[Delivered at the Annual Meeting at Wellington on May 23rd, 1939, by Emeritus-Professor W. P. Evans, M.A., Ph.D., F.R.S.N.Z., F.I.C.N.Z.]
A second year of office has given me the privilege, but, at the same time the responsibility, of delivering a second presidential address. At your request that address was divided into two independent sections, the second of which was to be delivered after an informal luncheon had given you strength to bear it. Unfortunately, it was found impracticable to carry out this plan fully; and so I must ask you to be patient, and listen to the whole address now.
My first duty is to welcome two new members of the Council. Dr. C. M. Focken and Mr. G. Simpson take their seats as representatives of the Society's Otago Branch; the former representatives, Professor Park and Dr. Turner, having resigned. Of Dr. Turner's services I spoke at our last meeting; of Professor Park's long continued and highly valued connection with the Council formal mention will be made later.
During the year just passed we have lost one of our Honorary Members, J. W. Mellor, C.B.E., D.Sc., F.R.S. (elected 1919; died 1938); and one of our Fellows, J. S. Maclaurin, D.Sc., F.C.S. (elected 1926; died 1939).
Joseph William Mellor was born at Huddersfield, England, on July 9th, 1869, and came to New Zealand when he was about ten years old.
He was a boy who was determined to work his way upwards, and, though engaged all day long as a clicker, attended evening classes first at the Dunedin Technical School, and later at the University of Otago. At the University his flair for chemistry soon became evident, and he went steadily ahead to his Master's degree, and a lectureship at Lincoln Agricultural College.
In 1889 he was nominated as New Zealand's 1851 Exhibition Scholar, and, on his nomination being accepted by the Commissioners, returned to England in order to make the study of chemistry his life-work. The potteries of Staffordshire attracted him strongly, and he devoted much of his time to the solution of their various problems.
For some years he was Principal of the pottery school of the North Staffordshire Technical College, and also sometime Director of the British Refractories Research Association. In addition he acted for many years as Secretary of the Ceramic Society.
Probably his best-known work is the Comprehensive Treatise on Inorganic and Theoretical Chemistry, a huge sixteen-volume book of reference, the compilation of which occupied most of his later years. His best work, from the scientific standpoint, was that connected with refractories, and the manufacture of special steels; work which assumed great importance during the critical years following 1914.
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of London in 1927. He died at his residence at Putney on May 24th, 1938, just three days before our last annual meeting.
James Scott Maclaurin came out from England with his parents when he was still a boy, and, after attending the Auckland Grammar School, graduated from Auckland University College with first-class honours in chemistry. The excellence of his chemical work at the University gained for him the Fellowship of the Chemical Society of London. In 1894 he was elected to an 1851 Exhibition Scholarship, but, for family reasons, decided not to accept it.
After some years of private practice as an analyst, he joined the Mines Department, and found that his great ability as an analyst enabled him to answer satisfactorily the many questions put to him by the various Government departments that sought his aid. Later he became Dominion Analyst and continued to superintend the growing staff of the Dominion Laboratory until the end of 1930, when he retired.
The arduous duties of his several positions left him but scant time for the research work for which he was so eminently fitted, bout some of his official reports show as much original chemical work as if they had been studies in purely academic science. His thesis for the degree of D.Sc. has become a classic in the literature of metallurgy, and his discovery of the important part played by oxygen in the solutions used for recovering gold led to vastly increased yields of that metal.
He died at Wellington on the 19th January, 1939.
On your behalf I extend very hearty congratulations to the Society's Vice-President, Dr. P. Marshall, upon his being unanimously selected by the General Council of the Australian and New Zealand Association for the Advancement of Science as President-elect of the Association.
I also congratulate another member of the Council, Dr. W. R. B. Oliver, upon his election as a British Empire Member of the British Ornithologists Union.
The Standing Committee's report has recalled to your minds the main activities of the Society during the past year, and has probably suggested a few points for discussion.
On April 26th of this year (and therefore too late for inclusion in the report), the Wellington Philosophical Society, one of the oldest of our member-bodies, decided to change its name to Royal Society of New Zealand (Wellington Branch).
