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Volume 70, 1940-41
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Presidential Address

[Delivered at the Annual Meeting at Wellington on May 22, 1940, by the Reverend J. E. Holloway, L.Th., D.Sc., F.R.S., F.R.S.N.Z.]

I must first thank you for doing me the honour at the last Annual Meeting of electing me as your President. I desire to thank Professor Evans for taking the chair at the meetings of the Standing Committee during the past year, and for doing all the work which should have been done by me.

It is my pleasant duty to welcome Dr. R. A. Falla as one of the representatives of the Canterbury Branch. He takes the place of Mr. E. F. Stead, who has represented that Branch since 1936. Also I welcome Mr. J. H. Sorensen, who represents the recently revived Southland Branch.

Before proceeding to our regular agenda it is fitting that in view of this time of great national peril I should move the following resolution:—

That this Annual Meeting of the Council of the Royal Society of New Zealand expresses its loyalty to His Majesty the King, and assures him and his Ministers in New Zealand of the whole-hearted support of the members of this Society in the efforts that are being made to bring the present great conflict with our enemies to a successful issue, and that the Council directs that this resolution be forwarded to the Right Honourable the Prime Minister with the request that it be respectfully submitted to His Majesty.

Since the last Annual Meeting we have lost by death one of the Fellows of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Edward Kidson, O.B.E., M.A., D.Sc., who was also from 1933 to 1936 a member of this Council; and also we have lost one of our Honorary Members, A. C. Haddon, M.A., Sc.D., F.R.S.

Edward Kidson received his primary and secondary school education at Nelson. If a personal reference may be allowed, two members of this present Council, Dr. Allan and myself, were among his classmates at Nelson College. His old friends of those days remember his quiet, reliable, and always friendly nature, and also his outstanding all-round ability in the classroom.

From Nelson College he proceeded to Canterbury University College with an entrance scholarship, and there took the Honours courses in Physics and Mathematics, which were to be the preparation for his life work. He gained a senior scholarship, followed by the degrees of M.Sc., with first class honours in Physics, and M.A. in Mathematics.

A full notice of his activities has already appeared in our Transactions. It will suffice here to say that during the period 1905 to 1927 he was engaged in magnetic and meteorological work in


various parts of the world, at first in Christchurch, then on the staff of the Carnegie Institute (Washington), and subsequently in Australia, where he rose to a high position. During the years 1915 to 1919 he served his country in the Great War as a meteorological officer, and gained the distinction of the O.B.E.

He was appointed Director of the Meteorological Service in New Zealand in 1927, and held that position until his death in 1939. During these twelve years he greatly developed the Service and brought it into close touch with meteorological science in other countries. Thus his own country reaped the benefit of his wide and valuable experience.

He has made a contribution to Meteorological Science for which he will long be remembered, with respect, not only to New Zealand and Australia, but also to the closely allied field of Antarctic meteorology, in which field he had earned a wide reputation.

Alfred Cort Haddon was born in 1855. He was a scientist pre-eminent first as a zoologist, and, in addition, for the latter half of his life, as an ethnologist.

From 1880 to 1901 he was Professor of Zoology at the Royal College of Science, Dublin. In 1899 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.

In 1900 he began his long association with Ethnology at the University of Cambridge, being Lecturer in that subject from 1900-9, Reader from 1909-26, and Emeritus Reader from 1926 to the time of his death in April of this year.

He was the author of many publications in both Zoology and Ethnology. He carried out extensive ethnological field work in various parts of the Western Pacific, as organiser and conductor of the Cambridge Anthropological Expedition to the Torres Straits, New Guinea and Sarawak in 1898-9.

He was elected an Honorary Member of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 1925. His association with New Zealand lies, not only in his distinguished work in the ethnology of the Pacific, but also in the fact that he was attached to the section of the Y.M.C.A. which served the New Zealand Division in France during the Great War.

You will see from the Standing Committee's Report that the work of the last year has been mainly concerned with matters of routine. There are one or two items in the report to which I will very briefly refer.

The first of these is the fact that the Southland Branch has been brought into being again, and is now represented at this Annual Meeting. I take this opportunity of expressing the pleasure of the Council that this Branch is now duly admitted as a Member-Body.

