Popular Science Monthly/Volume 64/November 1903/The Influence of Brain-Power on History
|THE INFLUENCE OF BRAIN-POWER ON HISTORY.|
By Sir NORMAN LOCKYER,
ROYAL COLLEGE OF SCIENCE.
SOME years ago, in discussing the relations of scientific instruction to our industries, Huxley pointed out that we were in presence of a new 'struggle for existence,' a struggle which, once commenced must go on until only the fittest survives.
It is a struggle between organized species—nations—not between individuals or any class of individuals. It is, moreover, a struggle in which science and brains take the place of swords and sinews, on which depended the result of those conflicts which, up to the present, have determined the history and fate of nations. The school, the university, the laboratory and the workshop are the battlefields of this new warfare.
But it is evident that if this, or anything like it, be true, our industries can not be involved alone; the scientific spirit, brain-power, must not be limited to the workshop if other nations utilize it in all branches of their administration and executive.
It is a question of an important change of front. It is a question of finding a new basis of stability for the Empire in face of new conditions. I am certain that those familiar with the present states of things will acknowledge that the Prince of Wales's call, 'Wake up,' applies quite as much to the members of the government as it does to the leaders of industry.
What is wanted is a complete organization of the resources of the nation, so as to enable it best to face all the new problems which the progress of science, combined with the ebb and flow of population and other factors in international competition, are ever bringing before us. Every minister, every public department, is involved, and this being so, it is the duty of the whole nation—king, lords and commons—to do what is necessary to place our scientific institutions on a proper footing in order to enable us to 'face the music' whatever the future may bring. The idea that science is useful only to our industries comes from want of thought. If any one is under the impression that Britain is only suffering at present from the want of the scientific spirit among our industrial classes, and that those employed in the state service possess adequate brain-power and grip of the conditions of the modern world into which science so largely enters, let him read the report of the Royal Commission on the War in South Africa. There he will see how the whole 'system' employed was, in Sir Henry Brackenbury's words applied to a part of it, 'unsuited to the requirements of an Army which is maintained to enable us to make war.' Let him read also, in the address of the president of the Society of Chemical Industry, what drastic steps had to be taken by Chambers of Commerce and 'a quarter of a million of working men' to get the Patent Law Amendment Act into proper shape, in spite of all the advisers and officials of the Board of Trade. Very few people realize the immense number of scientific problems the solution of which is required for the state service. The nation itself is a gigantic workshop, and the more our rulers and legislators, administrators and executive officers possess the scientific spirit, the more the rule of thumb is replaced in the state service by scientific methods, the more able shall we be, thus armed at all points, to compete successfully with other countries along all lines of national as well as of commercial activity.
It is obvious that the power of a nation for war, in men and arms and ships, is one thing; its power in the peace struggles to which I have referred is another; in the latter, the source and standard of national efficiency are entirely changed. To meet war conditions, there must be equality or superiority in battleships and army corps. To meet the new peace conditions there must be equality or superiority in universities, scientific organizations and everything which conduces to greater brain-power.
The present condition of the nation, so far as its industries are concerned, is as well known, not only to the Prime Minister, but to other political leaders in and out of the Cabinet, as it is to you and to me. Let me refer to two speeches delivered by Lord Rosebery and Mr. Chamberlain on two successive days in January, 1901:
Lord Rosebery spoke as follows:
Mr. Chamberlain's views were stated in the following words:
All this refers to our industries. We are not suffering because trade no longer follows the flag as in the old days, but because trade follows the brains, and our manufacturers are too apt to be careless in securing them. In one chemical establishment in Germany, 400 doctors of science, the best the universities there can turn out, have been employed at different times in late years. In the United States the most successful students in the higher teaching centers are snapped up the moment they have finished their course of training, and put into charge of large concerns, so that the idea has got abroad that youth is the password of success in American industry. It has been forgotten that the latest product of the highest scientific education must necessarily be young, and that it is the training and not the age which determines his employment. In Britain, on the other hand, apprentices who can pay high premiums are too often preferred to those who are well educated, and the old rule-of-thumb processes are preferred to new developments—a conservatism too often depending upon the master 's own want of knowledge.
