A Retrospect and a Prospect of New Zealand Science
In this year 1951 the province of Canterbury is celebrating its first centennial, and the Royal Society of New Zealand is privileged to play its part in the functions which have been arranged. This is now being done by the selection of Christchurch as the centre for holding the Society's Seventh Scientific Congress.
The Royal Society cannot itself claim to have yet attained its first centennial, for it was not until August 4, 1868, that Governor Sir George Bowen inaugurated its forerunner, the New Zealand Institute, at a conversazione held in the Colonial Museum, Wellington. However, it is exactly a century since the first scientific society in this country, the New Zealand Society, was founded in Wellington by Sir George Grey in 1851. This, the New Zealand Society, was short lived, but was revived as the Wellington Philosophical Society in 1867. July 24, 1862, saw the foundation of the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury, five years before the establishment of the New Zealand Institute. It is fitting now to join in the historical spirit of the occasion and recall that New Zealand's scientific history really dates back to 1769, when Captain Cook first visited these shores in the Endeavour.
It was largely due to the zeal of the Royal Society of London and to Sir Joseph Banks, that the British Admiralty was induced to equip the Endeavour, place her in command of the greatest of British navigators, Captain Cook, and to include in the ship's company, Banks, Solander and Greene. The primary purpose of the voyage was to carry out astronomical observations in the South Pacific, afterwards pursue scientific discoveries and chart a region of the globe then unknown. This venture led to the re-discovery of New Zealand, which for the one hundred and twenty-seven years since it was first discovered by Abel Tasman had remained an almost forgotten land. As the fruits of Cook's First Voyage were all scientific in character, we may justifiably regard New Zealand as having now attained the ripe scientific age of one hundred and eighty-two years.
The period of seventy years between Cook's first voyage and the establishment of Government in 1840 saw considerable scientific attention being devoted to New Zealand by a series of expeditions from the Old World. The Forsters came on Cook's Second Voyage in 1773 and did botanical work at Dusky Sound; in 1791 Dr. Archibald Menzies spent some time here collecting botanical specimens: in 1824 D'Urville did botanical work at the Bay of Islands, but undertook much more extensive studies and collections on a second voyage in 1827: the Erebus and Terror expedition promoted by the British Association for the Advancement of Science, brought Dr. D. Lyall and Joseph D. Hooker to the Bay of Islands in 1840–42; the Cunningham Brothers were engaged in botanical studies in 1826 and 1838: Charles Darwin spent a short stay in the Bay of Islands area during the voyage of the Beagle in 1835.
Thus, prior to 1840, New Zealand had been studied by some of the foremost scientists of Britain and France. Time has not dimmed the lustre of the scientific eminence of such men as Sir Joseph Banks, Dr. Solander, Joseph Dalton Hooker,
Charles Darwin and Dumont D'Urville. The fact that these men, so prominent in the scientific life of Britain and Europe, had visited New Zealand and had found it a rich field for the study of natural history, exerted a permanent and profound influence on the future of its scientific progress and history.
With the sporadic settlement occurring in New Zealand, mostly by whalers and traders subsequent to 1800, and with the overseas settlement urge developing in Britain and Europe, where certain groups were making plans for overseas colonisation, there also came a change in the scientific approach, and the geologist, replacing the botanist, becomes more prominent. Charles Dana, an American geologist, paid a brief visit to the Bay of Islands in 1840, but in the previous year Dr. Ernest Dieffenbach had arrived in Wellington on the Tory, commissioned by the New Zealand Company to explore New Zealand's resources and its potentialities for settlement. In two years he travelled extensively and reported on the mineral resources, anthropology and thermal regions of the North Island. In his Travels in New Zealand he has left a fascinating record of this country in its primitive stage. In the Acheron Survey expedition, which the New Zealand Company assisted financially, the geologist Charles Forbes and the botanist David Lyall explored further the resources of New Zealand.
In 1840 the French expedition to Akaroa brought as surgeon of the Aube the eminent botanist Raoul, whose name is commemorated in a number of New Zealand plants.
Provincial Government Interest in Science
It is interesting to note that the Provincial Governments of New Zealand followed the lead given by the New Zealand Company and used scientists to survey the natural resources in the districts under their control. Ferdinand von Hochstetter, arriving in Auckland on the Austrian warship Novara in 1858, was commissioned to survey the coalfields in the vicinity and also the thermal regions. In his expeditions he covered most of the province between Helensville, the Mokau River, Lake Taupo, the Bay of Plenty, and the Coromandel Peninsula. This survey was done in the company of Julius von Haast, with whom he later, at the request of the Nelson Provincial Government, surveyed the area from Cape Farewell to the Buller River, in the course of which valuable coal deposits were located near Westport.
Reference has already been made to the visit paid by Joseph Dalton Hooker to the Bay of Islands in 1841. There he met the Rev. William Colenso, and during the long lives of both men a remarkable period of collaboration in botanical work continued between Hooker in the United Kingdom and Colenso, Sinclair, Travers, Hector and Buchanan in New Zealand. The fruits of this collaboration were seen in the publications Flora Novae Zealandiae, two volumes, 1853 and 1855, and later, in 1864, the Handbook of the New Zealand Flora. Hooker, as an advanced thinker in botanical classification, had, in these publications, put New Zealand botany on a sound basis and had given a stimulus to its further study by Cheeseman and Cockayne.
