Thomas Henry Huxley (1825-95) was born at Ealing, near London, and, having studied
medicine, went to sea as assistant surgeon in the navy. After leaving the Government
service, he became Professor of Natural History at the Royal School of Mines, and
Fullerian Professor of Physiology at the Royal Institution, and later held many
commissions and received many distinctions in the scientific world. His special field was
morphology, and in it he produced a large number of monographs and several comprehensive
It is not, however, by his original contributions to knowledge that Huxley's name
is best known to readers outside of technical science, but rather by his labors in
popularization and in polemics. He was one of the foremost and most effective champions of
Darwinism, and no scientist has been more conspicuous in the battle between the doctrine
of evolution and the older religious orthodoxy. Outside of this particular issue, he was a
vigorous opponent of supernaturalism in all its forms, and a supporter of the agnosticism
which demands that nothing shall be believed "with greater assurance than the
evidence warrants" - the evidence intended being, of course, of the same kind as that
admitted in natural science.
Huxley's interests thus extended from pure science into many adjoining fields, such
as those of theology, philosophy (where he wrote an admirable book of Hume), and
education. Of his attitude toward this last, a clear idea may be gained from the following
address on "Science and Culture," a singularly forcible plea for the importance
of natural science in general education.
In all his writings Huxley commands a style excellently adapted to his purpose:
clear, forcible, free from mannerism, yet telling and often memorable in phrase. Whatever
may be the exact magnitude of his services to pure science, he was a master in the writing
of English for the purposes of exposition and controversy, and a powerful intellectual
influence on almost all classes in his generation.
Science and Culture
[Footnote 1: Originally delivered as an address, in 1880, at the opening of Mason
College, Birmingham, England, now the University of Birmingham.]
Six years ago, as some of my present hearers may remember, I had the privilege of
addressing a large assemblage of the inhabitants of this city, who had gathered together
to do honor to the memory of their famous townsman, Joseph Priestley; and, if any
satisfaction attaches to posthumous glory, we may hope that the manes of the burnt - out
philosopher were then finally appeased.
No man, however, who is endowed with a fair share of common sense, and not more than a
fair share of vanity, will identify either contemporary or posthumous fame with the
highest good; and Priestley's life leaves no doubt that he, at any rate, set a much higher
value upon the advancement of knowledge, and the promotion of that freedom of thought
which is at once the cause and the consequence of intellectual progress.
Hence I am disposed to think that, if Priestley could be amongst us to day, the
occasion of our meeting would afford him even greater pleasure than the proceedings which
celebrated the centenary of his chief discovery. The kindly heart would moved, the high
sense of social duty would be satisfied, by the spectacle of well - earned wealth, neither
squandered in tawdry luxury and vainglorious show, nor scattered with the careless charity
which blesses neither him that gives nor him that takes, but expended in the execution of
a well - considered plan for the aid of present and future generations of those who are
willing to help themselves.
We shall all be of one mind thus far. But it is needful to share Priestley's keen
interest in physical science; and to have learned, as he had learned, the value of
scientific training in fields of inquiry apparently far remote from physical science; in
order to appreciate, as he would have appreciated, the value of the noble gift which Sir
Josiah Mason has bestowed upon the inhabitants of the Midland district.
For us children of the nineteenth century, however, the establishment of a college
under the conditions of Sir Josiah Mason's trust has a significance apart from any which
it could have possessed a hundred years ago. It appears to be an indication that we are
reaching the crisis of the battle, or rather of the long series of battles, which have
been fought over education in a campaign which began long before Priestley's time, and
will probably not be finished just yet.
In the last century, the combatants were the champions of ancient literature, on the
one side, and those of modern literature on the other, but, some thirty years2 ago, the contest became complicated by the appearance of a third army, ranged round the
banner of physical science.
[Footnote 2: The advocacy of the introduction of physical science into general
education by George Combe and others commenced a good deal earlier; but the movement had
acquired hardly any practical force before the time to which I refer.]
