THE NEW ORGANIZATION FOR INDUSTRIAL AND SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH
AN ADDRESS BY PROFESSOR A. B. MACALLUM, M.D., LL.D., F.R.S.
Before the Empire Club of Canada, Toronto
December 14, 1916
MR. PRESIDENT AND GENTLEMEN,--I am not an orator; and the position I occupy is one which calls for self-restraint, circumspection and diplomacy as well as conference, and I was just feeling about to see whether I have those qualifications. Hitherto I have been a doer of things and not a speaker. The work to which I have been recently called has been urged upon me and it has made a critical change in my life. I had gone into the University of Toronto before reaching the middle of my 20's, and for 32 years I have been working and crusading in the University for an ideal, which still remains with me as bright as it was in those early years. I have thought over the proposed change for a long time, and passed a couple of miserable days before I decided. I have in my mind an illustration. well worth knowing, in the case of my friend George Francis Fitzgerald, the noted physicist of the University of Dublin, one of the brainiest men I have ever known, who, in the last interview I had with him, expressed his idea to work the rest of his life at research--he was then about 50--and he intended to devote himself to a study of the constituent properties of cosmic ether a problem which has defied investigation very largely as yet, though I am glad to say I have persuaded my colleague, Prof. McClennan, to do something along that line; believing that discoveries in it would be fraught with the utmost consequence.
Prof. Fitzgerald, a few months after that, was offered the position as Commissioner of Irish Education, a post involving a great deal of executive work, and he had accepted it; and after his death eight or nine months later--involving a loss irreparable to science--one of his letters to Sir Oliver Lodge was published, in which Fitzgerald told that although he had hoped to devote the rest of his life, which he reckoned at 25 years, to the research problem named, yet, when this offer came he considered it and accepted it, because, he said, "The constitution and properties of cosmic ether can wait, but Irish Education is urgent and insistent, and I must accept." I am in that position today, I have to make a choice, and I have made the choice because I think I can do in this new position more for our country than I could by remaining in my late post. I know my own deficiencies, and I am on guard against them. I known my own enthusiasm, and I hope that it will carry me through to the end.
Now, what is the need today of the new movement? This war is going to leave the world in a new position; things will never be the same as they were; after all the disaster in this holocaust of human life we will have to re-orientate ourselves commercially, industrially and psychologically; and we can only meet the new situation by being prepared for it. The Anglo-Saxon peoples of this world have been going on on the assumption that the old things and the old ways are still good; but the war has demonstrated that they cannot be and we must make a change. And what is that change that we must make in order to get efficiency in national life? We must employ all the scientific lore that is available today to human kind; apply it to human needs,--the shop, the farm, the factory and so on. That is the lesson this war is teaching us. It is a very severe lesson at a frightful cost, but it must be learned, and therefore we have to face the situation in a few years from now. Who knows-who can imagine-what is going to be the reflex effect of this war on our conditions here eventually? Nobody knows, but everybody can to a certain extent limn it, though it is going to be greater than anybody amongst us can imagine; still, everybody can to a certain extent indicate what it is to be, in part.
Well, how are we going to face that situation? Are we going to make ourselves tributary to Germany, industrially and commercially? After this war German labour and German science will be put to repairing the mistake that she and her allies have made. They will be taxed to the utmost. Labour will be cheap. Science will be applied as it never was applied before. How are we going to meet it? Is Germany going to get the costs of her war out of us? She will unless we determine that we shall be up-to-date in our methods--thoroughly up-to-date. She has talked about indemnities from the conquered nations-as she supposed the Allies to be--at the end of this war. If she herself comes out of it a victim, a conquered nation, she may get her indemnity, as I say, in that way.
Now, we must be prepared for it ourselves; and how shall we do it? This new movement on the part of Sir George Foster is one which I cannot commend too highly. It is one of the most enlightened things that a Government has done for a long time. It is a new regime, when a Government calls in scientific men to advise it, I remember the time 25 years ago when the Royal Society of Great Britain asked the Government to be consulted on every question; it has offered itself for years, but the Government ignored these claims. Today that is not the case, for the Royal Society and all the scientific men of Great Britain are back of the Government and trying to find a solution for those problems that are now confronting the nation and that will confront it urgently after the war. There will be no more ignoring of science in Great Britain. Now, this Government of ours, through Sir George Foster, appreciates this point of view, and already he has taken the step which has crystallized in the appointment of this Advisory Council.