Carter Bequest.—It will be remembered that, at the annual meeting held on May 27th, 1937, the Council after duly considering the “Report of the Technical Sub-committee set up to Consider and Report on a Suitable Scheme for Equipping the Carter Observatory; and Probable Cost of Same,” instructed the Standing Committee to tranfer the accumulated funds belonging to the Cartel Trust to the proposed Statutory Board of Trustees as soon as it was satisfied that the sum necessary for the service and upkeep of the proposed Carter Observatory, viz., £1000 per annum, was definitely assured; and expressed the opinion that the sums to be contributed annually by the Government, and the Wellington City Council, respectively, ought not to be subject to annual vote, but should be made statutory under the Empowering Act.
Subsequently the Carter Observatory Act of September 14th, 1938, completely discharged “the trusts declared in the will of the said Charles Rooking Carter” and vested “the moneys comprised in the …. bequest of the said Charles Rooking Carter, together with the accumulated income thereof, the securities in which any such moneys are invested, and all rights of the Royal Society of New Zealand in relation thereto” in the Carter Observatory Board “for the exercise of the Board's functions.”
The standing Committee therefore instructed the Managers of the Society's trust accounts to take whatever steps were necessary to transfer all moneys and securities belonging to the Carter Bequest to the Carter Observatory Board as soon as that Board was duly constituted and the names of its members gazetted.
The constitution of the said Board was duly announced on January 19th, 1939, and all the moneys previously held in trust by the Royal Society of New Zealand were then transferred to the officers of the Board, and the seal of the Royal Society was affixed to the transfer documents.
The Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand, as collective trustee for the Carter Bequest from 1896 to 1939, has at times been subjected to much adverse criticism for its determination that the moneys involved should not be used until there was a definite prospect of their being used to advantage; though most of that criticism appears to have been due to a want of appreciation of the facts. It is, perhaps, as well to place on record in our “Transactions” that, after the relevant facts had been put before the Conference called to consider the best use to be made of the accumulated funds, it was unanimously resolved that “a vote of appreciation and thanks be made to the Royal Society for the way in which they have looked after the funds.”
The Royal Society of New Zealand has now no liability whatever in the Carter Bequest; and it only remains for us to express the wish that the Observatory soon to be erected and equipped may, under the guidance of its. young and able Director, prove of value not only to the Dominion of New Zealand, but also to the whole world of science.
Canberra Meeting.—The biennial meeting of the A. and N.Z.A.A.S., held this year at Canberra, was attended by over twelve hundred members and associate-members. The surroundings of the Commonwealth Capital City, though not at their best owing to the long drought and the abnormally high temperatures prevailing, formed a picturesque, if somewhat inconvenient, setting for the meeting, which lasted from the 11th to the 18th of January.
Many of the papers read at the meeting were of more than usual merit, and one or two of the symposia led to conclusions which should prove of value in connexion with future work. A full report of the meeting will be published in due course.
Two features of interest to this Society were the success attending the geology section under the guidance of one of the Society's representatives, Professor R. Speight; and the selection, already referred to, of another representative, Dr. P. Marshall, as President-elect.
The representatives of the Society at the meeting were greatly indebted to some of the residents of Canberra, and the staff of the Stromlo Observatory, for their kindness in providing cars when the general transport arrangements failed.
I come now to the second section of my address; a section for which I have chosen a semi-historical subject—Two Royal Societies: those of London, and New Zealand; the former (christened “Royal” in 1662), not only the oldest but also by far the most renowned in the British Empire; the latter (christened in 1933), the youngest, and perhaps the least known of that small group to which the ancient title “Royal Society” has been granted.
I propose to speak to you briefly, and perhaps for that reason baldly, of their origin, and their aims.
