The Centenary Oration, 28 August 1952
The University of Sydney Centenary celebrations commenced in 1950 and commemorated various important phases in the foundation of the University.
The Centenary Oration was delivered at 2.30pm on 28 August 1952 in the Great Hall, University of Sydney, by The Honourable K W Street, Lieutenant-Governor and Chief Justice of New South Wales, in the Great Hall.
The Centenary Oration was delivered at 2.30pm on 28 August 1952 in the Great Hall, University of Sydney, by The Honourable K W Street, Lieutenant-Governor and Chief Justice of New South Wales, in the Great Hall in the presence of His Excellency the Governor-General, Sir William McKell. The Chancellor Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn presided.
This was the main public function of the Centenary Celebrations and was attended by members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps, representatives of the Services and the Churches, senior members of the Judiciary, the State Public Service and the commercial and industrial community, and by many graduates of the University of Sydney.
A Guard of Honour was provided by the Sydney University Regiment on the occasion of the Official Visit of His Excellency the Governor-General, Sir William McKell, to the University.
The Chancellor gave the introduction; the Loyal Address to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was read by the Vice-Chancellor, Emeritus Professor Steven Henry Wallace; and the Royal Greeting in Reply was read by the Governor-General. The Centenary Oration was then delivered by The Honourable K W Street.
This ceremony was amplified to the Quadrangle, where seating was provided.
It was followed at 4.00pm by a Garden Party in the Quadrangle given by the Chancellor and the Senate.
Your Excellency, Your Honour, My Lord Bishop, Your Grace, other distinguished visitors, ladies and gentlemen: In extending to you a very warm welcome, I am sure you would wish me to extend a very special and loyal welcome to His Excellency, who has done us the honour to be with us this afternoon as representative in the Commonwealth of Her Majesty Our Queen.
An oration by common usage is regarded as a formal address given to the public on some important occasion or in relation to some important people. Surely there could be no more important occasion in this State or, indeed, in this Commonwealth, than the commemoration of the opening of its first University; and no greater people to be commemorated on such an occasion than those who were responsible for founding it. It must have been a hazardous adventure for those great pioneers when they had to set out and persuade a hesitant 187,000 people to found a university. When they founded the University they did so in the old-fashioned ivory tower with two portals, Arts and Laws. It must have been a great encouragement to them when in 1858 they received the royal blessing of Her Majesty, the late Queen Victoria, and a Royal Charter.
The next great adventure was when the School of Medicine, the third portal of the ivory tower, was opened. Here again there were repeated the warnings that the time was not ripe, and that the University could not regard itself as having the capacity to educate students in medicine.
But already there was evidence of the rising tide of the advance of science, and soon the University had to abandon the ivory tower and come down to the plains and build ever-multiplying portals, the faculties in the sciences. However, through the warm welcome that this University gave to science, great lustre has been brought to it by its distinguished students in very many branches of the ever-expanding scientific studies.
Unfortunately, this brilliant newcomer was occupying so much of the nest and had more than the voracious appetite of the cuckoo, so that from thence forward finance was the great problem of this University.
Those difficulties were solved in the first place by the assistance of the Government, and since that time, I am glad to say, Governments, both Commonwealth and State, have shown an increasing appreciation of the desirability of spending more of the people's money in the higher education of the people themselves.
And now, at the end of our first century, we are in the position of realising the prediction made by our great founder, William Charles Wentworth, when, in bringing forward this Bill in the Legislative Council, he said that he saw in this measure the facility given to the child of every man of every class to become great and useful in the destinies of this country. He saw the path opened for the poor man to the highest position which the country could afford. So far from this being an institution for the rich, he took it to be an institution for the poor.
Speaking of that great Sir Charles Wentworth, if we could believe, as some people will tell us, that his spirit might be permitted to enter his statue and look towards this dais this afternoon, he would indeed be proud to see that it was a graduate of the Law School he founded, now holding the highest position in the legal hierarchy of the State, who is to make the oration.
To Her Most Gracious Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God the Queen of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, Supreme Liege Lady in and over the Commonwealth of Australia.