I should not be doing my duty if I did not point out that the defeat of our industries one after another, concerning which both Lord Rosebery and Mr. Chamberlain express their anxiety, is by no means the only thing we have to consider. The matter is not one which concerns our industrial classes only, for knowledge must be pursued for its own sake, and since the full life of a nation with a constantly increasing complexity, not only of industrial, but of high national aims, depends upon the universal presence of the scientific spirit—in other words, brain power—our whole national life is involved.
The present awakening in relation to the nation's real needs is largely due to the warnings of men of science. But Mr. Balfour's terrible Manchester picture of our present educational condition shows that the warning which has been going on now for more than fifty years has not been forcible enough; but if my contention that other reorganizations besides that of our education are needed is well founded, and if men of science are to act the part of good citizens in taking their share in endeavoring to bring about a better state of things, the question arises, has the neglect of their warnings so far been due to the way in which these have been given?
Lord Rosebery, in the address to a Chamber of Commerce from which I have already quoted, expressed his opinion that such bodies do not exercise so much influence as might be expected of them. But if commercial men do not use all the power their organization provides, do they not by having built up such an organization put us students of science to shame, who are still the most disorganized members of the community?
Here, in my opinion, we have the real reason why the scientific needs of the nation fail to command the attention either of the public or of successive governments. At present, appeals on this or on that behalf are the appeals of individuals; science has no collective voice on the larger national questions; there is no organized body which formulates her demands.
During many years it has been part of my duty to consider such matters, and I have been driven to the conclusion that our great crying need is to bring about an organization of men of science and all interested in science, similar to those which prove so effective in other branches of human activity. For the last few years I have dreamt of a Chamber, Guild, League, call it what you will, with a wide and large membership, which should give us what, in my opinion, is so urgently needed. Quite recently I sketched out such an organization, but what was my astonishment to find that I had been forestalled, and by the founders of the British Association!
At the commencement of this address I pointed out that one of the objects of the Association, as stated by its founders, was 'to obtain a more general attention to the objects of science and a removal of any disadvantages of a public kind which impede its progress.'
Every one connected with the British Association from its beginning may be congratulated upon the magnificent way in which the other objects of the Association have been carried out, but as one familiar with the Association for the last forty years, I can not but think that the object to which I have specially referred has been too much overshadowed by the work done in connection with the others.
A careful study of the early history of the association leads me to the belief that the function I am now dwelling on was strongly in the minds of the founders; but be this as it may, let me point out how admirably the organization is framed to enable men of science to influence public opinion and so to bring pressure to bear upon governments which follow public opinion. (1) Unlike all the other chief metropolitan societies, its outlook is not limited to any branch or branches of science. (2) We have a wide and numerous fellowship, including both the leaders and the lovers of science, in which all branches of science are and always have been included with the utmost catholicity—a condition which renders strong committees possible on any subject. (3) An annual meeting at a time when people can pay attention to the deliberations, and when the newspapers can print reports. (4) The possibility of beating up recruits and establishing local committees in different localities, even in the King's dominions beyond the seas, since the place of meeting changes from year to year, and is not limited to these islands.
We not only, then, have a scientific parliament competent to deal with all matters, including those of national importance, relating to science, but machinery for influencing all new councils and committees dealing with local matters, the functions of which are daily becoming more important.
The machinery might consist of our corresponding societies. We already have affiliated to us seventy societies with a membership of 25,000; were this number increased so as to include every scientific society in the Empire, metropolitan and provincial, we might eventually hope for a membership of half a million.
I am glad to know that the Council is fully alive to the importance of giving impetus to the work of the corresponding societies. During this year a committee was appointed to deal with the question; and later still, after this committee had reported, a conference was held between this committee and the corresponding societies committee to consider the suggestions made, some of which will be gathered from the following extract:
I believe that if these suggestions or anything like them—for some better way may be found on inquiry—are accepted, great good of science throughout the Empire will come. Rest assured that sooner or later such a guild will be formed because it is needed. It is for you to say whether it shall be, or form part of, the British Association. We in this Empire certainly need to organize science as much as in Germany they find the need to organize a navy. The German Navy League, which has branches even in our Colonies, already has a membership of 630,000, and its income is nearly 20,000l. a year. A British Science League of 500,000 with a sixpenny subscription would give us 12,000l a year, quite enough to begin with.