Their origins, naturally enough, were similar. It is characteristic of man that so soon as he has mounted a hobby-horse he should desire to ride with others similarly mounted, so that he may bore them with his views regarding the particular hobby they are riding. In this way one or two Londoners interested in the experimental science of their day gathered to themselves others with like interests, and by 1645, “divers worthy persons inquisitive into natural philosophy, and other parts of human learning; and particularly of what hath been called the New Philosophy or Experimental Philosophy” held weekly meetings at one or another convenient house or tavern.* They certainly emptied their tankards of ale, but they were very much in earnest, and it is fairly evident that “The Invisible Colledge” of Boyle's letters is nothing but this ancient company of philosophers.
[Footnote] * These meetings we held sometimes at Dr. Goddard's lodgings in Wood Street (or some convenient place near), on occasion of his keeping an operator for grinding glasses for telescopes and microscopes; some times at a convenient place (The Bull Head) in Cheapside, and at Gresham College …. and after the lecture ended, repaired …. to some other place not far distant.” (Wallis's “A Defence of the Royal Society,” 1078.)
Writing about thirty-five years later, one of this old Company-states: “Our business was (precluding matters of theology and state-affairs) to discourse and consider of Philosophical Enquiries, and such as related thereunto; as Physick, Anatomy, Geometry, Astronomy, Navigation, Staticks, Magneticks, Chymicks, Mechanicks, and natural Experiments; with the state of these studies, as then cultivated at home and abroad.”
Some of these philosophers left for Oxford and formed a second group in close connexion with the first, but gradually the activities of both became centred in London, with Gresham College as their principal place of meeting.
The secretaries of the company kept its journals, and in the first journal-book we find the entry: “Memorandum that November 28, 1660, These persons following, according to the usuall custom of most of them, mett together at Gresham College to heare Mr Wren's lecture, viz., The Lord Brounker, Mr. Boyle, Mr. Bruce, Sir Robert Moray, Sir Paul Neile, Dr. Wilkins, Dr. Goddard, Dr. Petty, Mr. Ball, Mr. Rooke, Mr. Wren, Mr. Hill. And after the lecture was ended, they did, according to the usuall manner, withdraw for mutuall converse, Where amongst other matters that were discoursed of, something was offered about a designe of founding a Colledge for the promoting of Physico-Mathematicall Experimentall Learning. And because they had these frequent occasions of meeting with one another, it was proposed that some course might be thought of, to improve this meeting to a more regular way of debating things, and according to the manner in other countryes, where there were voluntary associations of men in academies, for the advancement of various parts of learning, so that they might doe something answerable here for the promoting of experimentall philosophy. In order to which, it was agreed that this Company would continue their weekly meetings on Wednesday, at 3 of the clock in the terme time, at Mr. Rooke's chamber at Gresham Colledge, in the vacation, at Mr. Ball's chamber in the Temple. And towards the defraying of occasionall expenses, every one should, at his first admission, pay downe ten shillings, and besides engage to pay one shilling weekly, whether present or absent, whilest he shall please to keep his relation to this Company.”
At this meeting also a chairman was elected (Dr. Wilkins), and a list of forty-one persons “judged likely and fit to join the designe” drawn up.
The new Society grew apace,* for, next week, “Sir Robert Moray brought in word from the court, that the King had been acquainted with the designe of this Meeting, and he did well
[Footnote] * The Society was now properly constituted, and among its rules we find: “The standing Officers of the Society to be three, that is to say, a President or Director, a Treasurer, and a Register. The President to be chosen monthly,” and “That at every meeting, three or four of the Society be desired that they would please to be reporters for that meeting, to sitt at table with the Register and take notes of all that shall be materially offered to the Society and debated in it, who together may form a report against the next meeting to be filed by the Register.” There be “likewise two servants belonging to this Society, an Amanuensis, and an Operator.” The salary of the Amanuensis, was “40 1. per annum,” that of the Operator “foure pounds by the yeare.”
approve of it, and would be ready to give encouragement to it,” and its form of obligation was duly signed by all those present at the previous meeting, and by seventy-three others.
