THE ROYAL SOCIETY EMPIRE SCIENTIFIC CONFERENCE
AN ADDRESS BY
DR. ELWOOD S. MOORE, Ph.D., M.A.
Chairman: The President, Major F. L. Clouse
Thursday, December 5, 1946
MAJOR CLOUSE: Gentlemen of the Empire Club of Canada and our audience of the air--Since the inception of this Club forty-three years ago, we have welcomed to this platform many men of world renown who have shared with us their knowledge and wisdom on a great variety of subjects. With some our patriotic fervor has been aroused and the significance of our motto-"Canada and a United Empire"-has been brought home to us with forcefulness and with eloquence. With others we have looked at our own country and its resources with awakened interest. On other occasions we have visited foreign lands and learned something of their attributes and their problems. In fact, it may be said that our speakers have been drawn from that field of eminent men throughout the world who have a message for us in respect to world affairs at large or matters of more immediate interest in our own country. Our guest speaker today is recognized as an authority in the field of geological science and is the head of that department at the U. of T.--so be prepared for the best--or maybe should I say, the worst--for he may take us into the mines of Canada or we may find ourselves ascending with him into the realm beyond the stratosphere. In either event I trust he will bring us safely back so this meeting may be concluded at the accustomed time.
We are proud to say that Dr. Moore is a native of this province, and a brilliant graduate from our own U. of T., receiving his B.A. in 1904, his M.A. in 1908 and Ph.D. at the U. of Chicago in 1909. In 1922 he was appointed Prof. of Geology at the U. of T. and also a director of the Royal Ontario Museum of Geology. He studied in Paris, France, and later in Hawaii, Australia, New Zealand, India and parts of Europe. He has been selected many times to carry out important geological surveys and is the author of numerous papers and books on scientific subjects. Dr. Moore attended the Royal Society Empire Scientific Conference, held in England last June and July and it is about that conference that we will learn today. It is my privilege to introduce to you
DR. ELWOOD S. MOORE, Ph.D., M.A. Dr. Moore.
DR. ELWOOD S. MOORS: Nature and Objects of the Conference. This Conference was organized by the Royal Society of London, with the support of the British government, to bring together scientists from various parts of the Empire. The delegations were composed of men working in the physical and biological sciences. The social and political sciences were not involved since they are not included in the Royal Society and, I suppose, they are likely to provoke too much controversy.
The delegates were chosen to represent the national scientific societies, research institutions, universities, and federal and colonial government bureaus and departments. The appointment of Canadians finally rested with our Department of External Affairs which assumed responsibility for sending them to England and arranging priorities for travel. All delegates were the guests of the Royal Society of London while in England and they were the recipients of generous hospitality.
Canada sent fifteen delegates and Dr. C. J. Mackenzie, President of the National Research Council, served as leader of the delegation. Most of the physical and biological sciences were represented as well as the federal Department of Mines and Resources, and Agriculture. I had the honour, as President of the Royal Society of Canada, of representing that organization and the geological sciences.
The United Kingdom had much the largest delegation, composed of many of the most eminent scientists of the nation. It should be said to their great credit that they did not show any tendency to dominate the Conference. Canada came second, India third, with fourteen delegates. Australia, South Africa, Southern Rhodesia, New Zealand, The West Indies, East Africa, Palestine, Eire, Burma, Nigeria, Ceylon, Gold Coast, Trinidad, Sierra Leone and Hong Kong sent from eight to one delegate each. There were one hundred and thirteen delegates in all, so the various parts of the Commonwealth and Empire were well represented.
The Royal Society of London had for some time been seized with the idea that the advances in science during the war had been so great that every effort should be made to see that the Empire should not lag behind any other part of the world. It was realized that modern science would play a dominant role in the defence of our peoples, if war should come again, and in industry during the years of peace.
So much importance was attached to this Conference that His Majesty the King opened it with an address delivered in person. The Queen and other members of the Royal Family were present, and Their Majesties graciously received the delegates following the opening session. The response to the King's address and message of welcome was made by Dr. Mackenzie, leader of the Canadian delegation, and it was regarded by all as a delightfully appropriate and masterly reply.