Let me tell you that we shall have to go very far; and I am frank about it because I want the assistance of everybody who has any insight or any foresight at all. Had Great Britain 30 or 35 years ago done what she is doing today I believe there would have been no war. I have known Germany for 30 years--I was there 30 years ago; I knew then, and I know the limitations of its wealth. Germany, relatively to England, was a poor country. She had forged ahead in such a way that she was able to undertake this war; and how did she do it? One statistician published some 18 months ago the statement--I do not know where he got his facts-that Germany since 1884 has spent £460,000 a year in research along scientific lines and in aid of industries. How much has Great Britain spent? She gave £4,000 to the Royal Society for pure research up till two or three years ago; she established the National Physical Laboratory about 16 years ago and spent £20,000; but apart from those grants nothing was done. Had she spent a million pounds a year her industries would have been in a position to prevent Germany frem catching up and competing with her and taking away her industries from her. What would that mean? For the last 35 years, £35,000,000. Statesmen who were engaged in trying to make the expenditures and the income meet would think that an enormous sum; a million pounds will provide a lot of torpedo boats and we may as well spend them on that, or we may as well spend them, we will say, on old-age pensions. But if a million a year had been spent, the 35 millions with interest would be placed against the £5,000,000,000 that this war is going to cost. For a generation--aye, for 200 years--Great Britain will have to carry that debt of £5,000,000,000. Was it not worth while to have prevented that?
Now, on this continent we shall have to compete with the nation to the south of us, for they have already taken up this line on which I am addressing you today. They are spending half a million on research. They have established three national laboratories. One is amazed on going to Washington and seeing what they have done there. Are we on this continent to lag behind that Government in providing for research? I do not mean pure research, research in pure science; I mean research all along, because you cannot separate the two; pure science and applied science and industrial research dovetailed so closely into one another that you cannot separate them. I remember when the wireless powers were first discovered or practically announced nearly 30 years ago, and I said then, "This is going to be used; how, I do not know." I remember that a colleague to whom I spoke said, " Oh, no, it is pure science." What is it today? It girdles the globe; it abbreviates distance; and it is now in the service of mankind; it affects a revolution in the relations, in the connections of all the races on the globe; it is the servant of commerce and industry and everything else. You- cannot say what is going to come out of an invention. Somebody asked Faraday what was going to come out of his studies of electricity. He replied, "What is the use of a baby? " Now, it is just the same in pure science; you never know where it is going to round up its results. Similarly here.
We must develop, and all of us must crusade for research. I have been crusading in this country; I have been crusading in the University, and now I am going out into the larger field to crusade, and I want everybody; I am going to be a sort of Peter the Hermit to get you all to join me in the crusade.
Now, what has Germany done that we can copy? There are a lot of things. The German Government has been alive to this matter for 30 years. She has had research everywhere, even in her High Schools, which they call "Gymnasia." The appointments to the position of teachers even in those Gymnasia are given on the basis of research, and whenever a teacher receives an appointment to a post it is incumbent on him to read a dissertation involving scientific research, and it is published as such; it is called an inaugural dissertation, and this is published so that the men in the Gymnasia have it. Their Gymnasia have libraries that will rival our University libraries, and there are over 460 of them; every new scientific journal that is started is at once put by the Government on the tables of those libraries; that is the way the whole of Germany is marshalled in a serried rank for science. Then the Minister of Education in each one of the 22 or 23 states of Germany sees to it that every scientific establishment under his control shall be officered and supported to the utmost. Should we not have something like that here? Should we not aim at that?
I am not going to delve into that very far, but I want to tell you what this new Advisory Council is likely to do. I am only the speaker, as it were, representing it, but I can tell you that we are going to foster research in every way--foster it so as to assist the manufacturers, the industries generally, and the development of all our resources to the utmost. We are going to develop researchers if possible. Do you know that in this country today there are not enough? There have been no inducements for the development of those, for the training of those hitherto. The Government and the people generally have been exercising a step-mother's care for that sort of thing; it is none of their affair-that has been the attitude. It cannot be so any longer; we must develop researchers in this country; and we have the material here; the young men in this country are just as bright as those of any other country; they are keener if you give them the chance and they must have the chance. One of the first steps that this Council has taken is to institute 20 research studentships, to be followed by as many research fellowships. We are to select out, all over the country, men of the type that are likely to develop research, and research along industrial lines. We are going to enlist the co-operation of every laboratory in the country. We think research can be carried out, and where-ever a man can be found who is willing to enter on that career he is going to be supported. We are going to displace no organization that is today doing good work; they are going to go on as before, but we will assist them; we will bring all the forces possible to assist them-public opinion, and the Government of the day-wherever it is possible.
And now, gentlemen, I ask for your co-operation, for your sympathy, for this new organization, to render Canada efficient along all the lines, to foster research here, to aid industries in every possible way. You can give an enormous service by your good will, by your word, by your aid wherever it can be offered. That is what I request of you today.
Sir Adam Beck moved a vote of thanks and Dr. A. H. McKay, Principal of the Technical Schools of Toronto, seconded.