I for one believe that the British Association would be a vast gainer by such an expansion of one of its existing functions. Increased authority and prestige would follow its increased utility. The meetings would possess a new interest; there would be new subjects for reports; missionary work less needed than formerly would be replaced by efforts much more suited to the real wants of the time. This magnificent, strong and complicated organization would become a living force, working throughout the year, instead of practically lying idle, useless and rusting for 51 weeks out of the 52 so far as its close association with its members is concerned.
If this suggestion in any way commends itself to you, then when you begin your work in your sections or general committee see to it that a body is appointed to inquire how the thing can be done. Remember that the British Association will be as much weakened by the creation of a new body to do the work I have shown to have been in the minds of its founders as I believe it will be strengthened by becoming completely effective in every one of the directions they indicated, and for which effectiveness we their successors are indeed responsible. The time is appropriate for such a reinforcement of one of the wings of our organization, for we have recently included education among our sections.
There is another matter I should like to see referred to the committee I have spoken of, if it please you to appoint it. The British Association, which as I have already pointed out is now the chief body in the Empire which deals with the totality of science, is, I believe, the only organization of any consequence which is without a charter, and which has not His Majesty the King as patron.
I suppose it is my duty after I have suggested the need of organization to tell you my personal opinion as to the matters where we suffer most in consequence of our lack of organization at the present time.
Our position as a nation, our success as merchants, are in peril chiefly—dealing with preventable causes—because of our lack of completely efficient universities, and our neglect of research. This research has a double end. A professor who is not learning can not teach properly or arouse enthusiasm in his students; while a student of anything who is unfamiliar with research methods, and without that training which research brings, will not be in the best position to apply his knowledge in after life. From neglect of research come imperfect education and a small output of new applications and new knowledge to reinvigorate our industries. From imperfect education come the unconcern touching scientific matters, and the too frequent absence of the scientific spirit, in the nation generally from the court to the parish council.
I propose to deal as briefly as I can with each of these points.
I have shown that so far as our industries are concerned, the cause of our failure has been run to earth; it is fully recognized that it arises from the insufficiency of our universities both in numbers and efficiency, so that not only our captains of industry, but those employed on the nation 's work generally, do not secure a training similar to that afforded by other nations. No additional endowment of primary, secondary or technical instruction will mend matters. This is not merely the opinion of men of science; our great towns know it, our ministers know it.
It is sufficient for me to quote Mr. Chamberlain:
Our conception of a university has changed. University education is no longer regarded as a luxury of the rich which concerns only those who can afford to pay heavily for it. The Prime Minister in a recent speech, while properly pointing out that the collective effect of our public and secondary schools upon British character can not be overrated, frankly acknowledged that the boys of seventeen or eighteen who have to be educated in them 'do not care a farthing about the world they live in except in so far as it concerns the cricket-field or the football-field or the river.' On this ground they are not to be taught science, and hence, when they proceed to the university, their curriculum is limited to subjects which were better taught before the modern world existed, or even Galileo was born. But the science which these young gentlemen neglect, with the full approval of their teachers, on their way through the school and the university to politics, the civil service or the management of commercial concerns, is now one of the great necessities of a nation, and our universities must become as much the insurers of the future progress as battleships are the insurers of the present power of states. In other words, university competition between states is now as potent as competition in building battleships, and it is on this ground that our university conditions become of the highest national concern and, therefore, have to be referred to here, and all the more because our industries are not alone in question.
Chief among the causes which have brought us to the terrible condition of inferiority as compared with other nations in which we find ourselves are our carelessness in the matter of education and our false notions of the limitations of state functions in relation to the conditions of modern civilization.