The economic value of geology was recognised by most of the Provincial Governments, and Moorhouse, Superintendent of Canterbury, striking difficulties in the piercing of the Lyttelton tunnel, appealed to Haast for guidance. Haast in nineteen days of December, 1860, examined the geology of the interrupted tunnel, and the nature of his report was such that Moorhouse decided to resume its construction. This was the age of gold discoveries in the United States of
America and Australia. The Canterbury Provincial Government, considering it should have its territory thoroughly examined for mineral resources, offered Haast the position of Provincial Geologist. There then ensued seven years of remarkable geological explorations of the Southern Alps, the results of which were published in 1879 as the Geology of Canterbury and Westland. While the economic results of the surveys conducted by von Haast in company with Dr. Sinclair, A. D. Dobson and others were not regarded as great, the scientific fruits were of the first order and included the discovery of the moa skeletons at Waipara, vast collections of specimens of rocks and plants and the records of the geological structure of the Southern Alps and Banks Peninsula.
Otago followed Canterbury's example in 1862, when it appointed James Hector provincial geologist, and brought to this country one who for forty years exercised a profound influence on every branch of New Zealand scientific activity. From 1862 to 1865 he demonstrated his remarkable capacity by completing a geological survey of the Otago Province at a time when gold discoveries were of considerable interest.
By this time F. W. Hutton had arrived in Auckland, and after an unsuccessful venture at flaxmilling, was employed by the Provincial Government to survey the Lower Waikato coalfields, Coromandel Peninsula, and Great Barrier Island. His military and scientific qualifications resulted in his being called upon to report on the harbour defences of New Zealand's main ports His capacity as a scientist was recognised, and in 1871 he took up an appointment in Wellington as assistant to Hector in the recently established Geological Survey.
The years 1865 and 1867 represent dates of considerable importance to New Zealand science. They mark the end of an unco-ordinated pioneering period and the beginning of a new period of progressively co-ordinated activities. The torch lit by the Royal Society and transported to New Zealand by Captain Cook was carried on by the New Zealand Company, which brought Dr. Dieffenbach to this country, and was continued by the Provincial Governments of Auckland and Nelson, which employed first Hochstetter and von Haast and later Hutton. Canterbury and Otago Provinces, realising the value of von Haast and Hector, completed the list down to the year 1865.
Establishment of Geological Survey
In 1865 when Sir George Grey was Governor of New Zealand and Frederick Weld Prime Minister, recognition by the Central Government of the value of geological science to New Zealand prompted it to co-ordinate the geological work then being done in three of the Provinces, through the establishment of a central Geological Survey Office in Wellington, to which Hector was appointed Director. With him were associated Haast, Hutton, Cox, McKay, Park, Skey and Buchanan In 1870 Haast became curator of the Canterbury Museum, which he made the best of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere; Hutton after a period as Provincial Geologist, Otago, became Professor of Geology at Canterbury College and in 1893 Curator of the Canterbury Museum.
The establishment of the Geological Survey in 1865 was a very important step in that it linked the Government with scientific effort for the first time, and under the inspiring guidance of Hector, geological activities developed steadily. When Skey was appointed analyst, the way was opened for the interest to be extended to chemistry and physics and ultimately to the founding of the Dominion Laboratory of to-day.
The year 1868 is another scientific landmark, for it is the year in which the predecessor of our Royal Society of New Zealand, the New Zealand Institute, was founded, largely owing to the interest of Sir George Grey and Sir James Hector, who framed the New Zealand Institute Act passed in 1867. Hector was appointed to the position of Manager, provided for under the Act, and occupied this position for a period of thirty-five years.
In 1862 Haast had founded the Philosophical Institute of Canterbury. In 1868 Hutton was instrumental in promoting the establishment of the Auckland Philosophical Society.
From 1867 onwards there was a very real trend away from scientific work done in isolation towards that done in association. In the Transactions there was provided in New Zealand a medium for publication of papers dealing with the investigations carried out locally. In the regular meetings of the local Philosophical Societies opportunity was provided for discussion to take place on scientific topics—a priceless opportunity which meant very much in a community then very isolated.
Hector, with his appointment as Director of the Geological Survey in 1865, his curatorship of the Colonial Museum and Manager of the New Zealand Institute, became the leader in both Government and civilian spheres of science. In 1885 he was appointed Chancellor of the University of New Zealand. In view of the fact that the University Colleges established in the 1870's were regarded as centres and promoters of scientific effort in a wide range of subjects, the importance of the influence of Hector on New Zealand science of his period can be appreciated. There is no doubt that Hector's strong personality and his pursuit of many lines of science did make itself felt in both Government and Institute affairs till his retirement in 1903.
The Hector period was one of remarkable activity, and evidence of this can be seen in the papers published in the Transactions. New Zealand was proving a rich field of activity for those who followed the pioneers. Hector, himself, though regarded primarily as a geologist, was contributing papers on a wide variety of subjects. In biological fields the number of workers was considerable. Sir Walter Buller was engaged on the work which has given us his remarkable publication, History of the Birds of New Zealand. Sir William Benham had commenced work on earthworms; F. W. Hutton, besides his geological work, was studying bird and fish life: G. V. Hudson and W. M. Maskell and Broun were engaged on insect studies: G. M. Thomson, A. Dendy, Charles Chilton, T. W. Kirk and T. J. Parker covered a wide range of work in marine and freshwater life; R. M. Laing's work in botany and especially seaweeds was very notable; Henry Suter was immersed in his work on New Zealand mollusca: in bird studies, the work done by T. H. Potts, W. T. L. Travers and H. Reischek was of great significance.