It was considered expedient to cancel the New Zealand Science Congress which had been fixed to take place this month. A definite suggestion that a congress be held next year is on the agenda for


discussion. In view of the possibility of the War being a protracted one, it is perhaps as well that the Council is being asked to express an opinion on the matter.

It is worthy of note that the Society's Library has now been moved to new quarters in the Victoria University College Biology Block. We are glad to acknowledge our indebtedness to the College authorities and to the Professor of Biology for this accommodation. At the same time it is evident that the space available is too small for the needs of the Library, and there is no doubt that this will occupy our attention in the near future.

I come now to the second part of my address, for which I have selected the theme Science for the People. The importance of this subject arises from the fact that science has many benefits, intellectual and spiritual, as distinct from material benefits, which it is able to confer upon the people. At the same time I must say that it seems to me that there is an ever-widening gap between science and the people.

There are a number of points involved in these statements which I desire to expand. In the short space of an address it is possible only to touch briefly upon them. What I have to say represents, of course, merely my own personal views. It is my hope that a useful purpose will be served by opening up this subject.

The Real Popular Science.

First of all, what type of science for the people have I in mind? Scientific knowledge includes familiarity with the facts and phenomena of the world around us; a knowledge of how these facts can be observed and investigated; a knowledge of the principles of which they are the outward and visible sign; and an appreciation of how Man has learned and is learning to manipulate and control them. To a limited extent knowledge of this kind can be gained from books and written articles and addresses and so on, but the real scientific appreciation can only come from personal contact with the facts. Books and addresses can never give familiarity with these things, and the real enlightenment: their effect tends to be temporary unless they lead on to active personal participation. So that the type of science which I have especially in mind is the personal observation of and contact with these facts, and I hold that it is mainly out of such personal contact, and not from mere reading, that the intellectual and spiritual benefits of science arise.

The Intellectual and Spiritual Benefits of

What precisely are these benefits? Anyone who has taken a part, be it large or small, in any scientific work, either as definite research or as a pastime and hobby, knows that from such work can come much intellectual satisfaction and happiness. One's hobby

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or piece of research, as the case may be, is something to look forward to during one's routine hours as a pleasure and inspiration, and no amount of extra time and labour spent upon it is begrudged. Scientific observation and investigation begets the spirit of contentment, and by this I do not mean a spirit of complacency with one's own achievements or a losing of interest in other aspects of life, but rather a broad sure knowledge that life is able to be happy and satisfying. As Robert Louis Stevenson has expressed it, “The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings.”

Now if science can do that for individuals, then this constitutes a strong argument for bringing science within the reach of as many people, both young and old, as possible. This world seems to be becoming in many ways a harder and more depressing place to live in every year, and everything that can be done to counteract this feeling of depression and constant anxiety should be done.

Again, familiarity with scientific facts and methods and principles can develop in individuals other very desirable and strong qualities of temperament and character, such as zeal for truth, intellectual honesty, frankness, humility, broadmindedness, a desire to learn the opinions of other people, enthusiasm for progress, optimism. All of these qualities you will recognise as being characteristic of the true scientific mind. They are very much needed in the everyday life of the man in the street and of all persons in authority. If science can help in developing them, let us by all means make science more available for the people.

A Gap Between Science and the People.

I cannot help thinking that, in spite of the existence of many agencies for spreading the influence of science, there is an everwidening gap between science and the people. Let me explain what I mean by this gap.

To repeat, the real appreciation of the principles and the romance of science can only come from personal participation in some or other of its many fields. This participation may or may not be of an intensive nature, but it must be actively personal. It seems to me that along with the rapid progress of science in this and the preceding generation there has not been a corresponding increase in the part it plays in the culture of the average individual. The people as a whole look upon science as something which is done for them, on their behalf, rather than as something which the individual himself can take an active part in and enjoy. It is as if, with respect to music, the people as a whole gave up such personal activities as singing and instrumental work and became content merely with listening to what experts provide for them. Or as if, with respect to literature, the people no longer read the classics of poetry and prose, but merely the opinions of experts on them.

It is of course true that every branch of science can claim among its devotees a few enthusiastic amateurs who derive a lively

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satisfaction from their own personal endeavours in their chosen field, but such cases only serve to open our eyes to the fact that there could be and should be very many more of them.