Time was when the navy was largely a matter of private and local effort. William the Conqueror gave privileges to the Cinque Ports on the condition that they furnished fifty-two ships when wanted. In the time of Edward III., of 730 sail engaged in the siege of Calais, 705 were 'people's ships.' All this has passed away; for our first line of defense we no longer depend on private and local effort.
Time was when not a penny was spent by the state on elementary education. Again, we no longer depend upon private and local effort. The navy and primary education are now recognized as properly calling upon the public for the necessary financial support. But when we pass from primary to university education, instead of state endowment we find state neglect; we are in a region where it is nobody's business to see that anything is done.
We in Great Britain have thirteen universities competing with 134 state and privately endowed in the United States and 22 state endowed in Germany. I leave other countries out of consideration for lack of time, and I omit all reference to higher institutions for technical training, of which Germany alone possesses nine of university rank, because they are less important; they instruct rather than educate, and our want is education. The German State gives to one university more than the British Government allows to all the universities and university colleges in England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales put together. These are the conditions which regulate the production of brain-power in the United States, Germany and Britain respectively, and the excuse of the government is that this is a matter for private effort. Do not our Ministers of State know that other civilized countries grant efficient state aid, and further, that private effort has provided in Great Britain less than 10 per cent, of the sum thus furnished in the United States in addition to state aid? Are they content that we should go under in the great struggle of the modern world because the ministers of other states are wiser, and because the individual citizens of another country are more generous, than our own?
If we grant that there was some excuse for the state's neglect so long as the higher teaching dealt only with words, and books alone had to be provided (for the streets of London and Paris have been used as class rooms at a pinch), it must not be forgotten that during the last hundred years not only has knowledge been enormously increased, but things have replaced words, and fully equipped laboratories must take the place of books and class rooms if university training worthy of the name is to be provided. There is much more difference in size and kind between an old and a new university than there is between the old caravel and a modern battleship, and the endowments must follow suit.
What are the facts relating to private endowment in this country? In spite of the munificence displayed by a small number of individuals in some localities, the truth must be spoken. In depending in our country upon this form of endowment, we are trusting to a broken reed. If we take the twelve English university colleges, the forerunners of universities unless we are to perish from lack of knowledge, we find that private effort during sixty years has found less than 4,000,000l., that is, 2,000,000l. for buildings and 40,000l a year income. This gives us an average of 166,000l. for buildings and 3,300l. for yearly income.
What is the scale of private effort we have to compete with in regard to the American universities?
In the United States, during the last few years, universities and colleges have received more than 40,000,000l. from this source alone; private effort supplied nearly 7,000,000l. in the years 1898-1900.
Next consider the amount of state aid to universities afforded in Germany. The buildings of the new University of Strassburg have already cost nearly a million; that is, about as much as has yet been found by private effort for buildings in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol, Newcastle and Sheffield. The government annual endowment of the same German university is more than 49,000l.
This is what private endowment does for us in England, against state endowment in Germany.
But the state does really concede the principle; its present contribution to our universities and colleges amounts to 155,600l. a year; no capital sum, however, is taken for buildings. The state endowment of the University of Berlin in 1891-3 amounted to 168,777l.
When, then, we consider the large endowments of university education both in the United States and Germany, it is obvious that state aid only can make any valid competition possible with either. The more we study the facts, the more statistics are gone into, the more do we find that we, to a large extent, lack both of the sources of endowment upon one or other or both of which other nations depend. We are between two stools, and the prospect is hopeless without some drastic changes. And first among these, if we intend to get out of the present slough of despond, must be the giving up of the idea of relying upon private effort.
That we lose most where the state does least is known to Mr. Chamberlain, for in his speech, to which I have referred, on the University of Birmingham, he said: "As the importance of the aim we are pursuing becomes more and more impressed upon the minds of the people, we may find that we shall be more generously treated by the state."
Later still, on the occasion of a visit to University College School, Mr. Chamberlain spoke as follows:
"When we are spending, as we are, many millions—I think it is 13,000,000l.—a year on primary education, it certainly seems as if we might add a little more, even a few tens of thousands, to what we give to university and secondary education" (Times, November 6, 1902).