May it please Your Majesty:
On the occasion of the Centenary of the University of Sydney, The Chancellor and Fellows of the Senate beg to present their humble assurances of continued and unswerving loyalty to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
The University was founded in 1850, during the reign of Her Majesty Queen Victoria, by an Act of the Governor and Legislative Council of the Colony of New South Wales, which received the Royal Assent the following year.
Instruction was first given in October, 1852, and the University is now preparing to celebrate the Centenary of this occasion, which marked the beginning of tertiary education in Australia.
The profound interest in all matters connected with education throughout the British Commonwealth, which was shown by Her Majesty Queen Victoria and which has remained with Her Successors, inspired the gratitude and admiration of all Her subjects.
The issue of a Royal Charter to the young University within the first decade of its life was the surest guarantee of its vigorous growth, securing for it immediate recognition by the older Universities in England and Scotland and ensuring its acceptance in the academic world.
The University has been most fortunate, too, in the encouragement and assistance it has received from the Governors of New South Wales in their capacity as Official Visitors to the University.
The University feels proud of the academic standards it has maintained and the achievements of its graduates, many of whom have occupied high public office or have gained academic distinction in Universities throughout the English-speaking world.
At the beginning of the second century of its existence the University looks forward with confidence to the future, affirms its steadfast allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and prays that she may long reign over a prosperous and united Commonwealth.
In the name of the Senate of the University of Sydney.
(Signed) C. BICKERTON BLACKBURN Chancellor.
The Chancellor, Sydney University, New South Wales.
I send you my sincere thanks, Mr. Chancellor, for the kind and loyal message which you have addressed to me on behalf of the Senate of the University of Sydney, now celebrating its Centenary.
I much appreciate your warm references to the interest which I and my predecessors on the Throne have taken in the progress of education throughout the British Commonwealth. Please convey to all connected with the University my hearty congratulations on the achievements of its first hundred years and my con.fidence and good wishes for its future.
7th August, 1952
Mr. Chancellor, Your Excellency, Fellows of the Senate, distinguished visitors, ladies and gentlemen: One hundred years ago, on the 11 th October, 1852, the Inauguration Ceremony held that day in the big schoolroom of what is now the Sydney Grammar School, marked the birth of the Sydney University, the first university in the southern hemisphere; and it is the Centenary of that foundation that we have recently been celebrating. Today the honour has fallen to me, a graduate of this University, to speak to you in commemoration of that occasion. I approach my task with diffidence, fully conscious of my own limitations and that I walk per ignes suppositos cineri doloso. I have not the tongue of a Woolley or a Badham, and, moreover, there are amongst those listening to me today many who will detect any error or mis-statement of fact to which I may commit myself. I can only hope that the same licence will be allowed to me as is customarily supposed to be given to those who clothe their thoughts in the language of poetic fancy.
But before I begin to speak it is desirable to have some idea of a definition of the subject of my discourse and to understand what is involved in the concept of the word 'commemoration' as it is used on occasions such as the present. Without defining the word fully, it is clear that it falls for consideration under two heads, or divisions, both of which we must bear in mind today. Firstly, we pay our tribute of homage and acknowledgment to those who in the past laboured to bring this University into existence and to nurture it during the past century. That debt to the past must be in the forefront of our thoughts today, and due heed must be given to this aspect of our ceremony. But to confine ourselves to the mere recollection of a list of names would not be altogether a satisfactory method of dealing with the subject, and their number is such that to tell the full tale would weary you beyond endurance; while to limit myself to a selection of those names would seem to be invidious. In our mind's eye we look back over the past century and we call to memory the general picture of the growth and progress of this University up to the present day. It is the centennial birthday of this seat of learning that we celebrate, and that necessarily involves thought for the past. But that should not be the only thought in our minds. Standing here in what Oliver Wendell Holmes calls "this golden niche in time," we look not only backward to the past but we look forward also to the future. Speaking generally - and here I recognise the pitfalls in my path, and that my generalisations are not the whole picture - but speaking in that fashion, I think it may be said that in the pagan view of life the Golden Age was always in the past. The Greeks, for example, regarded themselves as the degenerate descendants of the gods, and the idea of progress by man on this earth held little or no place in the pagan view of life.