Such rapid growth, however, was considered unhealthy, and on December 12th of the same year it was resolved “That the stated number of this Society be five and fifty,” and to accept “any person of the degree of Baron or above,” “Fellowes of the Colledge of Physitians,” and “the Publick Professors of Mathematicks, Physick, and Naturall Philosophy, of both Universitys, as Supernumerarys … they submitting to the Lawes of the Society, both as to the pay at their admission, and the weekly allowance; as likewise the particular works or tasks that may be allotted to them.”
In October, 1661, the King himself offered to be entered as a member, and in 1662 the Society was incorporated under the title: “The Royal Society for the improving of Natural Knowledge.”
The Society's first charter† passed the Great Seal on July 15th, 1662. This is therefore the date of the beginning of the Royal Society of London. The charter was read before the Society on August 13th, and on August 29th, President, Council, and Fellows, went to Whitehall and thanked his Majesty. A second charter, confirming the first, but granting further desired privileges, passed the Great Seal on April 22nd, 1663; and a third, which is unimportant. on April 8th, 1669. It is the second charter which secures the Society its privileges, and by which it is still governed.
The Council met for the first time on May 13th, 1663, when it was decided that debates regarding admission to the Society should be secret, and that Fellows should pay one shilling a week to defray expenses.
In the early years of its history the two most important functions of the Society were undoubtedly correspondence with foreign philosophers (correspondence which furnished the beginnings of the “Philosophical Transactions”‡), and the performance of experiments before the members. In the warrant of 1663 ordering the
[Footnote] † This first charter headed: Charta Prima. Praesidi, Concilio, et Sodalibus Regains Societatis Londini, a Rege Carolo Secondo concessa, A.D. MDCLXII., begins with the words—Carolus Secundus, Dei gratia Angliae, Scotiae, Franciae et Hiberniae Rex …. and ends Tests me Ipso, apud Westmonasterium, quinto decimo die Julii, anno regni nostri decimo quarto. The charter, which is on four skins of vellum, was drawn up by Sir Robert Sawyer (then Attorney-General), and is considered remarkable for its clearness.
[Footnote] ‡The printing of these “Philosophical Transactions” began in 1665, the first number bearing the date: March 6, 1664-65. Until 1753, however, the folio sheets, and parts, issued were not printed at the cost of the Society, nor was the Society involved in any risk concerning them. Though licensed by the President, “the printing of them was always, from time to time, the single act of the respective Secretaries,” and, at the outset, the printing was a speculation on the part of Henry Oldenburg. This system of licensing was continued through 46 volumes (496 numbers), but with volume 47 (pub. 1753) the publication was placed directly in the hands of the President and Council, and a Committee of Papers established. From time to time the Council gave the imprimatur of the Society to certain books, but again was not responsible for the cost of printing. Among these licensed books were Hooke's Micrographia; Papin's A New Digester; Evelyn's Sylva; and Newton's Principia.
silver mace§ which Charles II presented to the Society, it is described as: “The Royal Society for the improving of Natural Knowledge by experiments”; and its charter gave it power to appoint two “Curators of experiments.”
The importance attached to experiments carried out at the meetings is shown by the Society early availing itself of this power and appointing, in 1664, as one of the Curators, Robert Hooke, ¶ who had been assistant to the Hon. Robert Boyle, admitting him at the same time as a Fellow of the Society. He was elected “for perpetuity, with a salary of £30 a year, pro tempore,” and given apartments. In 1684, Denis Papin was appointed Joint-Curator with Hooke. Some of the experiments were instituted at the instigation of Charles II; and very often, we are told, the Society prepared experiments hoping, but in vain, that the King would do them the honour to witness them.
Although the Royal Society was now a body corporate under royal charter, it continued to conduct its meetings much as they had been conducted when its members met as a private company, and a good idea of the character of these early meetings may be gained from the following extracts from the Journal-Book minutes of the fourth meeting after that at which the charter had been read.
September 10th, 1662.
“Mersennus, his account of the tenacity of cylindrical bodies was read by Mr. Croone, to whome the prosecution of that matter by consulting Galilæo, was referred when the translation of that Italian treatise wherein he handleth of this subject shall bee printed.”