To compete on equal grounds with other nations we must have more universities. But this is not all—we want a far better endowment of all the existing ones, not forgetting better opportunities for research on the part of both professors and students. Another crying need is that of more professors and better pay. Another is the reduction of fees; they should be reduced to the level in those countries which are competing with us, to say, one fifth of their present rates, so as to enable more students in the secondary and technical schools to complete their education.
In all these ways, facilities would be afforded for providing the highest instruction to a much greater number of students. At present there are almost as many professors and instructors in the universities and colleges of the United States as there are day students in the universities and colleges of the United Kingdom.
Men of science, our leaders of industry, and the chiefs of our political parties all agree that our present want of higher education—in other words, properly equipped universities—is heavily handicapping us in the present race for commercial supremacy, because it provides a relatively inferior brain-power which is leading to a relatively reduced national income.
The facts show that in this country we can not depend upon private effort to put matters right. How about local effort?
Any one who studies the statistics of modern municipalities will see that it is impossible for them to raise rates for the building and up-keep of universities.
The buildings of the most modern university in Germany have cost a million. For up-keep the yearly sums found, chiefly by the state, for German universities of different grades, taking the incomes of seven out of the twenty-two universities as examples are:
Thus if Leeds, which is to have a university, is content with the 4th class German standard, a rate must be levied of 7d. in the pound for yearly expenses, independent of all buildings. But the facts are that our towns are already at the breaking strain. During the last fifty }ears, in spite of enormous increases in ratable values, the rates have gone up from about 2s. to about 7s. in the pound for real local purposes. But no university can be merely a local institution.
What, then, is to be done? Fortunately, we have a precedent admirably in point, the consideration of which may help us to answer this question.
I have pointed out that in old days our Navy was chiefly provided by local and private effort. Fortunately for us, those days have passed away; but some twenty years ago, in spite of a large expenditure, it began to be felt by those who knew that in consequence of the increase of foreign navies, our sea-power was threatened, as now, in consequence of the increase of foreign universities, our brain-power is threatened.
The nation slowly woke up to find that its enormous commerce was no longer insured at sea, that in relation to foreign navies our own had been suffered to dwindle to such an extent that it was no longer capable of doing the duty which the nation expected of it even in time of peace. At first, this revelation was received with a shrug of incredulity, and the peace-at-any-price party denied that anything was needed; but a great teacher arose; as the facts were inquired into the suspicion changed into an alarm; men of all parties saw that something must be done. Later, the nation was thoroughly aroused, and with universal agreement the principle was laid down that, cost what it might to enforce our sea-power, our Navy must be made and maintained of a strength greater than those of any two possibly contending powers. After establishing this principle, the next thing to do was to give effect to it. What did the nation do after full discussion and inquiry? A bill was brought in in 1888, and a sum of 21,500,000l. was voted in order, during the next five years, to inaugurate a large ship-building program, so that Britain and Britain's commerce might be guarded on the high seas in any event.
Since then we have spent 120,000,000l. on new ships, and this year we spend still more millions on still more new ships. If these prove insufficient to safeguard our sea-power, there is no doubt that the nation will increase them, and I have not heard that anybody has suggested an appeal to private effort.
How, then, do we stand with regard to universities, recognizing them as the chief producers of brain-power and therefore the equivalents of battleships in relation to sea-power? Do their numbers come up to the standard established by the Admiralty principle to which I have referred? Let us attempt to get a rough-and-ready estimate of our educational position by counting universities as the Admiralty counts battleships. I say rough and ready because we have other helps to greater brain-power to consider besides universities, as the Admiralty has other ships to consider besides ironclads.
In the first place, let us inquire if they are equal in number to those of any two nations commercially competing with us.
In the United Kingdom, we had until quite recently thirteen. Of these, one is only three years old as a teaching university and another is still merely an examining board.