The Reasons for This Gap.

Why is it then that there is an increasing tendency for the people to regard science as being primarily or even solely something which is to be done for them?

One reason, without doubt, is that the tremendous utilitarian value of scientific knowledge and achievement, the array of material benefits which accrue from it, overshadows its purely cultural value. It seems that this is steadily becoming more so. Our public authorities whose duty it is to take thought for the material welfare of the people, naturally lay stress upon these utilitarian benefits, and the people become used to this point of view. It would be, however, greatly to be deplored if this became the main point of view of our educational and of our scientific authorities. We do not want to become a nation which “lives by bread alone.” The great advances made by science in improving the material conditions of life are, as we know, the outcome of intensive work on the part of trained specialists, and every such advance will tend to confirm the popular view that science is something which is done for us unless the cultural aspect of science is being at the same time stressed also. The truth is that both aspects of science, the cultural and the utilitarian, are important. It is not a question at all of one being more important than the other. Both are essential, each in its own way, to the true welfare and happiness of the people.

A second reason for this gap arises out of the extreme specialisation which is so characteristic of modern scientific work. It is almost impossible to-day for an active worker to keep in touch with other phases of science than his own, and this tends too often towards an actual lack of interest in these other phases. If this is true, and I think that you will agree that it is, it is likely that it is also true with respect to the average scientist's relation to the general aspects of culture. Is the scientific man of to-day as cultured as his precedessor of a generation or two ago, who could take a real interest in a wide field because there was not at that time so much detail to master and not the same temptation as there is to-day to be content with a narrowed field? If scientists themselves are becoming, through specialisation, less cultured, they will not be active in making science part of the general culture of the people. Certainly the amateur scientist is commonly an enthusiastic missionary!

There is still another reason for this gap, and this also is due to the tendency to extreme specialisation. The terminology used by the specialist is becoming more and more exact, and at the same time less and less intelligible to the average person. Not unoften it is intelligible only to a limited circle of the specialist's fellow-workers. It is of course necessary that with increasing exactness in scientific work the language of description should be increasingly

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exact. There have been times, however, when, in reading some research paper, one has thought that an unfamiliar term used could just as well have been replaced by a more familiar one.

The importance of this subject of the terminology of science, from the point of view of this address, is seen in the fact that research papers constitute a very large bulk of the scientific literature of to-day, and this is especially the case with respect to the regular journals of science. The literature of science thus is appealing to a diminishing circle of readers, and in many cases it makes no appeal at all to the people. It damps the enthusiasm of the reader who is not an expert, but who wants to be interested. For myself I believe strongly that, to justify and maintain its existence, an avowedly scientific journal must demand a high standard in the papers which it publishes, and cannot afford to lower that standard in any respect. My only reason for referring here to the topic of terminology is that it is without doubt one of the causes of the gap between science and the people.

The Present Agencies for Bringing Science to the People.

To turn now to another part of my general theme. What are the present agencies for making science available for the people? It is impossible for me to refer to them in any detail, and yet I want to indicate the extent of these agencies.

Undoubtedly the first to be mentioned should be the teaching of science in our Schools, and I would add also, in our Training Colleges and Universities. Naturally I do not intend to plunge headlong into the complex problems of Education, but there are one or two points connected with them which are closely related to my subject. By far the greater number of students who take a particular science at school, and as a Stage I unit at the University, are not going to find their life work in that science. But it is through these school courses and the Stage I University courses that science gains its widest opportunity for getting into touch with the people.

I have already tried to describe briefly the intellectual and spiritual benefits which science can confer upon individuals. It can on the one hand bestow the gift of intellectual happiness by revealing something of the romance of the world in which we live. It cannot accomplish this if the teacher himself lacks imagination, if the syllabus is over-concerned with the mere acquisition of facts, and if the text books used are too formal. On the other hand, science can provide a most valuable form of mental discipline leading to a steady and reasonable outlook upon life, and to the development of character. It cannot accomplish this if the syllabus is designed to save the student as much personal labour and socalled drudgery as possible, and takes the form of “potted” science. Somewhere between these two extremes thus indicated lies the ideal method. There must be something wrong with the teaching if it fails to stir the imagination of those who are taught, or worse still if it leads a proportion of them actually to dislike


the subject. It is good to know that there is a fresh movement to-day in the direction of emphasising the cultural side of education, but it is earnestly to be hoped that the pendulum will not swing too far. It is only too easy to go to extremes, as we all know.