In the field of botany there occur a number of famous names. Rev. W. Colenso, whose botanical collections, made in the North Island during his long life, together with his long association with J. D. Hooker, was indeed a very fortunate circumstance for New Zealand botany, resulting as it did in the publication of the first Flora. This work was the forerunner of the later publication by T. F. Cheeseman of the standard New Zealand Flora based upon a wealth of original work done during this period. J. Buchanan and D. Petrie did extensive botanical research, but are best remembered for their original works on native grass species, as also are the brothers J. B and J. F. Armstrong, who studied indigenous grasses
in Canterbury R. Brown, another Christchurch man, did foundation work on New Zealand mosses at this time, and Dr. Leonard Cockayne had commenced that remarkable series of ecological studies which showed an originality in approach that attracted international attention. There was probably no more active worker in this period than T. Kirk, who was indefatigable both in his field studies and in his publications, leaving a rich legacy of new knowledge relating to the botany of New Zealand.
The names of Haast, Hector, Hutton and McKay dominate the geological field for the early and middle years of this period, though J. C. Crawford in Wellington, L. Cussen and S. P. Smith in Auckland, rendered valuable contributions on a number of local problems. In the middle and latter part of the period Professor J. Park and Dr. P. Marshall, Professor R. Speight, Professor A. P. Thomas and Henry Hill were notable for their investigations of geological problems of the districts in which they resided.
Studies of human racial problems were very actively pursued at this time, as it was recognised that the opportunities were fast disappearing with the rapid settlement of the country. Canon Stack, Sir Frederick Chapman, Edward Tregear, Augustus Hamilton and Elsdon Best were among those who did much to preserve for us the anthropological knowledge of our Maori people.
In the realm of physics, chemistry and mathematics, New Zealand could scarcely claim to present the novel and unique fields such as were available to other branches of science. Nevertheless, Professor A. W. Bickerton, a foundation professor of Canterbury College, stirred up much interest in astronomical physics by his theories of partial and cosmic impact, and his pupil Rutherford showed experimentally for the first time the possibility of detecting radiation impulses at a distance.
Professor C. Coleridge Farr and G. Hogben were very active in the new science of seismology, which enabled New Zealand's earthquakes to be studied scientifically. W. Skey, the assayist in Hector's Geological Survey staff, pioneered chemistry in New Zealand and laid the foundation of what is to-day the Dominion Laboratory. His investigations covered a very wide range of materials both minerals and plants. In an age when fresh progress was being made in analytical methods he was alert to these advances, critical in their application, and left his successors a wealth of valuable guidance in his numerous papers. J. S. Maclaurin followed Skey as Director of the Dominion Laboratory. J. A. Pond in Auckland, T. H. Easterfield and B. C. Aston at Wellington, developed work on the chemical composition of our native flora, and A. M. Wright of Christchurch laid the foundation of the chemistry of New Zealand meat products. Professor W. P. Evans had commenced investigation of the chemistry of New Zealand coals.
This outline does scant justice to the important work done in this period of forty years when the natural phenomena of the country were closely studied and classified by a group of very eminent men, many of whom were naturalists and devoted their energies to several spheres of scientific interest. Many, too, had only their own financial resources to draw on for the long journeys frequently involved, while library facilities were sadly deficient. This was the period when the museums were established in the four main centres and provided the all-important role of being repositories for wonderful collections of specimens, preserving for posterity the treasures of an age which rapidly passed. In almost every field of study, collaboration proceeded with workers overseas, an excellent example being the J. D. Hooker-Colenso association. The volumes of the Trans-
actions contain numerous papers written by overseas authorities of almost every nationality to whom specimens had been sent by collectors in New Zealand. The New Zealand Institute, out of its scant funds, was able on occasion to help finance some of the workers in their projects.
The Period 1903–1926
The next period which merits consideration extends from 1903–1926. Its beginning was marked by the retirement of Sir James Hector and the reconstitution of the New Zealand Institute. Its end saw the establishment of the Council and Department of Scientific and Industrial Research It was a period of quickening interest in scientific matters in all fields, but new applied fields, more economic in character, were arousing attention. The influence of the University Colleges and their science graduates was becoming apparent. Agriculture and industry, both tempered in the fire of years of depression, were showing great vigour and expansion, as prices improved and exports increased, thanks to refrigeration. This expansion brought with it new difficulties, new frustrations. The Department of Agriculture had been established and its officers were expected to answer questions on a wide range of problems which required some chemical or biological attention. Gradually it became apparent that these questions could not be completely answered from the store of knowledge in existence or from overseas experience. Fortunately there were a few officers who appreciated the need for a scientific approach and who found time to do some independent investigation themselves in a small way. For the most part, however, it could be said that the State scientific institutions—Geological Survey, Colonial (Dominion) Laboratory, Magnetic Survey, Chemical and Biological Laboratories of the Department of Agriculture—were engaged on service work arising out of day to day problems; this work, however, was serving a very useful purpose in indicating to the public in a modest way the economic uses of chemistry and biology and geology.