I am not aware that any one has authority to speak in the name of this new host. For it
must be admitted to be somewhat of a guerilla force, composed largely of irregulars, each
of whom fights pretty much for his own hand. But the impressions of a full private, who
has seen a good deal of service in the ranks, respecting the present position of affairs
and the conditions of a permanent peace, may not be devoid of interest; and I do not know
that I could make a better use of the present opportunity than by laying them before you.
From the time that the first suggestion to introduce physical science into ordinary
education was timidly whispered, until now, the advocates of scientific education have met
with opposition of two kinds. On the one hand, they have been poohpoohed by the men of
business who pride themselves on being the representatives of practicality; while, on the
other hand, they have been excommunicated by the classical scholars, in their capacity of
Levites in charge of the ark of culture and monopolists of liberal education.
The practical men believed that the idol whom they worship - rule of thumb - has been
the source of the past prosperity, and will suffice for the future welfare of the arts and
manufactures. They were of opinion that science is speculative rubbish; that theory and
practice have nothing to do with one another; and that the scientific habit of mind is an
impediment, rather than an aid, in the conduct of ordinary affairs.
I have used the past tense in speaking of the practical men - for although they were
very formidable thirty years ago, I am not sure that the pure species has not been
extirpated. In fact, so far as mere argument goes, they have been subjected to such a feu
d'enfer that it is a miracle if any have escaped. But I have remarked that your typical
practical man has an unexpected resemblance to one of Milton's angels. His spiritual
wounds, such as are inflicted by logical weapons, may be as deep as a well and as wide as
a church door, but beyond shedding a few drops of ichor, celestial or otherwise, he is no
whit the worse. So, if any of these opponents be left, I will not waste time in vain
repetition of the demonstrative evidence of the practical value of science; but knowing
that a parable will sometimes penetrate where syllogisms fail to effect an entrance, I
will offer a story for their consideration.
Once upon a time, a boy, with nothing to depend upon but his own vigorous nature, was
thrown into the thick of the struggle for existence in the midst of a great manufacturing
population. He seems to have had a hard fight, inasmuch as, by the time he was thirty
years of age, his total disposable funds amounted to twenty pounds. Nevertheless, middle
life found him giving proof of his comprehension of the practical problems he had been
roughly called upon to solve, by a career of remarkable prosperity.
Finally, having reached old age with its well - earned surroundings of "honor,
troops of friends," the hero of my story bethought himself of those who were making a
like start in life, and how he could stretch out a helping hand to them.
After long and anxious reflection this successful practical man of business could
devise nothing better than to provide them with the means of obtaining "sound,
extensive, and practical scientific knowledge." And he devoted a large part of his
wealth and five years of incessant work to this end.
I need not point the moral of a tale which, as the solid and spacious fabric of the
Scientific College assures us, is no fable, nor can anything which I could say intensify
the force of this practical answer to practical objections.
We may take it for granted then, that, in the opinion of those best qualified to judge,
the diffusion of thorough scientific education is an absolutely essential condition of
industrial progress; and that the college which has been opened to - day will confer an
inestimable boon upon those whose livelihood is to be gained by the practice of the arts
and manufactures of the district.
The only question worth discussion is, whether the conditions, under which the work of
the college is to be carried out, are such as to give it the best possible chance of
achieving permanent success.
Sir Josiah Mason, without doubt most wisely, has left very large freedom of action to
the trustees, to whom he proposes ultimately to commit the administration of the college,
so that they may be able to adjust its arrangements in accordance with the changing
conditions of the future. But, with respect to three points, he has laid most explicit
injunctions upon both administrators and teachers.
Party politics are forbidden to enter into the minds of either, so far as the work of
the college is concerned; theology is as sternly banished from its precincts; and finally,
it is especially declared that the college shall make no provision for "mere literary
instruction and education."