“The reading of the french manuscript brought in by Sir Robert Moray about taking heights and distances by catoptricks was deferred till the description of the instrument should come.”
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“Dr Goddard made an experiment concerning the force that presseth the aire into lease dimensions; und it was found that twelve ounces did contract 1/24 part of Aire. The quantity of Air is wanting.”
“Dr Charleton read an Essay of his, concerning the velocity of sounds, direct and reflexe, and was desired to prosecute thin matter; and to bring his discourse again next day to be enter'd.”
“Mr. Evelyn's experiment was brought in of Animal engrafting, and in particular of making a Cock spur grow on a Cock's head.”
“Dr Goddard made the experiment to show how much aire a man's lungs may hold, by sucking up water into a separating glasse after the lungs had been well emptied of aire. Several persons of the Society trying it, some sucked up in one suction about three pintes of water, one six, another eight pintes and three quarters,
[Footnote] § At a meeting held on December 14, 1663, it was—“Ordered, that the Secretary bring in a list of the Names of all the Benefactors to the Society, together with their Donations, and the time when they presented them.” It was also—“Ordered that the Benefactors be registered in loose vellum sheets.” Unfortunately these early “vellum sheets” are no longer in existence, but in the lists prepared from the Index to the MS Council Minutes we find: “King Charles II, 1663. Presented the Society with a mace of silver, richly gilt, weighing 190oz averdupois.”
[Footnote] ¶ The dates of Hooke's appointment as Curator, and of his election as a Fellow, are doubtful. Those given above are taken from p. 17 of The Record of the Royal Society of London (Harrison and Sons, 1897), but an article (unsigned) on Hooke in the Encyc. Brit, says that he was appointed Curator on November 12, 1662, and elected a Fellow in 1663. Curiously enough The Record itself confirms this latter statement, for, on p. 9, it gives: “Robert Hooke, M.A.—afterwards LL.D. Born July 18, 1635. Died March 3, 1702,” in a list of those declared “Members of the Society” at a meeting held on May 20, 1663. As The Record appears to have made bad use of the records in this case, it may well be wrong in the other. Hooke retained the office of Curator of Experiments until his death; Papin until his appointment, in 1687, to the chair of mathematics in the University of Marburg.
etc. Here was observed the variety of whistles or tones, which ye water made at the severall hights, in falling out of the glasse again.”
“It was discoursed whether there bee any such thing as sexes in trees and other plants; ….”
“Mr Boyle show'd a Puppey in a certain liquour, wherein it had been preserved during all the hott months of the Summer, though in a broken and unsenled glasse.“
At times, these philosophers of a bygone age may seem to have been like children at their games, but our own age is surely much the richer because they played.
The Society now grew steadily—the limit of fifty-five had already proved too small—and its members became keenly interested in the formation of a museum (the collections in this museum were handed over to the British Museum in 1781), and in the establishment of a library This library, at first almost entirely literary in character, was gradually converted—by sale and exchange—into a scientific one.
As is so often the case, increasing numbers bred discontent; and in 1788, after very heated discussions had for some time been common, some of those less mathematically inclined finding it increasingly difficult under the policy of the then President (Sir Joseph Banks) to obtain admission for their friends, seceded, and formed a new society—The Linnean Society—the first separate scientific society to be formed under royal charter.
Since that time many other societies have been founded in Great Britain for the promotion of special branches of science; but the Royal Society of London has always easily maintained its premier position, and now consists of over four hundred and fifty British Fellows, some forty-eight Foreign Members, and a few Royal Fellows; it is by far the most powerful society of its class in the world; possesses much valuable property; has a right princely income, and is largely responsible for the proper application of many of the grants made by the British Government for scientific research.
I turn now for a while to the young Royal Society of New Zealand. In the early years of the Colony's history, small groups, rapidly developing into societies, were formed to discuss the many fascinating problems (geological, botanical, zoological, engineering) which the very newness of the land brought so prominently forward. The first of these was “The New Zealand Society,” founded at Wellington in 1851, but, under various names, they were soon scattered from the north to the south of the Colony. Each of these societies held regular meetings, each began to collect a library, some started museums, and the members of each (elected in most cases by ballot) were required to abide by certain rules, and to pay a small annual subscription.