An increasing number of independent workers were still continuing investigations on their own account, discussing their results in the regular meetings of the various Philosophical Societies, and having their papers published in the Transactions. Over forty were engaged in various spheres of biology; geology and botany were the interests of over twenty workers, at least twelve were actively engaged in original work in physics and chemistry, and seven in anthropology and entomology. The natural history of New Zealand was being very thoroughly investigated by many who had commenced during the previous Hector period and by a steady influx of younger workers. In 1904 Hutton's systematic work, Index Faunae Novae Zealandiae was published by the Canterbury Philosophical Institute. In physics, Farr, Hogben, Skey and Adams were following closely the seismological records of New Zealand earthquakes; T. H. Easterfield, H. G. Denham and A. M. Wright were active in chemistry. In botany, B. C. Aston, H. Carse, T. F. Cheeseman, L. Cockayne, J. E. Holloway, D. L. Poppelwell, R. M. Laing, D. Petrie, and G. M. Thomson were doing notable work: R. Speight, P. Marshall, C. A. Cotton, J. A. Bartrum, G. L. Adkin, H. Hill, J. Park, J. Henderson and G. H. Uttley were leaders in the large team of geologists, as were Elsdon Best, Augustus Hamilton and Johannes Andersen in anthropology. In biology and entomology figure the names of leaders such as E. R. Waite, Henry Slater, W. R. B. Oliver, H. B. Kirk, G. Archey, J. Drummond, T. Brown, G. V. Hudson, D. Miller and Charles Chilton, to mention only a few of those who were generous contributors to knowledge in this sphere.
This period was marked by World War I, which occupied its middle years. Events in England, however, were closely followed, and in 1917, the New Zealand Institute passed resolutions urging the need for more generous endowment of science both pure and applied. The Board of Science and Art, the General Council of Education, the Auckland Institute, and various special committees all in varying terms urged the need for dealing with the many pressing scientific problems awaiting solution. The diseases threatening the flax industry, the need for scientific investigations of coals, peats, oils, clays, timbers and other natural resources and the intensive application of science to the problems of agriculture—were all quoted in support of these resolutions. Progress appeared slow—there was no clear plan as to how to proceed, though in many quarters the needs were realised. Government was busy with post-war problems which were many and difficult In the midst of these uncertainties Thomas Cawthron died in Nelson, bequeathing a large estate to found the Cawthron Institute, to which T. H. Easterfield was appointed first Director in 1919 Thus was established the first scientific research institute in New Zealand, the primary duty of whose staff was to pursue investigations which would benefit the industries of the Nelson Province.
Establishment of Department of Scientific and Industrial Research
In 1925 Sir Frank Heath, who had persuaded the British Government in 1916 to establish a Department of Scientific and Industrial Research to overcome some of its wartime difficulties, was asked by Australia to visit that country and report on its scientific needs. The New Zealand Government invited Sir Frank to extend his visit to the Dominion, and this he did in February-March, 1926, and furnished a report upon which the Scientific and Industrial Research Act of 1926 was based. The establishment of the Council and Department of Scientific and Industrial Research followed at the end of the year.
In 1926 there commenced a period of organised science sponsored by the Government through the Council and Department of Scientific and Industrial Research on a pattern similar to that already established in Great Britain. This marked a big advance particularly in the fields of applied and economic science. Nevertheless, the number of those who were engaged in investigations of the natural history of the Dominion and in fundamental science increased and a still greater volume of papers was submitted for publication in the Transactions. In 1933 the New Zealand Institute Act was revised, and with this revision came the change in name to Royal Society of New Zealand.
Under the vigorous and able direction of Dr. E. Marsden, the new Department of Scientific and Industrial Research progressed rapidly. To it was transferred the existing Government scientific activities hitherto distributed among various Departments. The Geological Survey. Dominion Laboratory, Dominion Observatory, Meterological Office and the Magnetic Survey represented almost the total of the Government scientific bodies existing in 1926 and formed the nucleus of the new Department.
Representations from farming and industrial interests soon resulted in the establishment of Research Committees and laboratories dealing with dairy, wheat and leather problems Generous financial help came from the Empire Marketing Board to promote research on biological control of insects and plants, and mineral contents of pastures; the scope of the original laboratories was extended and gradually research organisations dealing with fruit, hops, and tobacco were established Close collaboration was developed between the Department, the University Colleges and Cawthron Institute.
In 1936, with the establishment of the Plant Research Bureau, staff was transferred from the Department of Agriculture to direct new organisations to cope with the growing needs of the farming industry. The Plant Diseases, Grasslands, Botany, Entomology and Agronomy Divisions were formed at this time and in 1938, when there was an exceptionally serious outbreak of facial eczema disease in North Island stock, the Plant Chemistry Laboratory was established to study particularly the composition of pasture species. One of the most baffling problems of the century was bush sickness, which rendered vast areas of potentially useful soil in Rotorua useless for stock raising. This had been studied for years with some success by Mr. B. C. Aston, who first developed the idea of deficiency diseases. A study of the nature and boundaries of the volcanic ash showers in the thermal regions showed distinct correlations between the occurrence of the disease and soil types. This was the beginning of the Soil Bureau, an offshoot of the Geological Survey, which has expanded its activities so that to-day reconnaissance surveys have been completed of both Islands and detailed surveys made of many local areas. Prior to this, Sir Theodore Rigg at Cawthron Institute had completed soil surveys of the Waimea County and other parts of the Nelson province.
It was intended that Massey College in the North Island and Lincoln College in the South Island should act as centres for agricultural research, consequently the Dairy Research Institute, Grasslands Division and Plant Chemistry Laboratory were grouped round Massey, while the Wheat Research Institute and the Agronomy Division were set up at Lincoln. Early in World War II the Department of Agriculture established the Animal Research Division with its main stations at Wallaceville and Ruakura.