It does not concern me at present to dwell upon the first two injunctions any longer
than may be needful to express my full conviction of their wisdom. But the third
prohibition brings us face to face with those other opponents of scientific education, who
are by no means in the moribund condition of the practical man, but alive, alert, and
It is not impossible that we shall hear this express exclusion of "literary
instruction and education" from a college which, nevertheless, professes to give a
high and efficient education, sharply criticised. Certainly the time was that the Levites
of culture would have sounded their trumpets against its walls as against an educational
How often have we not been told that the study of physical science is incompetent to
confer culture; that it touches none of the higher problems of life; and, what is worse,
that the continual devotion to scientific studies tends to generate a narrow and bigoted
belief in the applicability of scientific methods to the search after truth of all kinds.
How frequently one has reason to observe that no reply to a troublesome argument tells so
well as calling its author a "mere scientific specialist." And, as I am afraid
it is not permissible to speak of this form of opposition to scientific education in the
past tense; may we not expect to be told that this, not only omission, but prohibition, of
"mere literary instruction and education" is a patent example of scientific
narrow - mindedness?
I am not acquainted with Sir Josiah Mason's reasons for the action which he has taken;
but if, as I apprehend is the case, he refers to the ordinary classical course of our
schools and universities by the name of "mere literary instruction and
education," I venture to offer sundry reasons of my own in support of that action.
For I hold very strongly by two convictions. The first is, that neither the discipline
nor the subject - matter of classical education is of such direct value to the student of
physical science as to justify the expenditure of valuable time upon either; and the
second is, that for the purpose of attaining real culture, an exclusively scientific
education is at least as effectual as an exclusively literary education.
I need hardly point out to you that these opinions, especially the latter, are
diametrically opposed to those of the great majority of educated Englishmen, influenced as
they are by school and university traditions. In their belief, culture is obtainable only
by a liberal education; and a liberal education is synonymous, not merely with education
and instruction in literature, but in one particular form of literature, namely, that of
Greek and Roman antiquity. They hold that the man who has learned Latin and Greek, however
little, is educated; while he who is versed in other branches of knowledge, however
deeply, is a more or less respectable specialist, not admissible into cultured caste. The
stamp of the educated man, the university degree, is not for him.
I am too well acquainted with the generous catholicity of spirit, the true sympathy
with scientific thought, which pervades the writings of our chief apostle of culture to
identify him with these opinions; and yet one may cull from one and another of those
epistles to the Philistines, which so much delight all who do not answer to that name,
sentences which lend them some support.
Mr. Arnold tells us that the meaning of culture is "to know the best that has been
thought and said in the world." It is the criticism of life contained in literature.
That criticism regards "Europe as being, for intellectual and spiritual purposes, one
great confederation, bound to a joint action and working to a common result; and whose
members have, for their common outfit, a knowledge of Greek, Roman, and Eastern antiquity,
and of one another. Special, local, and temporary advantages being put out of account,
that modern nation will in the intellectual and spiritual sphere make most progress, which
most thoroughly carries out this programme. And what is that but saying that we too, all
of us, as individuals, the more thoroughly we carry it out, shall make the more
We have here to deal with two distinct propositions. The first, that a criticism of
life is the essence of culture; the second, that literature contains the materials which
suffice for the construction of such a criticism.
I think that we must all assent to the first proposition. For culture certainly means
something quite different from learning or technical skill. It implies the possession of
an ideal, and the habit of critically estimating the value of things by comparison with a
theoretic standard. Perfect culture should apply a complete theory of life, based upon a
clear knowledge alike of its possibilities and of its limitations.
But we may agree to all this, and yet strongly dissent from the assumption that
literature alone is competent to supply this knowledge. After having learnt all that
Greek, Roman, and Eastern antiquity have thought and said, and all that modern literatures
have to tell us, it is not self evident that we have laid a sufficiently broad and deep
foundation for the criticism of life which constitutes culture.
Indeed, to any one acquainted with the scope of physical science, it is not at all
evident. Considering progress only in the "intellectual and spiritual sphere," I
find myself wholly unable to admit that either nations or individuals will really advance,
if their common outfit draws nothing from the stores of physical science. I should say
that an army, without weapons of precision, and with no particular base of operations,
might more hopefully enter upon a campaign on the Rhine, than a man, devoid of a knowledge
of what physical science has done in the last century, upon a criticism of life.
