell's “Principles of Geology.”
Before 1867 there were other expeditions of relatively minor importance, but subsequent to this date, in the year 1874, there were brief visits from the Challenger, and from the French expedition to Campbell Island to observe the Transit of Venus.
Visits were paid by other men of note, e.g., by Charles Darwin, who came to the Bay of Islands in the Beagle in the year 1836, by Dr Lyall in the Acheron, and Dieffenbach included in his travels in the year 1840 a visit to the Chatham Islands. Any accounts they gave were based on a stay of a few weeks, or months at most, and were largely systematic and not related in any close way to the land itself, although most appreciative references were made to the beauty of the forest, the majesty of the mountains, and the sterling character of the Native inhabitants. Darwin was an exception. New Zealand did not impress him except unfavourably, for he says in his Journal: “I believe we were all glad to leave New Zealand. It is not a pleasant place. Among the Natives there is absent that charming simplicity which is found at Tahiti; and the greater part of the English are the very refuse of society. Neither is the country itself attractive. I look back but to one bright spot, and that is Waimate, with its Christian inhabitants.”
But from about the year 1860 a great change took place, and the scientific work was carried out very largely by men who made the country their home, and to them we owe the eminence to which the distinctive New Zealand science has attained. It is strange that the first men of science who were attracted by the country were botanists, then zoologists, but the real basis of New Zealand science is due to men who were all primarily geologists—Hector, Haast, and Hutton. This may be only a coincidence, but geology was a science of late development and reached a stage in the early ‘60’s when advance was rapid. The crude and fantastic theories of earlier date had been overthrown, men were going direct to nature for their inspiration, and no wonder a land like New Zealand, with its varied phenomena, was responsible for an intelligent appreciation of the different forces which had fashioned it. In some departments these men were
pioneers. Hector was the first to explain the development of over deepened fiords by the excavating powers of great valley glaciers. Haast, as a resident on the Canterbury Plains and intimately acquainted with the vagaries of the rivers overcharged with the waste from mountains higher in their basins, was thoroughly conversant with the factors controlling its deposition and the building up of river beds, and to him is to be credited the first use of the word “fan” in a scientific sense as applied to that form of deposit.
The new idea of the former extension of glaciers was creating keen interest and varied expression of opinion in the northern hemisphere, and both Haast and Hector added materially to the discussion in support of those who maintained their extension. This evidence coming from another hemisphere had a very important influence on the conclusions which were ultimately established. As is the case with pioneers in a new land in other spheres of action, these two men had to undertake varied work, and both were noted for the many-sidedness of their activities. In the case of Hector, this can be exemplified by the various subjects for which the medal associated with his name stands—botany, chemistry, ethnology, geology, physics, zoology—for in all these he attained some distinction. Haast, too, was a botanist, zoologist, and ethnologist, as well as being a geologist. But Hutton was the one of widest attainments, for in addition to his geology we owe much to his systematic work in many departments of zoology, notably conchology, entomology, and vertebrate zoology. He was, however, no mere systematist, but a close observer in the field, and he brought to bear on various problems of natural history a philosophic mode of approach which gave new interest to what had been previously isolated scientific facts. We know now that some of his reasoning was unsound, and his conclusions therefore invalid, yet he exercised in his time a very profound influence on New Zealand science, an influence frequently associated with those who make startling generalisations or enunciate apparent paradoxes, the very effort of disproving them materially advancing the cause of truth.
These men were jacks of all trades, and dare we say they were masters of none? For the age of specialists had not arrived, when the object is to know “more and more about less and less.” Yet this failure to possess an accurate knowledge of a limited subject did give them a catholicity of outlook and a freedom of imagination which is of the greatest help in a pioneer, and not without advantage to a worker in a limited sphere of advanced research. These were the men who dominated the latter half of the century in New Zealand science. Haast died comparatively early after a full and vigorous life, but Hector and Hutton survived into the early years of this century, and I think we are greatly indebted to them for the high standing of the New Zealand Institute.