We marveled at the courage of the British scientists in staging such an elaborate conference after what the country had suffered during the war. They said, however, that they felt the great importance of laying plans for the development of new methods in science and the application of all useful scientific knowledge to our industrial and social problems. Further, they were hungry for an opportunity to meet their colleagues from distant parts of the Empire after so much isolation resulting from the war. They wanted to find out what they were doing in research work and make plans for co-operation in the future. It must be confessed that many of us, before reaching England, had grave misgivings about the success of such a conference. We expected to find the people in the Old Land depressed handicapped, and in no fit state to make such a big effort as this gathering would demand. We were afraid that the meetings, like some of the United Nations or the Big Four on peace proposals, would end in much talk, considerable controversy, and not much to show in the way of results. It did not take long, however, to see that the Anglo-Saxon genius for organization had been operating and there was a fine, keen and serious spirit of cooperation evident among all delegates. The Royal Society of London had been working for a couple of years on plans and a tremendous amount of "spade" work had been done. This resulted in a well-organized programme and everything went along smoothly. It was generally felt, when the Conference was over, that it had been a great success and it was believed that much good would be derived from it. The Royal Society wields a great influence in high places in the United Kingdom. One can not but see the difference between its influence over there and that of our leading scientific societies on this side of the ocean in matters of public policy. It is recognized, of course, that the Society has about three hundred years of tradition to back it up, and it has numbered among its members the greatest galaxy of scientists that the world has known. Men like Newton, Faraday, Rutherford, Bragg, Darwin and scores of others who have been world figures in science have given it great prestige.
WORK OF THE CONFERENCE
The Scientific Conference lasted three weeks, June 17-July 8, 1946 with meetings running through most days and discussion groups in the evenings. It was followed by the Official Conference, which lasted two weeks and considered the resolutions submitted by the scientists, approving or rejecting them.
We met in London for the first week, Cambridge for the second and at Oxford for nearly a week. We then returned to London for the last few days and the conclusion of our meetings. We were greatly impressed by almost complete lack of bomb damage in Cambridge and Oxford after what we had seen in London and elsewhere. The delegates lived in the residences of the famous old colleges in the two university cities and it was quite an experience for those who did this for the first time.
The universities had not up to that time experienced such a tremendous influx of students as we have in Canada. The Principal of the University of London was complaining that he would have to find space for 12,000 to 13,000 students. I had heard that the University of London consisted of thirty-three divisions and I remarked that he had thirty-three places in which to put his students while at the University of Toronto we expected 17,000 students in two places. He replied that as a matter of fact he had forty-eight places for his students but still they would be crowded.
One English delegate stated that they expected the number of universities in the United Kingdom to double in a few years. The government appropriated 9,000,000 pounds for the support of the universities this year and it costs from 350 to 400 pounds, including capital costs, for each science student per annum. Nevertheless the public is convinced that if the country is to survive, they must continue to give, as they have for several hundred years, their more promising men the best possible training in science.
A great variety of topics were discussed at the Conference, especially those concerned with fundamental research in all branches of science and the applications of science to industry. At the start, reports were presented on the facilities for scientific research existing in various parts of the Empire and the need for improving those facilities. It was shown that Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and South Africa had established National Research Councils or their equivalent on a similar basis. These enjoy a large measure of independence of political control under their respective governments. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in the United Kingdom is, as pointed out by Sir Henry Tizard, under the control of the King's Privy Council and its operations need not be confined to the United Kingdom. They even, at one time, spent money in Germany where they got foreign scientists to do some work they needed done. There was very little public interest in scientific research in England during the latter part of last century. Lord Haldane stirred things up because of what he found in Germany and the danger that Britain would find herself overwhelmed in industry and war by Germany with her application of modern scientific methods. The Royal Society sponsored the research laboratories which have since been taken under the wing of the government and are known as the National Physical Laboratory. Aeronautical research was started and, as we know, paid large dividends during the last war.
There is a peculiar situation in Britain. Most of the great fundamental discoveries in physical science were made there. Sir Isaac Newton was widely acclaimed last summer, during the celebration of the three-hundredth anniversary of his birth, by scientists from nearly all lands, as still the greatest scientist who ever lived. One could name a string of his successors who made great discoveries. Newton is known as the "Father of Optics" and yet the Germans developed the optical industry. The chemistry of dyes was worked out in England but the Germans developed the dye industry far beyond anyone else. As one English scientist remarked to me "they make the great discoveries here and then leave them to the Germans, Americans or someone else to make millions from them."