When a biologist meets with an anomaly, he instinctively turns to the study of
development to clear it up. The rationale of contradictory opinions may with equal
confidence be sought in history.
It is, happily, no new thing that Englishmen should employ their wealth in building and
endowing institutions for educational purposes. But, five or six hundred years ago, deeds
of foundation expressed or implied conditions as nearly as possible contrary to those
which have been thought expedient by Sir Josiah Mason. That is to say, physical science
was practically ignored, while a certain literary training was enjoined as a means to the
acquirement of knowledge which was essentially theological.
The reason of this singular contradiction between the actions of men alike animated by
a strong and disinterested desire to promote the welfare of their fellows, is easily
At that time, in fact, if any one desired knowledge beyond such as could be obtained by
his own observation, or by common conversation, his first necessity was to learn the Latin
language, inasmuch as all the higher knowledge of the western world was contained in works
written in that language. Hence, Latin grammar, with logic and rhetoric, studied through
Latin, were the fundamentals of education. With respect to the substance of the knowledge
imparted through this channel, the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, as interpreted and
supplemented by the Romish Church, were held to contain a complete and infallibly true
body of information.
Theological dicta were, to the thinkers of those days, that which the axioms and
definitions of Euclid are to the geometers of these. The business of the philosophers of
the Middle Ages was to deduce from the data furnished by the theologians, conclusions in
accordance with ecclesiastical decrees. They were allowed the high privilege of showing,
by logical process, how and why that which the Church said was true, must be true. And if
their demonstrations fell short of or exceeded this limit, the Church was maternally ready
to check their aberrations, if need be, by the help of the secular arm.
Between the two, our ancestors were furnished with a compact and complete criticism of
life. They were told how the world began, and how it would end; they learned that all
material existence was but a base and insignificant blot upon the fair face of the
spiritual world, and that nature was, to all intents and purposes, the playground of the
devil; they learned that the earth is the centre of the visible universe, and that man is
the cynosure of things terrestrial; and more especially is it inculcated that the course
of nature had no fixed order, but that it could be, and constantly was, altered by the
agency of innumerable spiritual beings, good and bad, according as they were moved by the
deeds and prayers of men. The sum and substance of the whole doctrine was to produce the
conviction that the only thing really worth knowing in this world was how to secure that
place in a better, which, under certain conditions, the Church promised.
Our ancestors had a living belief in this theory of life, and acted upon it in their
dealings with education, as in all other matters. Culture meant saintlines - after the
fashion of the saints of those days; the education that led to it was, of necessity,
theological; and the way to theology lay through Latin.
That the study of nature - further than was requisite for the satisfaction of everyday
wants - should have any bearing on human life was far from the thoughts of men thus
trained. Indeed, as nature had been cursed for man's sake, it was an obvious conclusion
that those who meddled with nature were likely to come into pretty close contact with
Satan. And, if any born scientific investigator followed his instincts, he might safely
reckon upon earning the reputation, and probably upon suffering the fate, of a sorcerer.
Had the western world been left to itself in Chinese isolation, there is no saying how
long this state of things might have endured. But, happily, it was not left to itself.
Even earlier than the thirteenth century, the development of Moorish civilization in Spain
and the great movement of the Crusades had introduced the leaven which, from that day to
this, has never ceased to work. At first, through the intermediation of Arabic
translations, afterwards by the study of the originals, the western nations of Europe
became acquainted with the writings of the ancient philosophers and poets, and, in time,
with the whole of the vast literature of antiquity.
Whatever there was of high intellectual aspiration or dominant capacity in Italy,
France, Germany, and England, spent itself for centuries in taking possession of the rich
inheritance left by the dead civilization of Greece and Rome. Marvelously aided by the
invention of printing, classical learning spread and flourished. Those who possessed it
prided themselves on having attained the highest culture then within the reach of mankind.