It must be remembered, too, that at this stage there were notable stirrings in the scientific world. Darwin published his “Origin of Species” in 1859, and Hutton was an ardent advocate of his theories,
and, in fact, he provided instances which Darwin used in his memorable work. And as early as 1862, just three years after the book appeared, in a Presidential Address to the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, Haast maintained that it was “the great work of the age.”
The first body in this country to which the name scientific can be given is the New Zealand Society established in Wellington very early in the history of the colony, viz., in 1851. Sir George Grey delivered an inaugural address, presided in person at its meetings, and helped it substantially by his lively interest. From this developed the Wellington Philosophical Society, so that it is in some measure the parent of the New Zealand Institute. It is appropriate, therefore, that the celebration of the establishment of the Royal Society of New Zealand is being conducted with its cordial support and under its direction.
The New Zealand Institute was formally established in 1867, over 60 years ago, by the New Zealand Institute Act, through the incorporation of various independent societies in Wellington and other parts of New Zealand, viz., the Wellington Philosophical Society, the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, the Auckland Institute, and the Westland Naturalists and Acclimatisation Society. Three of these had a vigorous existence, but the last-named languished after a time and finally ceased to exist. Soon after its formation, the Institute was strengthened by the addition of the Otago Institute, and there followed on the Hawke's Bay Philosophical Society, and societies centred on Wanganui, Nelson, and Palmerston North.
On August 4th, 1868, the then Governor of the Colony, Sir George Ferguson Bowen, as the first President, delivered an inaugural address, in which he briefly described the steps leading up to its establishment, and then in an eloquent manner detailed the various branches of science which would come within the sphere of activity of the new Institute, and indicated the directions in which, in his opinion, they would probably develop. He mentioned the Geological Survey, then recently established under Dr (afterwards Sir James) Hector, but with the foundations of its investigation laid by Hochstetter. He also mentioned the field of botany, and the appearance of Hooker's Handbook, also zoology with special reference to the problem of the moa, and after considering the natural sciences as being most obviously those which would concern future investigators, he went on to deal with the physical sciences, including meteorology, terrestrial magnetism, and finally ethnology and specially the study of the Maori race.
The chief motive power behind the new Institute was provided by the three men just mentioned, Hector, Haast, and Hutton, but there were other active workers in the early years, notably Sir Walter Buller, J. Buchanan, T. F. Cheeseman, W. Colenso, R. W. Fereday, T. Kirk, T. W. Kirk, W. M. Maskell, Ed. Meyrick, T. H. Potts, W. T. L. Travers, and, later on, before the passing of the century, Charles Chilton, G. V. Hudson, T. J. Parker, D. Petrie, G. M. Thomson, all associated with natural science, and one need only
mention such additional names as those of W. Skey, A. W. Bickerton, and George Hogben to realise that the physical and chemical sciences received no unworthy attention. The importance of ethnology was fully recognised in the work of S. Percy Smith, Ed. Tregear, and A. Hamilton.
We must express at this stage our recognition of the great work done in the early days of the Dominion under trying conditions and without modern facilities, and specially so in the case of the pioneering explorations, both geographic and scientific, into an unknown land. While certain areas of the country, especially the eastern part of the South Island, were no doubt always easy of access except for rivers— and even here they took their toll, e.g., Dr Sinclair, the botanist, was drowned in the Rangitata River—nearly all the North Island and all of the West Coast of the South Island was covered with almost impenetrable bush. The means of access, if not through heavy undergrowth, lay along the shore, up rivers by wading frequently in the water, or along mountain tops above the scrub line. The journey of Sir James Hector through South Westland and Western Otago in the year 1863, when he crossed the shoulder of Aspiring, one of the mountaineering feats of the century, was a notable achievement. With this pioneering scientific expedition must be ranked the exploratory work done by Haast on the West Coast, Bidwill's trip into the centre of the North Island, Colenso's numerous expeditions into various parts of the North Island, and especially his crossing of the Ruahines, and Reischek's lonely stay in the West Coast Sounds.
