Impact – a view from 1924

I sometimes have to hunt through old Annual Reports of the Medical Research Council to look for snippets of history about people or research and it is often striking how the broad themes addressed are still with us today.
Take this, for example, from the 1923-24 MRC Annual Report (p.19)
.bq The Council would here point again, as they have on previous occasions, to the dangers of estimating scientific progress, over short as opposed to long periods, in terms of practical results. These dangers beset all bodies having the disposal of funds for research purposes. The tempting direct attack upon an urgent problem of disease may, or may not, be long, wasteful, and fruitless. The apparently academic and unpractical work of today may give the key to a score of old problems and lead at once to new and unexpected powers. Faith must be put unreservedly in the scientific workers themselves. The best and earliest success can only come from their free and disinterested work, in pursuit of clues that may lie here or there. …recent history shows that sterility is soon reached when scientific work is tied to particular practical issues and ceases to be a free search for knowledge as such.
Amen to that!
This issue is fundamental, and has been for over 85 years.

About Frank Norman

I am a librarian in a biomedical research institute. I've been around a few years, long enough to know that exciting new things fall into the same familiar patterns. I'm interested in navigating a path for libraries as we slip from print through to electronic information resources.
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4 Responses to Impact – a view from 1924

  1. Stephen Curry says:

     Another great find Frank (your second today!) 
    If only we could get the government (and the RCs) to take on board the wisdom of “Faith must be put unreservedly in the scientific workers themselves.”

  2. Frank Norman says:

     Thanks, Stephen.  Yes, I thought that sentence might be popular!  

  3. Matt Brown says:

    Wow, that’s almost word for word what Lord Rees was saying on the BBC’s Hard Talk last night. Perhaps he read your post, Frank.

  4. Frank Norman says:

    Matt – I understand that he hangs on my every word 😉