Another agency is represented by the work of the various Branches of the Royal Society of New Zealand. In their programmes of evening meetings these Branches seek to interest their members—many of whom are not active workers in science, but nevertheless are genuinely interested—in various aspects of scientific and other fields of study. In those cases where groups of members meet together for active work, still more good will accrue. I would also mention the part played by some at least of our affiliated Branches in the work of catering for the younger people. This is good, but again let me say that the more this kind of activity shows itself to be of a practical nature in calling for the personal co-operation of the young people, the greater will be the benefits.

With respect to the part played by Museums I want to single out just two features for brief reference. The first is the greater use which is now being made of Museums by school children in organised parties. In the case of each of the four chief Museums there is an education officer attached to the staff whose duty it is to take charge of this work, and who thus acts as a link between the schools and the Museum. The second feature is the steadily increasing co-operation between the Museums and the Branches of the Royal Society.

Time forbids more than the briefest mention of such organisations as the Forest and Bird Protection Society, the Ornithological Society of New Zealand, the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture, and other societies of corresponding type, all of which aid in the great work of bringing some or other aspect of science within reach of the people.

I pass on to mention, and to pay tribute to, the influence of such groups as Wireless Clubs, Photographic Societies, Field Clubs, and so on, which consist, at least to an appreciable extent, of active working members. There are many branches and sub-branches of science which can readily be taken up as hobbies. The amateur scientist, being free from the bonds of routine requirements, is free also thoroughly to enjoy his hobby. I use that word “amateur,” of course, in the true dictionary sense as one who cultivates a particular study simply for the love of it and not professionally. Certain it is that much of the progress of science has been due to the persistent work of the amateur. But I am concerned here not with the progress of science, but with its effect upon the outlook and character of individuals. Certain it is that the amateur scientist is usually an enthusiast who makes a good missionary for his particular subject, infecting other individuals with his enthusiasm, and actively helping them on in their hobby. He plays a great part in spreading those benefits of science which I have particularly in mind.


The last agency to be mentioned is that of scientific publications; I am thinking more particularly of such books and journals and articles as make a direct appeal to the imagination of the reader, and stir him up to make observations and to carry out experiments for himself. There are many popular science books on sale in the shops, but most of these are not applicable to New Zealand conditions. Those which are published in New Zealand for New Zealanders are appreciated by the public, as the publishers can tell us, but in my opinion there is room for more of the right sort. There are a number of scientific periodicals published in New Zealand, some of which are avowedly more specialised than general in their appeal, and others more general than specialised. Again I think that there is room for another of a general nature, more especially perhaps with respect to the natural sciences, such as would serve to incite the readers to take up some special line of work.

This enumeration of the agencies already in existence for spreading the benefits of science—and I may have omitted to mention some—might lead us to suppose that the machinery for bridging over the gap between science and the people is more or less adequate, and that I have rather over-emphasised the idea of a gap. It is one thing, however, to provide a bridge, and it is another to get people to use it. Perhaps what is needed is a dictator who will decree, “Everyone must take an intelligent and active interest in the facts and phenomena of science, so get to it!” Or perhaps a much better way would be for individuals and institutions to do a little more active missionary work.

The idea that science is something which is done for us must be countered by the idea that it is the rightful and enjoyable heritage of every individual. I suggest that the best time to get this idea going is the school age. We must familiarise each young generation as it comes along with this idea that science is something in which everyone who wishes can take some part, and which can open the door to much real enjoyment. If this can be done, then as one result the other agencies which I have mentioned will more and more come into their own, and will increasingly be able to perform their valuable function for the people.

My final point must be left in the form of a question. Is missionary work in science, propaganda I was almost going to call it, a proper function of this Society, and, if so, to what extent? Some of the activities of the affiliated Branches will come, of course, within the category of missionary activity. I have tried to outline some of the ways in which the interest of the community in science is being promoted. I am convinced that in some, at least, of these ways not sufficient is being accomplished. Whether or not this Council considers that it can properly put its hand to any special work of this kind, is a matter of policy rather than of individual opinion.