It must not be supposed, however, that during this period all scientific work in the country was done under the auspices of the Institute or published by the Institute. The “Geological Survey” and “Colonial Laboratory,” under Sir James Hector, issued annual reports and bulletins as well as systematic monographs dealing with various groups of animals living and fossil. And there were also publications of such monumental works as Buller's “Birds of New Zealand” and Owen's descriptions of moa bones sent to him in London from time to time.
A comparison of the state of knowledge of our land in 1900 with what existed in 1867 emphasises the great progress of investigation, and the increasing volume of results. They were helped to some extent by the foundation of the New Zealand University, but this can hardly be said to have achieved substantial success in the way of scientific research by the end of the century, although there were indications of coming change. Up to this point, and for a little longer, the chief stimulus came from extra academic sources, from the devoted work of private individuals in their spare time, and of professional men in departments somewhat foreign to their usual routine. It should be noted all the same that even before the end of the century Rutherford had started on his career of scientific conquest, and the University is quite justified in taking credit for having set his feet on the path he was to follow.
During this period, the management of the business side of the Institute was in the hands of Sir James Hector, and it became the recorder of the work done by its members. It was, however, little more than a publishing institution centralised in Wellington. In the opening years of the new century, matters approached a crisis, and largely through the dominating influence of Captain Hutton, the governance of the Institute was reorganised, more representation on the governing body and more power given to the local societies, and new vigour was infused into the somewhat dry bones. Captain Hutton became the first President of the reconstituted body. For the next 30 years progress was constant, and the output of scientific work increased, and it must be admitted that its quality was also substantially improved. I am not guilty of making invidious distinctions when I say that the outstanding figure of this period is Dr L. Cockayne. I will not mention any other living member, although many have done great and meritorious service, but merely those who have passed away after bearing aloft the lamp of knowledge: Charles Chilton, G. M. Thomson, Augustus Hamilton, T. F. Cheeseman, D. Petrie, H. Hill, H. Suter, A. McKay, J. A. Thomson, P. G. Morgan, and Elsdon Best. By far the majority of these men were connected with natural science, but there had been an increasing amount of investigation into the physical sciences, and this is reflected in the publications in the Transactions. While natural science has a particular appeal to the country which has furnished the material for study and only indirectly to the world as a whole, the fundamental feature of physical science is that it deals with the fabric of the globe and the universe, knows no confines, and therefore makes an appeal to the whole scientific world and even to philosophy, and its investigators seek publicity in those directions in which the world-wide audience is most easily reached. It must be admitted that the present Transactions of the New Zealand Institute are hardly the most appropriate vehicle for bringing a discovery in physical science before the world, but it is hoped that this condition may be in process of changing. One can remember that the first paper by Lord Rutherford, his first contribution to science, appeared in the Transactions. With such an excellent precedent no apology need be offered for the printing of papers in physical subjects in our Transactions, and it is to be hoped that within a measurable time they may be regarded as quite an appropriate medium for introducing new features in that sphere to the world at large.
And now, in this year 1934, we have a change of name to the Royal Society of New Zealand. The chief reason for this has been the desire to bring its nomenclature into line with that obtaining in other parts of the Empire, and at the same time to remove the ambiguity arising from the fact that there are other institutes in New Zealand with functions analogous to those of the New Zealand Institute, in other spheres with which it might be confused. His Majesty the King has graciously permitted the use of the title “Royal,” so that this country will follow the precedents that have been established in so many parts of his dominions.
I must express the sincere regret of the Society that His Excellency the Governor-General is not present to deliver the inaugural address. Who is more fitted than he to preside at this ceremony and to perpetuate the custom that at critical stages in the history of our Society we have had the presence, active sympathy, support, and inspiration of His Majesty's representative in this Dominion.