In some Empire countries, there has been a tendency to place all research work under government-controlled institutes. This was regarded by the Conference as a great mistake. It was considered that all research institutes, councils, or whatever they be called, should be closely linked up with the universities on the one hand and with industry on the other. It was believed that the responsibility for most of what is called fundamental research should be left with the universities, and industrial or applied research, which often concerns special problems, can be taken care of by industry, the research councils and similar organizations.
While listening to the reports on research work being done in various parts of the Empire one took considerable pride in our situation in Canada. Our National Research Council seemed to be organized and operated in a sound manner. Its co-operation with the universities, industry, and our armed forces seemed to be of the approved type. It was said that more money was being spent in Canada, per capita, on agricultural research than in any other country in the world. Sir Thomas Holland, a prominent British scientist, who, for years has worked very hard in the interest of better mineral statistics, stated that Canada was the only member of the Empire producing anything like satisfactory records. It was pointed out that during the war the lack of proper information on the location, resources, production, and quality of mineral substances in the far flung parts of the Empire was woefully lacking. This was a great handicap in war, and it is also a handicap to commerce and industry in peace. It was recommended that the Imperial Institute in London, which was set up to serve as a clearing house for information on the resources of the Empire, and which has slumped in its activities for lack of funds, be reorganized. It could serve for the collection and publication of statistics and as an aid to those countries which have few experts, or laboratories capable of testing many natural products.
Some of the dominions lamented their lack of facilities for training men for the doctor's degree in science and provision for research work that must accompany this training. In New Zealand and Australia, all their most promising men go to other countries for this training and most of them remain abroad. Canada is well advanced in this respect and the opportunities offered serve as a great stimulus to our ambitious young people.
The wisdom of maintaining, in peace time, scientific liaison offices in various centres, such as those in London, Washington, Ottawa and other capitals, which proved so valuable during the war, came in for much discussion. It was agreed that they could do much in furnishing information to workers in various parts of the Empire on what was going on in the countries in which the offices were located. They could be of great assistance in bringing about cooperation among those working on the same or similar problems by exchange of data.
The need for greatly expanded research in medicine was strongly urged. Tropical diseases, and infectious diseases of all kinds, must be brought under better control since all parts of the world are now within such easy reach of one another. Plant diseases and other hazards to agriculture received attention; the conservation of soils, and the best utilization of farm lands in the interests of our populations. A greatly expanded meteorological service to cover the Empire is of much importance to agriculture as well as to commerce and travel. The utilization of raw materials from different parts of the Empire in the chemical industries was given much consideration.
Resolutions were passed favouring further research on the modern methods of mapping by use of radar and other means. They are beginning to remap the United Kingdom on a larger scale than was ever done before. Some of us visited the airdrome at Benson where they have 20,000,000 photographs and they can find any one of them they want in between two and five minutes. Maps are being drawn from many of these. A greatly expanded operation in making topographic and geological maps of the colonies was recommended.
A matter of much interest to scientists, especially the younger men, is that of exchange of research workers between different institutions. It is surprising how many impediments there are when exchanges are planned. The question of salaries, monetary exchange rates, pensions, income taxes, etc. all crop up. It was decided that something must be done to facilitate exchanges of personnel. Means were considered for making available to all research workers the vast amount of data in scientific publications of which there are 36,000 in the world. Indexing is a gigantic task but the Farm Bureaus, of which I believe there are twelve, have developed an excellent system although they had none thirty-five years ago.
The subjects mentioned are only part of those taken up at the Conference but they serve to show its scope.
The scientific discussions were interspersed with visits to many laboratories, plants, and experimental farms. One of the most interesting of these trips was to the great Telecommunications Research Establishment at Great Malvern. There were also numerous social functions such as the King's Garden Party, excursions through the Cotswolds, around the harbour of London; teas, receptions and other functions provided by the government, the universities, clubs, societies, and individuals. For all this generous hospitality the delegates were very appreciative.
THE OFFICIAL CONFERENCE
The numerous resolutions adopted by the Scientific Conference were passed on to the Official Conference which lasted a fortnight. This conference comprised those who held appointments in some government department or government-supported institution. Its function was to review the resolutions submitted to it and, if approval was given, send them forward to the respective governments represented for implementation. Most of the resolutions were approved and a Standing Committee was set up to give continuity to the work of the Official Conference. This committee includes representatives of the United Kingdom, the Dominions, India and the Colonial Office.
It is hoped that much may come of these conferences and that the governments represented will take prompt action on many of the resolutions. We all know, however, that "the mills of the gods grind slowly". We will await results with interest.