The war and post-war years saw a rapid expansion of research in a physics and engineering character as exemplified in the establishment of the Dominion Physical Laboratory, now the largest branch of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, at Lower Hutt, the Auckland Industrial Development Laboratory, and the Canterbury College Industrial Development Department.
Immediately following the end of World War II the Manufacturers' Research Committee was formed to develop research in relation to manufacturing industries. To-day, Research Associations dealing with Fertilisers, Pottery and Ceramics. Woollen Manufacture, Laundry Dry Cleaning and Dyeing are in operation.
Research in the University Colleges has been promoted by grants from the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and again further in very recent years by the provision of a Government grant of up to £15,000 for fundamental investigations.
Expansion has been a feature in every phase of science in this period. In what may be defined as fundamental science, largely individualistic effort, the volumes of the Transactions in this period bear eloquent testimony to the activity of a large group of workers from University Colleges, Museums and Government Departments. Departmental journals, bulletins and reports give proof of a greater and newer activity in many fields of applied science, and it is well known that many scientific authors have had recourse to overseas journals for publication of their papers.
In this period scientific work developed as a profession or full-time occupation for ever-increasing numbers of university graduates till at the present time there are probably some 600 whose livelihood depends upon whole-time teaching of
scientific subjects, or the provision of scientific service or research in New Zealand. Research as a full-time occupation, continuous, as distinct from spasmodic research effort, the provision of greatly improved facilities, and the integration of science with the community, were characteristic of the increasing tempo of scientific activity in this period. The increase in the demand for scientific graduates arising from manufacturing firms in the post World War II years is an indication of the extent to which scientific help in industry is appreciated.
During the period of almost forty years after 1865, local scientific effort exerted a comparatively small effect upon the national welfare, which drew considerably on the results of developments from abroad. New Zealanders have always been keen observers of events happening overseas and very apt at applying discoveries and inventions developed abroad. In 1882 from Port Chalmers sailed the Dunedin with a cargo of frozen mutton which it landed in London in good condition, one of the first cargoes to make use of refrigeration, then a new piece of applied science on which our national prosperity virtually has been built. The vast number of labour-saving machines, including the oil and gas engine, harvesting machinery, the motor car, telegraph and telephones soon found their way to New Zealand. Thus in the period up to 1926 and later the influence of overseas scientific progress predominated in every section of New Zealand life and industry.
Meantime, however, there developed a realisation of the need for more local scientific effort to deal with local problems. For example, Dr. Cockayne and his son, Mr. A. H. Cockayne, Thomas Kirk and Dr. Hilgendorf, were initiating the move to apply botanical knowledge to the study of our main agricultural crops and hence to the scientific work of Levy, Frankel, Calder and others which is bearing fruit to-day. Since 1926 with generous State financial support there has been a marked expansion in a wide range of scientific activity in New Zealand directly affecting our national welfare and permeating the farming and manufacturing industries to a remarkable extent. In no period in New Zealand's history has science become so real to so many and the movement seems yet to be only in its infancy. But we must not forget that for the whole period of sixty years which preceded 1926, the New Zealand Institute, the University Colleges, the Geological Survey and the Museums, by the enthusiasm of their members and on very slender financial resources, carried the burden of scientific activity which laid the foundations which have made possible the flourishing conditions which prevail to-day.
The Present Role of the Royal Society
If perchance someone should think that with the scientific organisation which has grown up in New Zealand to-day, there is no longer any need for the Royal Society because its original spheres have been narrowed, I would like emphatically to challenge such a thought. The growth, the diversification, the specialisation which has occurred, often indeed by the initiative of the Society itself, the whole circumstances of the times through which science is passing, renders greater than ever the need for a body which can take that disinterested philosophical view, which can be expected of our Society untrammelled as it is by this or that attachment and possessing as it does both that freedom and that responsibility appropriate to science.
By its very nature the Royal Society is bound to take a wide view of science. Science is international and so we cannot think readily of science as circumscribed by our shores New Zealand has drawn freely on the results of overseas science,
We hope that in some fields at least we have now reached the stage when we may be able to give something in return. Again, science cannot be considered as standing alone, for its impact on human welfare has been growing increasingly strong during the present century and this growth has not yet reached its height.
I desire now to refer to a number of matters which have a bearing on science to-day, on our human welfare and on the Royal Society itself.
Specialisation has been one of the very distinct progressive developments of science in this century, a move, moreover, that shows every prospect of continuation. Physics, chemistry, botany, biology have developed within themselves special divisions that have to-day assumed the status of new sciences each capable of demanding the full-time attention of the ablest brains. Nuclear physics and genetics are examples of such developments in recent years. The years have become increasingly difficult for the naturalist, the scientific man, whose interests lie in a number of different subjects, as was the case with so many of the pioneer scientists of New Zealand. At the same time this specialisation and the technical developments arising out of it have provided for science generally, a wealth of new methods, new instruments and apparatus whose adoption and application render progress much easier. From this and from other reasons, too, there has arisen a policy of integration of scientific activity, of team work, of recognition that most problems require to be tackled from a number of different angles. It was not until many of our New Zealand problems were the subject of continuous study by a group comprised of personnel of divergent scientific skills that results were secured.