This brief sketch of the history of the Institute discloses that one important purpose for which the Institute was founded has been neglected, viz., the encouragement of art and literature, and the very title of some of the branches indicates a further aim, viz., philosophy. Art has been entirely neglected except in so far as Maori art comes within the definition. Literature has received scant recognition, though there is an interesting contribution by Johannes C. Andersen on Metre, dealt with on a scientific basis. So the aims of the founders of the Society in those directions have not been realised. There are a few more papers dealing with metaphysics and philosophy, and these are almost entirely in the early years. There has been a great falling away.
The main activities have been in the direction of encouraging scientific work by providing means for publication, and this is, after all, a most important function of such a body as the Institute. The opportunity to publish the results of work is a most real form of encouragement. One of the aphorisms of Professor W. M. Davis, whose death was referred to at an earlier meeting to-day, was “Publish or perish.” Davis applied the remark to individuals, for he went on to say, “If it is worth doing, it is worth printing!” If no opportunity to print is afforded, then the well of inspiration dries up. It may also be applied to societies, for this generally disconsidered function of such a society as this is really the main stimulus to a vigorous existence.
One thing, however, stands at the same since the foundation of the Institute, viz., the amount of the Government grant. It is now £500, and it was the same in 1866, notwithstanding the great increase in population and the vast increase in wealth. This lack of Governmental financial support has thrown a heavy additional burden on the constituent societies, and the result has been a serious crippling of their activities, and a decrease in the amount of money spent on their libraries. This particular financial stringency cuts at the root of all research, for without libraries or with poor libraries, original work becomes almost impossible. It is to be hoped that when the depression lifts the amount of the grant may be restored to what it was for a considerable intervening period, viz., £1500. And it could very well be increased beyond this amount.
A very serious matter related to the want of funds, and adversely affecting research throughout the country, is the delay and difficulty in publication. The Society has done its best in that direction, aided by a substantial grant from the Carnegie Trustees, and perhaps the restriction in the funds available for this purpose has resulted in the raising of the standard of accepted contributions, which is all to the good, but recently it has been found impossible to print all worthy
papers, or to print them only after considerable delay. This disability has a wider incidence, and one regrets the delay in publishing material in the case of scientific departments, which are, of course, not connected directly with the Society. There appears to be accumulations of years, and it may be a decade before they can be dealt with. In some cases the contribution will be quite out of date, or the value substantially lessened, and it may be finally advisable to decline publication. This state of affairs has a very deleterious effect on workers, especially the younger ones, who feel themselves stifled in their endeavours, and at a time when expression to them is vital; it is hoped that some means may yet be devised to aid publication.
It is an extremely wasteful method of economy to check research during depression. As far as this country is concerned, it would be an excellent investment to encourage research at such a time as the present in order that the reward may be reaped subsequently. One form of encouragement is the provision of adequate means of expression.
In this respect Australia sets us an excellent example. There appears to have been no slackening in the activities of the Commonwealth Department of Industrial and Scientific Research; the examination of all problems connected with the primary productions of the country is carried on with vigour, and the publications which the department issues at frequent intervals indicate its appreciation of the value of the regular publication of results.
While the amount of money contributed to research purposes by our own Government compares very favourably with that devoted in Australia, there is no doubt that the volume of publication in the Commonwealth far exceeds what is produced here, even if allowance is made for greater population and wealth, a more extended and diversified land, a wider range of industries, both primary and secondary, and consequently the existence of more numerous problems awaiting solution.
In countries other than our own badly affected by the depression, the amount spent on research is enormous, and shows that the authorities are fully alive to the advantages accruing therefrom. For example, during 1931 England spent £800,000 on special research departments, of which £464,000 was spent on agricultural research. Canada spent £400,000 on research laboratories, and the United States £6,000,000 on agricultural research alone. These are governmental expenditures, and leave out of consideration the vast sums spent by corporations and private individuals.
During the period from 1900 onwards, scientific investigation was materially aided by:—
(1) The increasing efficiency of University training.
(2) The reorganisation and the establishment of scientific Government departments, finally placed under the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research.
(3) The establishment of institutions like the Cawthron Institute and the development of museums.