New Zealand's drawn-out length demanded such scattered groups, but, at the same time, the necessity for some central body soon became felt, and on October 10th, 1867, an Act of Parliament established a body corporate to be called “The New Zealand Institute.”
This Institute was to “comprise a public museum and laboratory and a public library” and was also “by means of lectures classes and otherwise to promote the general study and cultivation of the various branches and departments of art science literature and philosophy.” It was also so closely bound up with “carrying out the geological survey of the Colony” that is very difficult to determine whether the surveying or the other activities mentioned in the Act ranked first.
The Institute was placed under the control of a Board of Governors consisting of the Colonial Secretary, the Superintendent of the Province of Wellington, and six others nominated by the Governor.
The Institute Act gave to a number of the existing small scientific bodies the right to become integral parts of the Institute and to take what little share they could get in its management. Within a few years all of them had exercised this right, and the Institute had, in theory, become a federation of autonomous societies.
The Institute was “opened by a conversazione at the museum on the evening of April 4th, 1868, when many members of various local societies for the promotion of Art and Science assembled to listen to the inaugural address of his Excellency the Governor (Sir George Bowen, G.C.M.G.).
The first set of rules and statutes was gazetted on March 9th, 1868, and James Hector, M.D., F.R.S. (afterwards Sir J.) nominated Manager.
To the layman it seems quite clear that the Institute was for some time the actual owner of the museum, the library, and the ground on which they stood, and was thus comparatively well-to-do, but its worldly prosperity was not destined to last for long, as the separation of the museum and the geological survey took from it all but a portion of the library, the small annual grant, and the right to consider the old museum its head-quarters until that might be deemed inconvenient.
The Institute's somewhat unsatisfactory constitution, coupled. with the fact that the three offices of Director of the Geological Survey, Curator of the Museum, and Manager of the Institute, were all held by one man, led, in time, to what might almost be called a dictatorship, and, in consequence, to grave discontent. A major crisis was approaching rapidly when, by an Act of November 18th, 1903, the Institute was reconstituted, and its eight constituent societies on whose strength the very life of the Institute depended, given much more effective representation upon the Board of Governors, and a voice in the election of the President.
As a scientific body, however, the Institute remained essentially unchanged, continuing a quiet but increasingly active life until, in 1933, his late Majesty King George V was graciously pleased to
grant the title “Royal Society,” so that “this country might follow the precedents which had been established in other parts of his Dominions.”
The Royal Society Act of December 6th, 1933, makes all the active branches of the old New Zealand Institute “member-bodies” (a horrid instance of word-coining) of the Royal Society of New Zealand, which now has a membership of nearly twelve hundred, though less than seven hundred of these contribute to the cost of publishing its Transactions.
May I recapitulate?
Each of the societies we have been considering started as a small company of men interested in science.
Each was active for some years before it was christened “Royal”; the London society having reached its late ‘teens, while that of New Zealand had actually attained the fairly mature age of sixty-six.
Each demanded a subscription from its members, and the amount so subscribed was used chiefly in publishing Transactions in which were recorded the results of scientific research.
Each (by ballot following nomination) elected a number of Fellows, but, while for many years past the Royal Society of London (if we except its four Royal Fellows) has consisted entirely of Fellows and Foreign Members elected for the value of their scientific work, the membership of the Royal Society of New Zealand is open to all who are willing to behave themselves and pay the small sum of twenty-one shillings each year; and the number of its Fellows is at present limited to forty. These New Zealand Fellows form the nucleus of what will no doubt ultimately be a considerably larger body, and enjoy their position without being called upon for any extra subscription, while their more illustrious brothers of London are required to pay an admission fee of ten pounds, and annually, in advance, the sum of five pounds.
The Royal Society of London is a limited republic whose citizens are all numbered amongst the aristocrats of science, and is governed by an elected President and Council.