In Germany there are twenty-two universities; in France, under recent legislation, fifteen; in Italy, twenty-one. It is difficult to give the number in the United States, because it is clear, from the tables given in the Report of the Commissioner of Education, that some colleges are more important than some universities, and both give the degree of Ph.D. But of universities in title we have 134. Among these, there are forty-six with more than fifty professors and instructors, and thirteen with more than 150. I will take that figure.
Suppose we consider the United States and Germany our chief commercial competitors, and apply the Admiralty principle. We should require, allowing for population, eight additional universities at the very lowest estimate.
We see, then, that instead of having universities equaling in number those of two of our chief competitors together, they are by no means equal to those of either of them singly.
After this statement of the facts, any one who has belief in the importance of higher education will have no difficulty in understanding the origin of the present condition of British industry and its constant decline, first in one direction and then in another, since the tremendous efforts made in the United States and Germany began to take effect.
If, indeed, there be anything wrong about the comparison, the error can only arise from one of two sources; either the Admiralty is thoughtlessly and wastefully spending money, or there is no connection whatever between the higher intelligence and the prosperity of a nation. I have already referred to the views of Mr. Chamberlain and Lord Rosebery on this point; we know what Mr. Chamberlain has done at Birmingham; we know the strenuous efforts made by the commercial leaders of Manchester and Liverpool; we know, also, the opinion of men of science.
If while we spend so freely to maintain our sea-power our export of manufactured articles is relatively reduced because our competitors beat us in the markets of the world, what is the end of the vista thus opened up to us? A Navy growing stronger every year and requiring larger votes to guard our commerce and communications, and a vanishing quantity of commerce to guard—a reduced national income to meet an increasing taxation!
The pity is that our government has considered sea-power alone; that while so completely guarding our commerce it has given no thought to Que of the main conditions on which its production and increase depend: a glance could have shown that other countries were "building universities even faster than they were building battleships; were, in fact, considering brain-power first and sea-power afterwards.
Surely it is my duty as your president to point out the danger ahead if such ignoring of the true situation should be allowed to continue. May I express a hope that at last, in Mr. Chamberlain's words, 'the. time is coming when governments will give more attention to this matter'?
The comparison shows that we want eight new universities, some of which, of course, will be colleges promoted to university rank and fitted to carry on university work. Three of them are already named: Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds.
Let us take this number and deal with it on the battleship condition, although a modern university on American or German models will cost more to build than a battleship.
If our present university shortage be dealt with on battleship conditions, to correct it we should expend at least 8,000,000l for new construction, and for the pay-sheet we should have to provide (8 X 50,000l.) 400,000l yearly for personnel and up-keep, for it is of no use to build either ships or universities without manning them. Let us say, roughly, capitalizing the yearly payment at 21⁄2 per cent., 24,000,000l.
At this stage, it is important to inquire whether this sum, arrived at by analogy merely, has any relation to our real university needs.
I have spent a year in making inquiries, as full as I could make them, of friends conversant with the real present needs of each of the universities old and new; I have obtained statistics which would fill a volume, and personally I believe that this sum at least is required to bring our university system up to anything like the level which is insisted upon both in the United States and in Germany. Even Oxford, our oldest university, will still continue to be a mere bundle of colleges, unless three millions are provided to enable the university properly so-called to take her place among her sisters of the modern world; and Sir Oliver Lodge, the principal of our very youngest university, Birmingham, has shown in detail how five millions can be usefully and properly applied in that one locality, to utilize for the good of the nation the enthusiasm and scientific capacity which are only waiting for adequate opportunity of development.
How is this money to be raised? I reply without hesitation, duplicate the Navy Bill of 1888-9; do at once for brain-power what we so successfully did then for sea-power.
Let 24,000,000l be set apart from one asset, our national wealth, to increase the other, brain-power. Let it be assigned and borrowed as it is wanted; there will be a capital sum for new buildings to be erected in the next five or ten years, the interest of the remainder to go towards increased annual endowments.
There need be no difficulty about allocating money to the various institutions. Let each university make up its mind as to which rank of the German universities it wishes to emulate. When this claim has been agreed to, the sums necessary to provide the buildings and teaching staff of that class of university should be granted without demur.