And justly. For, saving Dante on his solitary pinnacle, there was no figure in modern
literature at the time of the Renaissance to compare with the men of antiquity; there was
no art to compete with their sculpture; there was no physical science but that which
Greece had created. Above all, there was no other example of perfect intellectual freedom
- of the unhesitating acceptance of reason as the sole guide to truth and the supreme
arbiter of conduct.
The new learning necessarily soon exerted a profound influence upon education. The
language of the monks and schoolmen seemed little better than gibberish to scholars fresh
from Vergil and Cicero, and the study of Latin was placed upon a new foundation. Moreover,
Latin itself ceased to afford the sole key to knowledge. The student who sought the
highest thought of antiquity found only a second - hand reflection of it in Roman
literature, and turned his face to the full light of the Greeks. And after a battle, not
altogether dissimilar to that which is at present being fought over the teaching of
physical science, the study of Greek was recognized as an essential element of all higher
Thus the humanists, as they were called, won the day; and the great reform which they
effected was of incalculable service to mankind. But the Nemesis of all reformers is
finality; and the reformers of education, like those of religion, fell into the profound,
however common, error of mistaking the beginning for the end of the work of reformation.
The representatives of the humanists in the nineteenth century take their stand upon
classical education as the sole avenue to culture, as firmly as if we were still in the
age of Renaissance. Yet, surely, the present intellectual relations of the modern and the
ancient worlds are profoundly different from those which obtained three centuries ago.
Leaving aside the existence of a great and characteristically modern literature, of modern
painting, and, especially, of modern music, there is one feature of the present state of
the civilized world which separates it more widely from the Renaissance than the
Renaissance was separated from the Middle Ages.
This distinctive character of our own times lies in the vast and constantly increasing
part which is played by natural knowledge. Not only is our daily life shaped by it, not
only does the prosperity of millions of men depend upon it, but our whole theory of life
has long been influenced, consciously or unconsciously, by the general conceptions of the
universe, which have been forced upon us by physical science.
In fact, the most elementary acquaintance with the results of scientific investigation
shows us that they offer a broad and striking contradiction to the opinions so implicitly
credited and taught in the Middle Ages.
The notions of the beginning and the end of the world entertained by our forefathers
are no longer credible. It is very certain that the earth is not the chief body in the
material universe, and that the world is not subordinated to man's use. It is even more
certain that nature is the expression of a definite order with which nothing interferes,
and that the chief business of mankind is to learn that order and govern themselves
accordingly. Moreover this scientific "criticism of life" presents itself to us
with different credentials from any other. It appeals not to authority, nor to what
anybody may have thought or said, but to nature. It admits that all our interpretations of
natural fact are more or less imperfect and symbolic, and bids the learner seek for truth
not among words but among things. It warns us that the assertion which outstrips evidence
is not only a blunder but a crime.
The purely classical education advocated by the representatives of the humanists in our
day gives no inkling of all this. A man may be a better scholar than Erasmus, and know no
more of the chief causes of the present intellectual fermentation than Erasmus did.
Scholarly and pious persons, worthy of all respect, favor us with allocutions upon the
sadness of the antagonism of science to their mediaeval way of thinking, which betray an
ignorance of the first principles of scientific investigation, an incapacity for
understanding what a man of science means by veracity, and an unconsciousness of the
weight of established scientific truths, which is almost comical.
There is no great force in the tu quoque argument, or else the advocates of scientific
education might fairly enough retort upon the modern humanists that they may be learned
specialists, but that they possess no such sound foundation for a criticism of life as
deserves the name of culture. And, indeed, if we were disposed to be cruel, we might urge
that the humanists have brought this reproach upon themselves, not because they are too
full of the spirit of the ancient Greek, but because they lack it.
The period of the Renaissance is commonly called that of the "Revival of
Letters," as if the influences then brought to bear upon the mind of Western Europe
had been wholly exhausted in the field of literature. I think it is very commonly
forgotten that the revival of science, effected by the same agency, although less
conspicuous, was not less momentous.