The effect of the first has been very pronounced since better facilities such as laboratories and libraries have been provided, an increasing number of scholarships have been established which have enabled promising students to continue their work in Europe and America. In fact, nearly all students who would be likely to benefit materially by such experience are able now in some way to reach the schools of the Old World. The effect of this on the Institute has been direct, but the Institute has reacted on the University as well, since it has enabled students to publish results in many cases, and provided a contact with extra-academic influences; in fact, some men external to the University, such as Dr Cockayne, have exercised an influence comparable with or even exceeding that of the staffs of the University itself.
The chief difficulty is the paucity of the staffs of the university colleges, the necessity of their devoting so much of their time to actual teaching of students in lower grades, and the lack of a central university where research into special New Zealand problems and, of course, others can be prosecuted. Perhaps at the present time it is more economical to send promising students to lands where research laboratories now exist, but the time will come when such a central institution must be established. The University suffers from the absence of a central home and source of inspiration.
The scientific departments of the Government, established on modern lines since the beginning of the century, have stimulated research to a marked degree, and specially so since their grouping under the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. Behind all these there is some direct utilitarian purpose, notably the development of the country's resources—agricultural, mineral, forest, etc.— whereas the main influence of the Royal Society is directed towards pure science, though not exclusively so. There is no real difference between the two branches of pure and applied except that the former is devoted to the welfare of the world as a whole without regard to persons, and the latter is directed to the advancement of the interests of some particular country, or individual or group of individuals. For this reason applied science requires a high standard of accuracy in its application. When the proper expenditure of a large sum of money is dependent on the correct solution of a problem in all its phases, a public or private corporation demands more careful examination of all the surrounding circumstances and related factors. In pure science the mere reputation of a scientist is at stake, and as long as his own conscience is satisfied, he feels no further responsibility, and though he may care a great deal, the world as a whole certainly does not. All the same, the method of approach to the problems concerned is the same in both cases, and must be in both subject to the same rigorous controls.
The scientific method of approach to problems in applied science has a much wider incidence than some people think. It is usually believed that inventions are the result of some sudden inspiration, but I have been told by a well-known Australian—I should, perhaps, say New Zealander—that this is not the case. In his experience,
inventions are due to the arriving at a correct solution of a definite mechanical problem, and the reputation of an inventor depends on the skill shown in solving such a problem.
I need not make mention to such an audience as this of the cases where men working in the laboratory on a purely scientific problem, and with no thought of future gain, but only the advancement of the cause of truth, have demonstrated principles which have led not only to scientific fame, but to commercial results of world-wide incidence, the happiness of millions, or their misery, and the fortunes of hundreds of individuals.
Then, too, the establishments like the Cawthron Institute, the Portobello Fish Hatchery, and the museums of the country afford facilities for scientific investigation. It may be a momentary phase at the present time to decry museums as storehouses of collections of plants and animals, of ethnological and historical material, but such material has to be preserved as a record, and for the information of future workers, and where else can such be housed? Unless, indeed, the modern development will be in the direction of divorcing this aspect of museum work from the educational and providing entirely distinct establishments with different utilities and aims. I believe that I am correct in saying that, considering their resources and opportunities, the value of the scientific work contributed by museums in this country is not excelled by that of any other institutions. There have been, in addition to the regular plans of investigation carried out in our departments, notable contributions by men of standing acting under instructions from such departments, but really outside them, and also those made by persons belonging to public institutions in directions where their strict duty hardly lies. I refer to such works as Hamilton's “Maori Art,” “Cheeseman's “Manual of New Zealand Flora,” Suter's “Manual of Mollusca.”
There is, lastly, that group of so-called unemployed or leisured class who in Great Britain have been the glory of its science—men of independent and untramelled thought, who have worked for the mere love of truth, have acquired fame, and furnished epoch-making contributions to the cause of science—men like Charles Lyell and Charles Darwin. This race is fortunately not extinct here. Its individuals are usually connected with natural history, perhaps because physical science and chemistry require laboratories and equipment beyond the resources of private persons, however wealthy, but one knows that the spirit is alive if the opportunity does not present itself.