The economic influence of science on our national welfare has already been mentioned in connection with refrigeration. This might readily be extended to cover a host of other advantages which have come to us from abroad to confer benefits on our health, our industries and our homes.
Some mention of economic advantages which have arisen as the result of recent local scientific effort is apposite and a few examples with a Canterbury significance will be chosen. Lincoln College and the Wheat Research Institute, through the efforts of Dr. F. W. Hilgendorf and Dr. O. H. Frankel, have developed wheat varieties such as Cross 7 and Hilgendorf which produce flour of much higher protein quality than Tuscan, at no reduction in per acre yield, which are more easily handled by modern harvesting machinery and which also resist lodging in wet seasons. Dr. Hilgendorf and Mr. J. W. Calder developed a much improved strain of Akaroa cocksfoot which is now extensively used, and Mr. R. A. Calder's swede turnip has shown remarkable capacity to resist dry weather and its accompanying fungus and insect ravages. At the Agronomy Division, Lincoln, strains of rape were developed which as fodders, have proved to be far superior to those grown from imported seed, and this has led to the establishment of a local seed-growing industry for this crop. In original investigations at the Agronomy Division, Mr. J. W. Hadfield acquired the basic knowledge upon which the linen flax industry, which served the Empire so well in World War II, was developed. The improvements in pastures resulting from the work of Mr. E. B. Levy have given immense monetary advantages to Canterbury pastoralists and seed growers Miss L. B. Moore's researches on seaweeds, in which she had the guidance of earlier work done by Mr. R. M. Laing, led to the establishment in Christchurch of a useful and profitable agar industry, which draws upon seaweed resources of the North Island coastline. Within the last year Mr. J. Kelsey and Mr. J. M. Hoy, at the Entomological Station, Ashburton, after working for some years on
the extremely difficult problems of grass grub and Porina control, have shown that these pests, which have caused untold losses to New Zealand farmers in the past, are apparently capable of control at a cost well within range of economic possibilities.
These few examples, taken at random, must suffice to show some of the achievements of science in Canterbury in recent years, and will serve to indicate how real are the economic advantages which have been accruing to such effort. It is impossible to put a money value on even the few simple examples quoted above, but even a modest estimate would provide a figure far in advance of the actual cost of the effort involved.
It is easy both to forget and to fail to appreciate how much these economic results owe to fundamental research done in earlier years and which, at the time, would appear to possess not the remotest sign of having any real value at all, and which might well be described as something of a scientist's foibles. This aspect of scientific activity is all important and it is imperative that our Royal Society of New Zealand do everything in its power to champion the cause of fundamental scientific work in every field in order to replenish that all-important but very unimpressive reservoir, which may be drawn upon to solve applied problems of ever-increasing complexity.
On this occasion Lord Rutherford is to be commemorated. In the last decade of last century he, a student in Canterbury College, was pursuing knowledge for knowledge's sake without any idea of what purpose it would serve. He was doing fundamental work, deeply interested in the newly discovered Hertzian waves. Who at that time could have foreseen the vast results of these very modest earlier approaches to what we now know as nuclear physics? Truly, the results of fundamental science are unpredictable.
Rutherford's work lay in the realm of physics. Biology, chemistry and geology are fields in which there must exist comparable opportunities for advances, and advances which though less spectacular than those of Rutherford, may ultimately be of great economic value when applied to New Zealand's problems, which are so wrapped up in her resources of soils, plants and animals. Research on our pasture plants has already shown how greatly their productivity can be increased through better understanding of the inter-relationships existing between soil, plant and climate. This knowledge is as yet very imperfect, but I am confident fundamental studies of the functioning of the plant cell and its utilisation of solar energy, will ultimately pay handsome dividends. The cell is to the biologist what the atom is to the physicist and the chemist, and its study possesses potentialities equally great.
A review of world scientific activity during the past century and particularly during the past fifty years undoubtedly reveals the period as one of unparalleled progress with an ever-increasing tempo following the lapse of years. The fruits of much of this progress have affected human life to a profound degree. Cast the mind over the changes which have taken place in the means of conveyance, in communications, in power utilisation, in surgery and medicine, in farming, during the past half-century and a picture of extraordinary development is evident In no period of history has there been anything like this progress. In the aggregate an even greater total of change has occurred in a whole multitude of less spectacular matters affecting our daily lives. To-day many large industries exist which were undreamt of in 1900. It is indeed easy to forget that scientific effort, often very obscure, has been vital to these advances! It is also easy to forget
the achievement of the applied scientists, the technicians who have developed the laboratory findings so that they could be brought to a stage when they could be readily and widely used. The electric light, the aeroplane, the radio set, D.D.T., the refrigerator, the plastic wrap, the motion picture film, all embody in themselves a wonderful scientific content of fundamental work brought to fruition by remarkable technical ingenuity.
Less often perhaps is thought given to how scientific discovery has altered unconsciously our whole welfare and our attitude to life.
Fundamental work done by Faraday and Lavoisier led to knowledge which showed to others how refrigeration could be made of practical use. Ultimately here in New Zealand this enabled us to produce and export profitably meat, dairy produce and fruit, and so to farm land that would otherwise have never been brought into use. A moment's thought will reveal how much our prosperity is wrapped up with refrigeration, but it would take a long time to follow through all the ramifications associated with it. The chemical work done by Lawes, Gilbert and Liebig, about the time New Zealand was founded, resulted in the production of superphosphate. This fertiliser was little used in our country until eighty years afterwards, but since then it has become an essential ingredient of our pasture land farming, and were it not for superphosphate many an acre now occupied by successful farmers would be waste land. Again, the ramifications in New Zealand of the effort spent in the laboratories of Lawes, Gilbert and Liebig take some time to think out.