The Royal Society of New Zealand is a federation of several small republics each with its own President and Council, though subject in matters of general policy, and paying a small portion (considerably less than one quarter) of its revenue to the general Council of the federation.
The Royal Society of London, born under royalty in a country which was already both old and rich, is extremely wealthy, and is entirely free from political control.
The Royal Society of New Zealand, started in a new and struggling land, is very poor, and—unfortunately—still depends for much of its publishing work upon an annual Government grant, which has been as variable as such things generally are.
What are the aims of these two societies, so different in age and dignity, but yet so closely related?
The full title of the older: “The Royal Society of London for promoting Natural Knowledge,” and the Act of 1933 which establishes “The Royal Society of New Zealand” as “a Body for the Promotion of Science,” give a partial answer. Each is entrusted with the promotion of science.
Unfortunately, the very word science is unscientific in as much as it is ill-defined, but for most practical purposes science now means biology, chemistry, geology, physics (including astronomy), and mathematics, though mathematics may be looked upon as “an intellectual box-of-tools” placed at the disposal of any science that is able to use it. There is indeed a growing danger that in the near future an attempt may be made to determine the rank of a science almost entirely by the extent to which it successfully—and legitimately—uses its mathematical tools.
This restriction of the term science is, of course, quite arbitrary, and to some extent misleading, for it must be remembered that there are few, if any, branches of learning which cannot be made more or less scientific, and “scarcely any mental or moral faculty which science cannot develop and discipline.”
Science in the stricter sense rests on, consists of, those principles of knowledge that are founded on experiment and observation, and are capable of being reduced to laws (again unscientific, for they are simply generalisations) of a fairly definite character. Experiment and observation to be scientific must, however, be exact; guesses are certainly “a pleasant stimulus to the imagination” and sometimes spurs to industry, but they are not science. The scientist approaches all problems with one purpose—by means of observation, measurement, and comparison, to discover the truth. It is taken for granted that his evidence has been carefully weighed, and his conclusions based on the significance of the ascertained facts; not on any preconceived notions or personal predilections. He may, of course, have predetermined ideas of what the facts are, and is certainly entitled to rejoice when his experiments confirm those ideas; but, if he twists the ascertained facts to fit his theories, he is no scientist; though he may be a charlatan, or a fool.
How far have these Societies been successful in their quest? Have they discovered any truths? That question no man can answer definitely: the accepted truth of one generation may well become an untruth for the next: indeed, one good reason for recording our present views is to give posterity the pleasure of finding out how
wrong we were. Nevertheless, it may certainly be said that the members of both Royal Societies have honestly tried to get nearer the truth; and that the story of their endeavours, as related in the long series of Transactions published by them, is generally looked upon as a reliable guide towards further advances.
Voltaire's fine tribute to the Royal Society of London, written in 1743, when that society was only eighty years old, is even more merited to-day. It has indeed been “The Free Society of London,” and has “worked for the honour of working.” It has looked for the truth, and has been allowed to approach it.
Of our own Royal Society it would not be fitting that I should say much; but I do feel justified in expressing the opinion that, considering the conditions under which it was born and has grown up, it has not shown itself altogether unworthy of the famous London Society of which it is the great- (repeated seven times) grand-child.
The present day, for us, is still too close to the past, and we must leave it to those coining long after us to decide whether the presence of a “Royal Society” in our land was, speaking generally, a liability or an asset. I sincerely hope, and really believe, that the verdict will be “an asset.”
One thing, however, is certain—there is still room for such societies, for “one of the fascinations of the study of Nature is that there are so many puzzles and so few really satisfactory answers.” To many of Nature's questions we can as yet find no answers at all, but our failure does not erase the questions, and science will continue to search for the answers; nor shall that search prove fruitless if it is made in the right spirit, not boastingly, not relying upon past successes; but earnestly, and humbly realizing that, in so far as it is part of the search for eternal truth, in so far it is consecrate.
In conclusion, I should like to thank the members of the Standing Committee for their support during the year. I must also thank the Society's Secretary for the prompt and efficient manner in which she has carried out not only her own work, but, in addition, much that might legitimately have been left to me.