The most striking features of the scientific development of the past 30 years has been (1) the astounding advance in the fundamental sciences of physics and chemistry, and (2) the success of the application of the methods of these sciences to the so-called natural sciences. This tends to a much more rigorous investigation of problems and the elimination to an increasing extent of the personal equation. When an investigator has to rely very largely on his own intuition, the results vary very greatly with the capacity of the investigator. If
he is a genius, then his results may have far-reaching effects, but in the hands of a moderate observer they become useless or even dangerous.
Geology has been held to be a very inexact science, seeing that in geological accounts there is the too-frequent use of the words, probably, perhaps, or it may be so. I well remember Dr T. A. Jaggar, Director of the Volcano Observatory at Kilauea, saying that he hoped that no geologist would succeed him for this reason. He was, after all, a geologist himself, but he wanted a man trained in physical methods of exactness, and his suggestion was that geology would benefit very greatly if it adopted these methods. The days are gone, or are fast going, when a single geologist will be fully equipped for field work with a hammer and a compass, and before long no party of the geological survey will be sent out without a geophysical equipment as well. Geology has practically shed crystallography and seismology, and it may shed other branches when the true physical methods invade its debatable zones. Palaeontology in some respects as a geological instrument has become almost exact, though as a biological study it can hardly make that claim. This application of physics and chemistry to botanical and zoological problems is becoming more and more effective, and there are indications that the day of the pure systematist is done. I am not decrying his work—organisms must be classified, described, and arranged, but this is no longer the most important phase of biological study. The increasing application of physical methods to such problems appears to me to be the most striking phase of the last third of a century of the Institute's history.
One disappointing feature of the study of natural history in this country is the general failure of both old and young to show an intelligent interest in the plants and animals of the land where they live. In England, in nearly every small town there is some person who takes a lively interest in the natural history of his neighbourhood and has made some typical collection of it, whether of insects, or plants, or birds, or fossils. One hardly ever sees this feature displayed here. There is no general love or interest in nature, and the reason for its absence is not obvious. It does not appear to be due to lack of school training, for these naturalists of Great Britain appear to have the quality born in them. I do not think it has anything to do with the training, for the few people of this type that I have come across in New Zealand owed little or nothing to help at school. The race is still the same, and it should possess the same instincts. One great work of a society such as this might be to revive this sleeping instinct, for when developed again, its help to science will be manifest. The notable experiment of the Auckland Museum in the direct encouragement of the study of natural history will be watched with interest, and with hope that it may serve to remedy to some extent this defect in the scientific outlook in the younger members of the community.
This introduces the reference to one of the most important interests of the Society, viz., the supervision of certain of the national parks and sanctuaries of the Dominion, such as the Tongariro National
Park, the Arthur Pass National Park. On the Boards of Control of some the Society is not directly represented; still, it is vitally interested in their management. Recently it has interested itself in having the Auckland Islands as a whole and the Kermadee Islands declared sanctuaries, and it views with cordial approval the removal of the country at the head of Lake Roto-iti, in the Nelson province, from land selection.
These national parks are intended to afford to our unique flora and fauna the protection necessary for their continued existence under natural conditions, and were it not for introduced pests they would thoroughly effect their purpose. But stoats, little owls, deer, and chamois are taking their toll of bird and plant life, and certain alpine plants are threatened with extinction by the latter, or at any rate a material reduction in numbers in the areas which are their particular habitat. This makes it necessary that the introduced pests should be controlled, if not actually exterminated. The Government should set its face resolutely against the importation of all such animals, whether in the name of sport or otherwise. One cannot tell what may eventuate at times in the case of an animal relatively harmless in its own home, where it has developed pari passu with biological controls, when it is removed to another land where such controls do not exist.
The Society should also emphasise the necessity of having thoroughly representative collections of living plants established under suitable conditions. There is the Otari Open Air Museum at present in existence, and the Arthur's Pass Board has recently considered a scheme for the formation of an Alpine Garden at Arthur's Pass.