At the beginning of the century so few people were engaged in scientific activity and so little money and facilities were made available for its development and there was so little realisation of its potentialities for every walk of life that discoveries came very slowly. With the more rapid progress of science it has become increasingly difficult for our society to assimilate the effects of all the new discoveries. Perhaps, if the social scientists and the philosophers had paid more attention to the implications of the advances in chemistry, physics and biology, they could have helped us in maintaining a better balance between our material and moral progress.
The half-century which has seen such remarkable scientific progress has unfortunately also seen an extraordinary deterioration in human relationships paralleled by a falling off in the recognition of religious and spiritual values. Is it that the succession of dazzling material discoveries has blinded mankind to its appreciation of these values, or is it that they have come so rapidly that mankind has been unable or unwilling to adjust itself to new and ever-changing conditions so that it becomes impossible to integrate the new ideas into our existing philosophy. This half-century has seen two major wars and a third is now threatening. No half-century has such a record of wars and with them numerous events which might lead to the conclusion that the human race is on the eve of one of its periodic lapses into a state of modern barbarism.
Some positive effort seems to be called for to obviate this situation so deplorable to the true goal of the scientist which must always be the the improvement both of the dignity of man and of the welfare of mankind. Every encouragement, therefore, should be given by our Society to the study of the social and philosophical significance of science, so that there may be available some means of guiding human progress on sound lines through the problems to which developments in material science itself give rise. Perhaps such study will in this new age help to restore the balance, and going beyond the material, bring a new spiritual
attitude to life, such as that which led those who founded this Canterbury Province to dedicate to God the best site in this Cathedral City, and which also induced the founders of that shrine of science, the Canterbury Museum, to have carved in the stone of its portico the words, “Lo, these are parts of His ways, but how Little a portion is heard of Him!”
A great deal of consideration is being given to-day to the question of freedom for the scientist to pursue his inquiries untrammelled. Freedom certainly is a sine qua non for research and scientific work, for in environments where freedom is absent, warping and stultification occur and the results are disastrous; this has been made plain under the Communist, Nazi and Fascist regimes in Europe, where the mind and all activity works in a materialistic strait jacket. The confused position of attitudes, philosophies and thinking in the world to-day will undoubtedly react very adversely on the progress of material science, and reveals plainly the need for more attention to be paid to the philosophy of science. While on the one hand immense sums are being devoted to research for war, the threat of which is ever present to-day, on the other, vast expenditure is being incurred in endeavours to apply the results of science to help food production, the health and prosperity of many backward peoples. Even this is done for the most part in an atmosphere of fear, lest the recipients of this assistance in the future turn hostile on their benefactors of to-day. Scientists of great ability and cleverness loudly asserting the perfectly justifiable claim for scientific freedom are at the same time subscribing to and supporting philosophies which make no provision for such freedom While the case of freedom cannot be too strongly urged for scientific work, due recognition should be given to the all-important essential that with freedom goes responsibility. The two are inseparable.
Because of the progressive tendency of the State to assume more responsibility, and because of the need of large Government grants to meet the increasing cost of scientific work, freedom of science even in our democracies runs some danger of being curtailed. A heavy responsibility rests with the Royal Society to ensure that this does not happen. On this question we might well consider the relationship which exists in Great Britain between the Royal Society and the British Government. Despite the fact that the United Kingdom Government makes generous annual grants to the Royal Society and provides it with a splendid home, these provisions carry no tags and the Society retains all its freedom. It is difficult to realise the great value which the British Government over the centuries has received from the Royal Society, whose Fellows have unstintingly given valuable guidance and active assistance in many problems which have arisen. In New Zealand the Government has always adopted a somewhat similar attitude towards the Royal Society, but the New Zealand society does not enjoy the same status or the same degree of financial support as its sister organisation in Great Britain.
When the New Zealand Royal Society was founded in 1868 it received a Government grant of £500 annually. At times this grant reached a maximum of £1,750 for a few years, and the Society then was able to encourage a series of investigations by making small grants to a number of workers, in addition to publishing scientific papers in the Transactions. To-day the Government grant is £1,250 per annum, and this barely suffices for the publication of the Transactions I would like to suggest that a leaf be taken from the United Kingdom, where in the past the Government has provided splendid accommodation for the Royal Society at Burlington House and in the near future is to make great improvements on this, by the erection of Science House on the south side of the
Thames to provide for more commodious quarters. Perhaps the provision of funds for a Science House for the headquarters of the Royal Society of New Zealand might appeal to some generous benefactor of science in the Dominion.
In the future it seems most likely that the costs of scientific effort will be borne to an increasing extent by Government funds. It is therefore necessary that every possible means be adopted to carry the public interest intelligently along with scientific progress so that it will realise all the implications and possibilities. There then devolves upon legislators to an increasing extent the duty of understanding the purposes for which they are asked to allocate public funds for the promotion of science in the public interest. It is not easy for busy legislators in the midst of many calls made on their time to acquire this necessary knowledge. In Great Britain the need for close understanding between the legislature and science is recognised in the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee, comprised of members of the Lords and Commons on the one hand, and representatives of the Royal Society, British Association and selected scientists on the other. The Committee meets regularly to consider the scientific implications of any legislation proposed and to hear addresses on scientific matters of national importance. Thus is the thought and opinion of science brought to the notice of the British Parliament. It is of importance that modern legislators should be aware of the scientific implications inherent in so many of the measures with which they are called upon to deal.
