Current Topics and Events


    DIRE experience, in the form of aerial disasters, is emphasising the fact that the new form of locomotion possesses points of difficulty, and that the complexity of the problems presented is unparalleled in any of the older branches of transport. In delivering the annual lecture in memory of Wilbur Wright before the Royal Astronomical Society on June 15, Mr. Alec Ogilvie dealt with some aspects of the problem, and his address contains the following striking paragraph: “It is not my wish to exaggerate the importance to the world's knowledge of aeronautical research of the Wright brothers, but it is my desire to lay the strongest emphasis on the lesson to be learnt therefrom—namely, that the whole basis of aeronautical progress rests on genuine research in the laboratory, on the development of mathematical lines of attack, and on full scale research work in the field, and cannot possibly rest only or even mainly upon technical development.” The lecturer said that the national effort put into aerial research was now far below the pre-war standard, and that the importance of fundamental research is not grasped by those in authority in this country. It may be recalled that the Royal Aeronautical Society, to which Mr. Ogilvie was speaking, has taken an active part in bringing the views of scientific aviation to the notice of the Air Ministry, and is the accepted representative body for that purpose. Moreover, during the later stages of the war, when aviation was taking a leading part in fighting operations, Mr. Ogilvie was responsible to the Air Board for its new designs of aeroplane, and this lends additional interest to his statement that “our rapid technical development during the war period, in which we as a nation overtook both friends and enemies after starting a long way behind, was mainly due to the solid research work which was done in the laboratories of this country between 1909 and 1914. It appears to me, however, that there is some danger that the real lessons of the past have not been understood and taken to heart.” Mr. Ogilvie claimed for the Wright brothers a greater measure of praise for their demonstration of the firm structure of knowledge than for their superior skill and technique. The latter has hitherto been appreciated and the former neglected, but indications, still only straws, seem to point to a more even balance between research and technique in the immediate future of aviation.

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    Current Topics and Events. Nature 109, 822–824 (1922).

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