These national parks and sanctuaries will ultimately be found of inestimable value when the public of the Dominion and, above all, its younger members, learn to appreciate to the full the natural beauties and treasures of our land, and to realise that it is truly a “precious stone set in the silver sea.” Their attraction for overseas visitors and scientific men will be perpetual.
One mentions here the question of national parks and sanctuaries, since the reputation of the Society as a scientific body has been chiefly established by the study of the fauna and flora of the country, and it would be an ill service to posterity if we did not hand on, in as perfect a form as possible, those materials for study which were once available. Not only will the work of pioneers be better appreciated, but it will afford opportunities for investigation which we are confident will be continued in the future. During the progress of settlement, wasteful and almost criminal methods have reduced our heritage, have actually destroyed portions of it, have exterminated many unique plants and animals; but the present public conscience will not allow it to be frittered away, and we must always be grateful for that vigilance shown by such organisations as the Bird Protection Society, which, without being actually scientific bodies, are aiding materially in scientific research.
A disability of a Royal Society in this country, and one calculated to lessen its effectiveness very seriously, is that it has no central home. When matters affecting scientific politics must be
considered and the full weight of the society exerted to secure a certain end, Sydney can speak authoritatively for the whole of New South Wales, Melbourne for Victoria, and Adelaide for South Australia, but there is a difficulty as far as New Zealand is concerned. While in one way it is an advantage to have a diffusion of interest and some amount of decentralisation, the increased effect of a superior central body is manifest when the combined influence of the Society has to be employed. So, for the same reason, New Zealand has no true university; both society and university are weakened by the geographical lay out of the land. It seems difficult to meet this objection in a satisfactory manner as far as the Society is concerned, but with regard to the university it can be met by establishing a central research institution to which present colleges will be subordinate as indicated previously, or to raise the latter to the dignity of separate universities. It seems a long shot to suggest that ultimately we may have a Royal Society's House in New Zealand where its meetings will be held, its library housed, where portraits of its distinguished members may be displayed for all time; but the Society will not have a full measure of prestige till some such home is provided and maintained in adequate state.
There has been a considerable amount of criticism recently both anonymously in the public press and in meetings of at least one of the local branches in that the Society is not fulfilling its functions adequately and not acting as the leader in scientific matters that its history and prestige demand. In my opinion, the activity of the Society and the interest it has shown in scientific matters has never been greater, only other departments have arisen which have taken on some of the functions once belonging to the Society. At one time the Institute directly through its head was the adviser to the Government on almost all matters relating to science; now there is an influential and well-staffed Government department directly under a Minister, and the proper source of advice is the body of expert opinion of that department. There is little or no need to consult such a body as the Institute or the Society into which it has developed. There are other departments of the Government as well which have a scientific staff. All the same, the Society exercises, and will continue to exercise, both through its individuals and as a corporate body, a watchful yet sympathetic eye on scientific matters and the governmental relation to them, and were the necessity to arise, it would not hesitate to place its views before the powers controlling the country.
A suggestion has been made that the Society's annual gathering should be something more than a mere business meeting, that pronouncements should be made by the presidents and others on important matters in the scientific world, and that the feature of such a meeting should be the Presidential Address, following on the custom of similar societies in Australia and elsewhere. A difficulty arises in this connection from the geographical condition of this country. Instead of having a central capital dominating other centres of population in which are located a large proportion of the scientific
workers as residents, we have in New Zealand four centres of subequal size, with a relatively equal population directly interested in scientific matters, and other centres still more scattered. Wellington has certainly some advantage in that it is the seat of government, but the advantage due to this is not overwhelming, and it should not give to the capital the exclusive right to the place of the delivery of the Presidential Address—an arrangement should be made for a regular change of venue. There has been precedent for this, in that on occasion the annual meeting of the Institute has been held in Auckland, in Christchurch, and in Dunedin, and it is also specially mentioned in the Act. Although it is slightly more costly to make a change from Wellington, yet in normal times this extra cost should be met in the interests of the vitality of the Society. The delivery of a true Presidential Address, and not a mere summary of business, would be a manifest advantage, and help and encourage appreciation of the Society's work and functions throughout New Zealand. It would remove very largely the conception of the Society as being merely an association of scientific men and other representative men meeting once a year in Wellington to transact pure business, appoint committees, and hear their reports, and from time to time to make awards of medals, awards which are at times strongly criticised. As long as the criticism is not factious and for the purpose of creating trouble, it should be welcomed as indicating an active interest of the individual members in the Society's affairs.
