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A LEAD WANTED

N.Z. INSTITUTE

FUNCTIONS AND FUTURE

(By "Androcles.") The 'New Zealand Institute, which was founded in 1867, was the successor of the New Zealand Society, which was founded in 1851 by Sir George Grey, who was equally zealous in the cause of science as he was an energetic proconsul of the British Empire. As the present year is likely to see the title of the New Zealand Institute changed to that of' the .Royal Society of New Zealand, it may not be amiss to iliquiro how far the New Zealand Institute retains tho status which it originally had as tho leading scientific body in the Dominion. Obviously such a body. as the New Zealand Institute, especially if it is to be regarded as the equivalent in New Zealand of the Royal Society of England, has certain obligations to perform, although none are set out in the clauses of the statuto under which it functions. This perhaps is a wise circumstance, for what draftsman could foresee tho future of science or feel certain that he could provide legal phraseology suitable for such, a changing entity^ It was certainly the case calling for the maximum of freedom, and for tho opportunity for scientists themselves to interpret the function of their organisation along tho lines best fitted for the circumstances of the times. It will be generally conceded that the New Zealand Institute has the statutory authority, the composition, and the organisation, requisite to giyc it tho appropriate status as tho leading scientific body in the-Dominion. As such, its obligations should be towards the scientific workers of New Zealand as a whole, and to tho public and the State generally. Membership of the Board of Governors should be an honoured and coveted distinction: occupancy of the presidential chair should, rank in New Zealand as the equivalent of the presidency of tho RoyaJ Society. But such positions can only be of distinction in so far as they are put to their appropriate use. They are positions that must be moro than filled. They.call for action, and imposo responsibilities, especially in this age when science is playing such an active part in human welfare. STANDING ENDANGERED. Kightly or wrongly, the impression has been made that the New Zealand Institute has in recent years lost a good deal of its standing, both among tho scientists of tho Dominion and among the community "generally. As tho administrator of certain funds and bequests and as a publishing body the Institute does valuable work. But in vain do scientists and the public look for public statements or for a lead in scientific problems and research from tho president or responsible officers, and so the existence of the Institute ..itself is liable to be forgotten until the annual meeting once again thrusts it into momentary prominence. Leadership in science is as necessary as it is in all other spheres of life. This need for leadership is all the more necessary! now that science has become so highly specialised. This need is very real, for the present ago has seen tho application in practice of much work which at its foundation would have provoked merely scorn and scepticism. Who, for example, could have visualised tho huge electrical industry of modern times springing- from tho few bits of wire and metal used by Faraday? Becent times, >.too, have witnessed the speedy rise ,of industries from. the laboratory, as, for example, tho rayon and the radio industries. "We have also seen old-established industries threatened' from the same source. Two examples with a New Zealand significance arc the woollen industry, which lias bowed to the competition of arti- j ficial silk, and butter which lives in dread of margarine. WHAT IS THE INSTITUTE DOING? Such have been the profound changes brought about in recent years, changes which show no tendency to become less important, rather the reverse, that there is need for the general adoption of | what might be called the scientific viewpoint on all questions, and for its interpretation in an essentially human manuer. Never before was such width of opportunity plainly offering. This is no time for apathy. Before it the New Zealand Institute has almost infinite scope for activity in its responsibilities towards science as a whole, towards those who are engaged upon research in an age of specialisation, and towards the community in general which today, as never before, requires to be enlightened upon tho role which science can play in human well-being. At its last two annual meetings the Institute has deplored the fact.that the funds made available for research and for scientific purposes have been reduced. But one is tempted to ask what action the Institute has taken to bring before those responsible for these reductions the value of actively pursuing research and scientific investigations. What has the Institute to place before the community as a whole? Haye any pronouncements been ma.do to inform and impress our legislators that science can play a real, a helpful part in find-, ing a- way out of our econonvic difficulties? Has the Institute in recent years (lone all it might to improve the status of science and of the scientific worker in the eyes of tho public, the Legislature, and the Government? It is not enough to have one meeting a year merely to deplore the remissness of thoso who will not provide the necessary amount of funds.in order to enable various works to bo carried on. More than this is necessary, and perhaps if the New Zealand Institute was to face its responsibilities squarely the cause of science would not have reason to complain that it was being niggardly treated in regard to finance. In view of the impending change of title, it is to be hoped that lethargy, if such exists in the functioning of the New Zealand Institute, will give place to leadership and action in the future Eoyal Society of New Zealand.

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Permanent link to this item

https://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/EP19330526.2.88

Bibliographic details

A LEAD WANTED, Evening Post, Issue 122, 26 May 1933

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987

A LEAD WANTED Evening Post, Issue 122, 26 May 1933

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