In the past, the Royal Society of New Zealand, apart from its ordinary functions, has undertaken a disinterested responsibility for guiding public opinion on current matters in which there was a scientific aspect. It was the Society's efforts and recommendations over a number of years which led to the development of organised science supported by State funds and the establishment of the Council and Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. It focussed attention on the National Parks problem and promoted scientific investigations of the Sub-antarctic Islands of New Zealand. At the first Scientific Congress, held in Christchurch in 1919, that far-seeing President, Dr. Leonard Cockayne, made a plea for the promotion of fundamental scientific studies and in support quoted the following example.
“Suppose for example such characters as we wished could be bestowed at will upon certain fodder plants or food plants, i.e that the plant breeder could by methods now unknown create exactly the plant suitable for a special environment, just as one can forge a special tool. Experiments of seemingly the most worthless kinds in genetics might lay the foundations for such knowledge, the value of which is beyond our wildest dreams.”
This was said in 1919. Dr. Cockayne's dreams have already been realised here in Canterbury, where Drs. Hilgendorf and Frankel have produced wheats such as Cross 7, Fife Tuscan and Hilgendorf which suit local conditions remarkably. R. Calder's swede turnip and L. Corkill's H.1 ryegrass are likewise answers to Dr. Cockayne's hopes.
On the same occasion he made another suggestion that scientific studies of our soils merited consideration. Now thirty-two years later the combined efforts of the Soil Bureau and Cawthron Institute have produced soil maps on a scale of four miles to the inch for the whole of New Zealand; detailed maps of many localised areas where intensive farming is practised and have solved many of the mineral deficiency and fertility problems attached to our wide range of soil types.
The promotion of explorations has always been of great scientific value, for such activities have an invigorating influence and give scope to the energies of the younger group of scientists. The Fiordland expedition was the last example of a combined effort, the published results of which are yet awaited. Less ambitious efforts would be very appropriate for the scientific study of the reservations on the mainland and for islands in the vicinity of New Zealand, a number of which are visited only rarely and whose changing conditions possess much of scientific interest which should be studied and recorded.
New Zealand has responsibility for one of the largest sectors of the Antarctic continent and sea. It has been the stepping-off point for a number of expeditions which have explored the Antarctic, but it is a long time since any scientific work has been done in the area. The marine and bird life, the geological, meteorological and physical studies remaining to be done are considerable and though the expenses of a modest expedition would be large, this should not be beyond our resources. Australia is pursuing an active exploration of the comparatively small section of Antarctica which comes under her jurisdiction.
The presence of several survey vessels (Discovery II and Lachlan) in New Zealand waters has stimulated interest in oceanographical science and all its branches. This is a sphere in which knowledge is particularly scanty and in which the issues are of such importance as to merit every possible encouragement of a thorough study.
As yet little real progress has been made with the proper establishment of National Parks which will be worthy conservations of our heritage, as well as localities for scientific studies and recreation. Too many of these are suffering from neglect through lack of interest on the part of the public and through lack of funds, even to provide for ordinary protection against animal and plant invasion. The idea of custodians possessed of scientific qualifications being appointed to National Parks merits consideration, as their studies would help bring to public notice the real value of these reserves, and render it easier to safeguard them for the future.
The Royal Society of New Zealand, in its position of disinterested freedom, which should be strongly maintained, and with its deep sense of responsibility both to science and to the national welfare, holds a position and a status which is pre-eminently suited for guiding along sound lines the scientific philosophy of our country. In this work by far the greatest amount is done by the development of sound thinking through discussions at scientific meetings and at congresses such as this which opens to-day. This is not a time for complacency, a blight which might easily vitiate by very subtle means our scientific philosophy. The great problem of a future which shows no sign of any diminution at present of scientific effort and output, will be to see that this is fitted appropriately into a civilisation which will have for its ideal the advance of the dignity of man and of his welfare both spiritual and material Science must, as it has such great potentialities for so doing, help in advancing our civilisation to higher standards. This is a grave responsibility achieved only by full recognition of the complexity of our existing way of life, and of the fact that due balance has to be ensured between the spiritual and material affairs of mankind.
I have endeavoured in this address by tracing in very broad outline the scientific history of New Zealand to pay homage to a few of the many scientists whose labours have enriched our heritage to-day. At the same time I have hoped in this outline to draw attention to some of the historical trends in science which
have characterised our history. On the basis of the past, I have attempted to comment on the present and to discuss something of the future. I am very much aware of the imperfections which characterised these endeavours. I have not found it easy to do adequate justice to a past which has given us an extraordinary rich endowment in traditions of work and effort, in the results of this work enshrined in the seventy-nine volumes of the Transactions and in a number of other publications of the Royal Society. It is particularly pleasing to note that, thanks to biographers, the personalities, the work and the times, of three very distinguished men, Haast, Colenso and d'Urville have recently been made known to readers. May I strongly express the hope that this will continue and that New Zealand literature will become rich in biographies of scientific men, for their characteristics of vigour, intellect, enterprise, resource, courage, foresight and perseverance are those which are required so much at present and in the future.
F. R. Callaghan.