Letter | Published:

The University of London

Nature volume 44, pages 104105 | Download Citation



ONE of the taunts most frequently levelled at the London University—or “Burlington Gardens,” to use Prof. Lankester's favourite expression—by certain professors of University College and other advocates of a “teaching University in and for London” is, that the present University is a “mere examining board.” The University has, it is true, a Brown Professor of Physiology and Pathology, who delivers annually a course of lectures relating to the studies and researches carried on at the Brown Institution. But this professorship is an exception, though the University, by accepting the Brown Trust, showed clearly enough that it did not recognize any obligation to abstain from appointing University Professors and Lecturers. We have been previously told that there was a “tacit understanding” at the foundation of the University that this should not be done. But Prof. Ray Lankester goes far beyond the assertion of a “tacit understanding.” He talks of “pledges” given by the founders of the University being “falsified,” and “most solemn obligations" violated—terrible crimes, which, however, have been committed already by the appointment of the Brown Professor. But how such “obligations” and “pledges,” or even a “tacit understanding,” could ever have existed, I fail altogether to see, for it was the expressed intention of the founders of the University that its powers and privileges should be the same as those of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Testimony as to this pledge may be found in the evidence given before the recent Commission. The late Dr. Carpenter's view of this matter was stated by Mr. Dickins in his communication to NATURE. Convocation has, years ago, voted in favour of the establishment of University Professorships and Lectureships, though I do not in the least believe that the graduates would sanction any proposal involving that the University should prepare candidates for its examinations, or compete with the ordinary work of the Professors in University College and other similar institutions. Whether research is or is not carried on successfully at University College is a matter on which I express no opinion. But, however this may be, it should be remembered that the students of this College have become only a small fraction of the candidates for London degrees. It would be, it seems to me, in the public interest that the University should make provision for the encouragement and reward of those among the great majority of its members who show a capacity for research and a power to extend the boundaries of knowledge. That the University has only one solitary Professor is due, I believe, in great measure to the narrowminded and unwise jealousy of University College, and to the fear lest some endowments should chance to be diverted to the University.

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  1. London, May 29.



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