In fact, the few and scattered students of nature of that day picked up the clew to her
secrets exactly as it fell from the hands of the Greeks a thousand years before. The
foundations of mathematics were so well laid by them that our children learn their
geometry from a book written for the schools of Alexandria two thousand years ago. Modern
astronomy is the natural continuation and development of the work of Hipparchus and of
Ptolemy; modern physics of that of Democritus and of Archimedes; it was long before modern
biological science outgrew the knowledge bequeathed to us by Aristotle, by Theophrastus,
and by Galen.
We cannot know all the best thoughts and sayings of the Greeks unless we know what they
thought about natural phenomena. We cannot fully apprehend their criticism of life unless
we understand the extent to which that criticism was affected by scientific conceptions.
We falsely pretend to be the inheritors of their culture, unless we are penetrated, as the
best minds among them were, with an unhesitating faith that the free employment of reason,
in accordance with scientific method, is the sole method of reaching truth.
Thus I venture to think that the pretensions of our modern humanists to the possession
of the monopoly of culture and to the exclusive inheritance of the spirit of antiquity
must be abated, if not abandoned. But I should be very sorry that anything I have said
should be taken to imply a desire on my part to depreciate the value of classical
education, as it might be and as it sometimes is. The native capacities of mankind vary no
less than their opportunities; and while culture is one, the road by which one man may
best reach it is widely different from that which is most advantageous to another. Again,
while scientific education is yet inchoate and tentative, classical education is
thoroughly well organized upon the practical experience of generations of teachers. So
that, given ample time for learning and destination for ordinary life, or for a literary
career, I do not think that a young Englishman in search of culture can do better than
follow the course usually marked out for him, supplementing its deficiencies by his own
But for those who mean to make science their serious occupation; or who intend to
follow the profession of medicine; or who have to enter early upon the business of life;
for all these, in my opinion, classical education is a mistake; and it is for this reason
that I am glad to see "mere literary education and instruction" shut out from
the curriculum of Sir Josiah Mason's college, seeing that its inclusion would probably
lead to the introduction of the ordinary smattering of Latin and Greek.
Nevertheless, I am the last person to question the importance of genuine literary
education, or to suppose that intellectual culture can be complete without it. An
exclusively scientific training will bring about a mental twist as surely as an exclusive
literary training. The value of the cargo does not compensate for a ship's being out of
trim; and I should be very sorry to think that the Scientific College would turn out none
but lop - sided men.
There is no need, however, that such a catastrophe should happen. Instruction in
English, French, and German is provided, and thus the three greatest literatures of the
modern world are made accessible to the student.
French and German, and especially the latter language, are absolutely indispensable to
those who desire full knowledge in any department of science. But even supposing that the
knowledge of these languages acquired is not more than sufficient for purely scientific
purposes, every Englishman has, in his native tongue, an almost perfect instrument of
literary expression; and, in his own literature, models of every kind of literary
excellence. If an Englishman cannot get literary culture out of his Bible, his
Shakespeare, his Milton, neither, in my belief, will the profoundest study of Homer and
Sophocles, Vergil and Horace, give it to him.
Thus, since the constitution of the college makes sufficient provision for literary as
well as for scientific education, and since artistic instruction is also contemplated, it
seems to me that a fairly complete culture is offered to all who are willing to take
advantage of it.
But I am not sure that at this point the "practical" man, scotched but not
slain, may ask what all this talk about culture has to do with an institution, the object
of which is defined to be "to promote the prosperity of the manufactures and the
industry of the country." He may suggest that what is wanted for this end is not
culture, nor even a purely scientific discipline, but simply a knowledge of applied
I often wish that this phrase, "applied science," had never been invented.
For it suggests that there is a sort of scientific knowledge of direct practical use,
which can be studied apart from another sort of scientific knowledge, which is of no
practical utility, and which is termed "pure science." But there is no more
complete fallacy than this. What people call applied science is nothing but the
application of pure science to particular classes of problems. It consists of deductions
from those general principles, established by reasoning and observation, which constitute
pure science. No one can safely make these deductions until he has a firm grasp of the
principles; and he can obtain that grasp only by personal experience of the operations of
observation and of reasoning on which they are founded.
