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Physics and Society

Nature volume 140, page 459 (11 September 1937) | Download Citation



IN an address before the American Physical Society, Washington, on April 30, on Science and Society (J. Applied Phys., 8, 373 ; 1937), D. Sarnoff, president of the Radio Corporation of America, referred to the relation of the physicist to the far-reaching social changes which follow his discoveries. The radio industry had its origin in the purely theoretical reasoning of Clerk Maxwell when in 1865 he advanced reasons for the existence of electromagnetic waves, although it was only in 1895 that Marconi gave the world a practical system of wireless telegraphy. Already 150 social effects have been traced directly to radio, and the end is not yet in sight. The major obstacles to the public introduction of television no longer lie in the field of research and engineering. The creation of a new art form has demanded new techniques of writing, direction and studio control. Here as elsewhere a scientific approach to the solution of human problems is required, and it is essential that mankind should learn how to use the assets which are the product of the scientific mind. Civilization depends for its advance upon our expanding knowledge of the social as well as of the physical sciences, for no society can solve its problems by intuition or rule of thumb. The advance of social science no less than that of physical science, calls for the creative imagination of a Newton and a Maxwell, an Edison and a Marconi. Obsolescence is a factor in social as well as in industrial machines.

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