Opening of the New Science Schools
Article originally published shortly after the opening of the Kelvin Building at The Leys School.
On Saturday the 28th of October, 1893, there was the most remarkable gathering of University dignitaries that The Leys School has yet seen. The majority of the heads of Cambridge Colleges were among the guests, and few of the more distinguished Professors and Lecturers were absent. The occasion was the opening by the President of the Royal Society of the New buildings, which have been erected and fitted to afford more perfect facilities for instruction in Natural Science.
The proceedings opened in the Hall and Dr. Moulton presided, having on his right the guest of the day, Lord Kelvin, and on his left the Master of Trinity (Dr. Butler), next to whom came Sir George Haytor Chubb, the Treasurer. Among the other guests may be mentioned:-
The following wrote most kindly expressing their great regret at being unable to be present:-
The Leys School Kelvin Building in 1893.
Dr. MOULTON, in proposing, after the loyal toast, the toast of "The University", said it was through the powerful attractive influence of the University that The Leys School was drawn to Cambridge. They would never forget the kind reception which was given to them, and the uniform kindness which had been shown to the School by the University during their short life of 18 years.
Professor JEBB, M.P., in returning thanks, said that all members of the University must feel a genuine satisfaction in the prosperous activity of The Leys School, which was bound to them by very close ties, both personal and local. The opening of the new science building reminded them that the School, like the University, was responding to new requirements. The University congratulated the School on its acquisition. It was to schools like The Leys that the University must look for the preparation of those forces without which they could not hope to discharge adequately their manifold duties and responsibilities to the nation. (Cheers.)
Sir GEORGE H. CHUBB, in proposing the toast of the day, "Our Guest", said he was speaking the mind of all the Governors when he said it gave them great pleasure and relief that at last they were able to inaugurate the new buildings. No school was now complete without adequate scientific appliances, and it was certainly due to Dr. Moulton and the staff that they should have all that was necessary to carry on the work of the School effectively. The Governors also congratulated themselves on the presence of Lord Kelvin, who had been for forty seven years one of the leading professors in the University of Glasgow.
Lord KELVIN, in reply, spoke of the advance made in science teaching since he joined the Cambridge University fifty-two years ago as a member of Peterhouse. Their fondest anticipations at that time as to what might be done never came up to that which had been realised. In those days they had nothing but mathematics and classics in Cambridge, and the undergraduates who took advantage of the teaching of great men in any other branches of instruction were exceedingly rare. Progress, however, had been rapid since then in the teaching of science in the public schools. He believed that the glories of the oldest public schools would not in any way be diminished, and that the splendid results attained in classics would not be made less, but rather enhanced, by the introduction or other branches of instruction. Many Public Schools now had physical and chemical laboratories; but he doubted whether any of them had better arrangements than those which had been established at The Leys. This School might be held up as an example to all the ancient public schools which had not already got something as good. He should like to make it known that for a thorough-going classical scholar science was a recreation. On the other hand, he did think that classics and literary studies and history were quite necessary for every science student. After referring to the great services which the University had rendered to science, he remarked that it was not imagined twenty years ago that a public school would be equipped as The Leys School now was, and that practical training would be given in the Natural Sciences in order that pupils going up to the University might be properly prepared for University work. Such a change was comparable with the great revival of learning 300 years ago. (Cheers.)
The MASTER OF TRINITY proposed the toast of "The School". He said that those who had been at Cambridge longest, and had watched the solid and rapid growth of the School, rejoiced at its prosperity. The institution was one which commended itself to the cordial sympathy and to the affection of almost every man of note in the University. He spoke as an old headmaster when he said that, although theoretical educationalists might lay down their systems, map out their hours, and erect noble buildings with the very latest improvements that science could devise, it rested with the boys to make or mar. The boys and the masters must be got to understand one another, to live with one another, and to play with one another if the lessons were to be a success. He prayed that these noble buildings might grow into a powerful centre of intellectual life, which would send forth into the University men whom the nation would delight to honour, as it did the great man who had come among them that day.
After having inspected the various laboratories and lecture rooms, the company assembled in the theatre to which, Dr. Moulton announced with great pleasure, Lord Kelvin had consented to give his name.
His LORDSHIP then formally declared the building open, and in doing so emphasized the importance of teaching science not merely by books and diagrams, but by practical work. His own special field was the physical laboratory, but they had much more there. He saw that there was a well-fitted elementary chemical laboratory for fifty boys; and a highly organised laboratory for more advanced students. There were great advantages to be derived from practical scientific work in the other departments of study. The first thing necessary for scientific students was hard, conscientious work, though it should not be for too many hours consecutively, or to the exclusion of athletics. The physical laboratory was the best school of faith, for there; in response to the keenest questioning, nature gave always the clearest replies - never half truths. Not alone what "would pay" or would ensure a position in life should be studied, but those things which when mastered would remain eternally pleasant possessions of the mind.
Professor ARMSTRONG followed and said that the whole future of technical education, in which he was so much interested, depended upon the foundation laid in the public schools. At the present moment what they were doing was almost a failure because of the very insufficient and defective preparation received by boys at school. If science work was to be properly carried out it must be entirely practical, and they had the best possible evidence that it was to be practical in that school. A good preliminary training was necessary, and if this could be given, as it was being given, in many of the London Board Schools with the miserable accommodation and apparatus, which they possessed, how much more would a school like The Leys carry out? (Hear, hear).
Professor DEWAR asserted that such accommodation and instruction were necessary for the intellectual defence of the empire, and that The Leys would soon reap the benefit.
Professor M. FOSTER likewise enlarged upon the advantages to be derived in such schools from scientific instruction.
Mr. P. W. BUNTING also spoke, after which the proceedings terminated.
Republished by A.P.Harmsworth, Head of Physics, December 2005