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Nature volume 113, pages 794799 (31 May 1924) | Download Citation



IN his speech while proposing the toast of “Science and the Empire “at the annual dinner of the British Science Guild on May 22, Lord Surnner must have been facetious in his selection of the gramophone, kinematograph, and motor-car as instances of scientific achievement and influence. When things of this kind are taken as typical examples of what science means to modern civilisation, it is no wonder that doubt is often expressed as to whether scientific progress has been worth while when regarded as a means of human development. Science means, however, much more than contributions to popular entertainment or mechanical movement; but its strength and its significance are commonly misunderstood in high as well as in low places. The community in general does not appreciate the difference between a scientific investigator and the “wizard “inventor, and fails to distinguish between a communication to a scientific society and an announcement in a daily newspaper. So it comes about that Dr. Abrams' “sphygmobiometer,” and Mr. Grindell-Matthews' “death-ray,” are accepted by the daily Press as great scientific discoveries, while actual additions to natural knowledge, represented by scores of original papers read to scientific societies every week, are unregarded. A scientific or technical society is the proper place to submit claims which are alleged to have a scientific basis; and unless this has been done,the scientific world is justified in declining to accept them, and to be suspicious of al mystery boxes or devices which have not been examined by bodies competent to express an opinion upon their construction and effects. Science signifies accurate knowledge and truthful testimony, and its methods are as applicable to social problems as they are to inquiries in the field of Nature. Mechanical and other industrial developments have been made possible by scientific discovery, but they have rarely been the purpose of it. All this is commonplace to scientific workers, but the public Press, with a few exceptions, knows nothing of science and is prepared to give publicity to assertions which it would not entertain for a moment if they concerned law or literature or finance. For these aspects of newspaper work, the services of competent editors are considered to be essential, but we still await recognition of the like need for scientific editors to offer guidance on matters relating to science, and to expose the sensational news which now so frequently passes for scientific truth.

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