It is the case of battleships over again, and money need not be spent more freely in one case than in the other.
Let me at once say that this sum is not to be regarded as practically gone when spent, as in the case of a short-lived ironclad. It is a loan which will bear a high rate of interest. This is not my opinion merely; it is the opinion of those concerned in great industrial enterprises and fully alive to the origin and effects of the present condition of things.
I have been careful to point out that the statement that our industries are suffering from our relative neglect of science does not rest on my authority. But if this be true, then if our annual production is less by only two millions than it might have been, having two millions less to divide would be equivalent to our having forty or fifty millions less capital than we should have had if we had been more scientific.
Sir John Brunner, in a speech connected with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, stated recently that if we as a nation were now to borrow ten millions of money in order to help science by putting up buildings and endowing professors, we should get the money back in the course of a generation a hundredfold. He added that there was no better investment for a business man than the encouragement of science, and that every penny he possessed had come from the application of science to commerce.
According to Sir Robert Giffen, the United Kingdom as a going concern was in 1901 worth 16,000,000,000l.
Were we to put aside 24,000,000l. for gradually organizing, building and endowing new universities, and making the existing ones more efficient, we should still be worth 15,976,000,000l., a property well worth defending by all the means, and chief among these brain-power, we can command. If it be held that this, or anything like it, is too great a price to pay for correcting past carelessness or stupidity, the reply is that the 120,000,000l recently spent on the navy, a sum five times greater, has been spent to correct a sleepy blunder, not one whit more inimical to the future welfare of our country than that which has brought about our present educational position. We had not sufficiently recognized what other nations had done in the way of ship building, just as until now we have not recognized what they have been doing in university building.
Further, I am told that the sum of 24,000,000l. is less than half the amount by which Germany is yearly enriched by having improved upon our chemical industries, owing to our lack of scientific training. Many other industries have been attacked in the same way since, but taking this one instance alone, if we had spent this money fifty years ago, when the Prince Consort first called attention to our backwardness. the nation would now be much richer than it is, and would have much less to fear from competition.
Suppose we were to set about putting our educational house in order, so as to secure a higher quality and greater quantity of brainpower, it would not be the first time in history that this has been done. Both Prussia after Jena and France after Sedan acted on the view:
"When land is gone and money spent,
Then learning is most excellent."
After Jena, which left Prussia a 'bleeding and lacerated mass,' the King and his wise counselors, among them men who had gained knowledge from Kant, determined, as they put it, 'to supply the loss, of territory by intellectual effort.'
What did they do? In spite of universal poverty, three universities, to say nothing of observatories and other institutions, were at once founded, secondary education was developed, and in a few years the mental resources were so well looked after that Lord Palmerston defined the kingdom in question as 'a country of damned professors.'
After Sedan, a battle, as Moltke told us, 'won by the school-master,' France made even more strenuous efforts. The old University of France, with its 'academies' in various places, was replaced by fifteen independent universities, in all of which are faculties of letters, sciences, law and medicine.
The development of the University of Paris has been truly marvelous. In 1897-8, there were 12,000 students, and the cost was 200,000l a year.
But even more wonderful than these examples is the 'intellectual effort' made by Japan, not after a war, but to prepare for one.
The question is, shall we wait for a disaster and then imitate Prussia and France? or shall we follow Japan, and thoroughly prepare by 'intellectual effort' for the industrial struggle which lies before us?
Such an effort seems to me to be the first thing any national or imperial scientific organization should endeavor to bring about.
- From the address of the president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, Southport, 1903.
- "The existing educational system of this country is chaotic, is ineffectual, is utterly behind the age, makes us the laughing-stock of every advanced nation in Europe and America, puts us behind, not only our American cousins, but the German and the Frenchman and the Italian."—Times, October 15, 1902.
- Captain Mahan, of the U. S. Navy, whose book, 'On the Influence of Sea-power on History,' has suggested the title of my address.
- These are Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, Victoria, Wales, Birmingham, London, St. Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Dublin and Royal University.