What, then, are the ultimate objects of this Society? I cannot do better than quote from Bacon's “New Atlantis” where he describes the establishment known as the House of Salomon. He says: “The end of our foundation is the knowledge of causes, and secret motions of things, and the enlarging the bounds of human empire to the affecting of all things possible.”
A statement from the man who foreshadowed the foundation of the Royal Society forty years before it was actually founded, who placed the principles of scientific reasoning on a sure basis, cannot help but be of value although science was in its infancy when he wrote the words. He stressed the necessity for observation especially in matters pertaining to natural history, but did not neglect what is now called physical science based strictly on observation, for in the close of his description of his Royal Society he says: “Lastly, we have circuits of divers principal cities of the kingdom; where as it cometh to pass we do publish such new profitable inventions as we think good. And we do also declare natural divination of diseases, plagues, swarms of harmful creatures, scarcity, tempests, earthquakes, great inundations, comets, temperature of the year, and divers other things; and we do give counsel thereupon, what the people shall do for the prevention and remedy of them.”
This was written 300 years ago (1626), but it has a modern outlook, although the conjunction of the various phenomena is hardly modern. We have a forecast of our Health Department, the investigation of insect pests, regular meteorological and astronomical observations, and the suggestion that such institutions must give
advice concerning them to the general public. There is also provision for the holding of meetings in various parts of the kingdom. Allowing for an archaic diction, it is just such a programme as might be adopted by our Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, but visualised by Bacon as a programme for a Royal Society, in the way of using scientific investigation for the benefit of mankind.
But can we make any prediction as to how a present-day Royal Society will develop? If we consider the position of scientific research in 1866 as compared with its position in 1903, and again the position in 1903 with that in 1934, we cannot fail to be struck with the fact that not only has there been a marked acceleration in the latter period in the rate of progress, but also has there been sudden and striking advances—the mutations of biological evolution. Since 1903 the advance has been bewildering, and it is true of every department, but specially of the fundamental sciences, physics and chemistry. Investigations are reaching out further and further, in one direction almost to the infinity of space—if, indeed, this exists—and in the other to the infinity of minuteness. There is also an approach of science to philosophy, and ultimately the aims of the founders of the Society may be realised in that direction, for philosophy may become merely a branch of science or science of philosophy.
If one may hazard a prediction, the main advance will probably be first of all in the increased application of the methods and theories of physics and chemistry to the mechanics and perhaps the actual origin of life itself. This does not seem too much to hope if a commensurate progress is to be maintained as compared with that of the early parts of this century. Whither this may lead it is impossible to say, unless it is to result in the truer appreciation of an all-powerful and beneficent Creator. The impossibility of prediction is emphasised by Eddington in the conclusion of his book on the “Nature of the Physical World,” where he says:—
“If the scheme of philosophy which we now rear on the scientific advances of Einstein, Bohr, Rutherford, and others is doomed to fall in the next thirty years, it cannot be laid to our charge that we have gone astray. Like the systems of Euclid, of Ptolemy, of Newton, which have served their turn, so the systems of Einstein and Heisenberg may give way to some fuller realisation of the world. But in each revolution of scientific thought new words are set to old music, and that which has gone before is not destroyed but refocussed. Amid all our faulty attempts at expression, the kernel of scientific truth steadily grows.”
In the pursuit of this varying and elusive truth, we feel confident that this Society, in conjunction with others, will play its part, and that in their triumphs as well as in their failures it will be associated. It has our hopes for a continued and increasing success, and, personally, I conclude with the simple additional wish, Esto perpetua.