Almost all the processes employed in the arts and manufactures fall within the range
either of physics or of chemistry. In order to improve them one must thoroughly understand
them; and no one has a chance of really understanding them, unless he has obtained that
mastery of principles and that habit of dealing with facts which is given by long -
continued and well directed purely scientific training in the physical and chemical
laboratory. So that there really is no question as to the necessity of purely scientific
discipline, even if the work of the college were limited by the narrowest interpretation
of its stated aims.
And, as to the desirableness of a wider culture than that yielded by science alone, it
is to be recollected that the improvement of manufacturing processes is only one of the
conditions which contribute to the prosperity of industry. Industry is a means and not an
end; and mankind work only to get something which they want. What that something is
depends partly on their innate, and partly on their acquired, desires.
If the wealth resulting from prosperous industry is to be spent upon the gratification
of unworthy desires, if the increasing perfection of manufacturing processes is to be
accompanied by an increasing debasement of those who carry them on, I do not see the good
of industry and prosperity.
Now it is perfectly true that men's views of what is desirable depend upon their
characters; and that the innate proclivities to which we give that name are not touched by
any amount of instruction. But it does not follow that even mere intellectual education
may not, to an indefinite extent, modify the practical manifestation of the characters of
men in their actions, by supplying them with motives unknown to the ignorant. A pleasure -
loving character will have pleasure of some sort; but if you give him the choice, he may
prefer pleasures which do not degrade him to those which do. And this choice is offered to
every man who possesses in literary or artistic culture a never - failing source of
pleasures, which are neither withered by age, nor staled by custom, nor embittered in the
recollection by the pangs of self reproach.
If the institution opened to - day fulfils the intention of its founder, the picked
intelligences among all classes of the population of this district will pass through it.
No child born in Birmingham, henceforward, if he have the capacity to profit by the
opportunities offered to him, first in the primary and other schools, and afterward in the
Scientific College, need fail to obtain, not merely the instruction, but the culture most
appropriate to the conditions of his life.
Within these walls the future employer and the future artisan may sojourn together for
awhile, and carry, through all their lives, the stamp of the influences then brought to
bear upon them. Hence, it is not beside the mark to remind you that the prosperity of
industry depends not merely upon the improvement of manufacturing processes, not merely
upon the ennobling of the individual character, but upon a third condition, namely, a
clear understanding of the conditions of social life on the part of both the capitalist
and the operative, and their agreement upon common principles of social action. They must
learn that social phenomena are as much the expression of natural laws as any others; that
no social arrangements can be permanent unless they harmonize with the requirements of
social statics and dynamics; and that, in the nature of things, there is an arbiter whose
decisions execute themselves.
But this knowledge is only to be obtained by the application of the methods of
investigation adopted in physical researches to the investigation of the phenomena of
society. Hence, I confess I should like to see one addition made to the excellent scheme
of education propounded for the college, in the shape of provision for the teaching of
sociology. For though we are all agreed that party politics are to have no place in the
instruction of the college; yet in this country, practically governed as it is now
universal suffrage, every man who does his duty must exercise political functions. And, if
the evils which are inseparable from the good of political liberty are to be checked, if
the perpetual oscillation of nations between anarchy and despotism is to be replaced by
the steady march of self - restraining freedom; it will be because men will gradually
bring themselves to deal with political, as they now deal with scientifical questions; to
be as ashamed of undue haste and partisan prejudice in the one case as in the other; and
to believe that the machinery of society is at least as delicate as that of a spinning
jenny, and as little likely to be improved by the meddling of those who have not taken the
trouble to master the principles of its action.
In conclusion, I am sure that I make myself the mouthpiece of all present in offering
to the venerable founder of the institution, which now commences its beneficent career,
our congratulations on the completion of his work; and in expressing the conviction that
the remotest posterity will point to it as a crucial instance of the wisdom which natural
piety leads all men to ascribe to their ancestors.