But we regard ourselves as the civilized and articulate descendants of simian ancestors, aspiring always to a higher and more perfect form of life on this earth. Man now looks to the Golden Age in his own future, dissatisfied with things as they are, always hoping for the new era, and the new life, and the new knowledge, when humanity shall find its Paradise upon earth. Unfortunately, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge is sometimes bitter fare, and Paradise has been lost before now by the eating of that fruit. Yet we still look to the future; we still see the vision splendid on the distant heights; we still seek to accumulate knowledge and experience and the instruments of living, firm in the belief that these are a means whereby a full and happy life shall be assured to us. The part this University is to play in achieving that end is something we must also bear in mind today. It is insufficient to pay lip service to our obligations; and if today we acknowledge our debt to the founders and benefactors of this University, and to all who have laboured in its service, whether as teachers, workers, or students, then we must discharge that debt by ensuring that the work so nobly begun will be carried on with equal firmness and determination. Great things have been done, but much yet remains to be performed; and by that performance we must pay the debt we owe to those whose work and benefactions we commemorate today. The message of this commemoration is a message of life. The history of this University would indeed be but a dead record unless we are inspired, now and in the future, with that same spirit as moved our forefathers when they planted the mustard seed which has grown into this tree "which shooteth out great branches." We are the heirs of those founders of this University. We are also the trustees for posterity.
And now let us turn our attention to the past, and try to recapture some of the atmosphere of the times and some understanding of the circumstances and the conditions of this colony when this University first came into being. We must exercise our imagination and expunge from our recollection and our thoughts Sydney as it is today - a great metropolis of a million and a half inhabitants. Forget the bricks and mortar which now cover this area, the trains, the trams, the omnibuses, telephones, picture shows, the radio, and the aeroplane, and everything else which goes to make a great modern city. If you can so far strain your imagination as suddenly to switch the clock back for one hundred years, this Great Hall and all the buildings of this University would vanish, and this gathering would find itself standing in the yard of one of the dairy farms which at that time covered this area on which the University now stands. Remember that a little more than one hundred and fifty years will carry us back to a stone age culture, the aboriginals being the only inhabitants of this great land, separated from civilization by the long sea route of 14,000 miles round South Africa. In 1850 the colony of New South Wales covered the eastern half of Australia. It included Queensland and Victoria and stretched from Cape York to Bass Strait. The total white population amounted to something in the neighbourhood of 250,000, of which many were transported convicts or the immediate descendants of such. The bulk of this vast area was still in its original wild state, much of it unexplored and unknown, except in general outline. Sydney itself, the capital city of this continent, was a small township of 35,000 to 40,000 people, not even extending as far as the site on which the University now stands. Its western boundary was the shoreline of Darling Harbour, and to the east it stretched as far as Macquarie Street. Southward it reached to Brickfield Hill, somewhere past the spot where Anthony Hordern & Sons' building now stands, and where the toll bar formerly stood near the present Christ Church St. Laurence to mark the city boundary. South and east and west stretched open country, much in its original bush state, with scattered homes and buildings and small hamlets "more or less connected by streets with the parent city" and standing in what are now thickly populated portions of the city and its suburbs. The northern side of the harbour was unoccupied by any human habitation, except for a small settlement at St. Leonards. Twelve families had settled in Manly, the road to that present populous resort being through Parramatta, Hunter's Hill, Gordon, Pittwater and Narrabeen. All around the small township of Sydney the bush stretched endlessly. In 1850 the Tank Stream still ran through the centre of the town and emptied into Sydney Cove, and Bridge Street still had its bridge across that stream. The roads were rough and bullock drays still moved along the city streets. The first train had not been seen in the land; the first steamship had not yet entered Sydney Heads. There were no trams, no telegraphs, no cables; letters to England took months by the long sea route taken by sailing ships. Sydney's water supply came from the ponds and swamps in what is now Centennial Park, and in very truth the infant Sydney, in our modern eyes, was but a small and primitive community. And remember this also - this University was not born in an era of national wealth and prosperity, nor was it the gift of a rich and generous benefactor, greatly as it has benefited since then by the munificence of such men. It was born as the colony was emerging from a condition of acute distress and profound general depression. In the early forties the land fund had failed, and with this was coupled a disastrous drought of some three or four years' duration. Wool dropped until it became almost valueless and sheep and cattle were slaughtered and boiled down for tallow. To those of us who today are concerned with domestic problems it might be interesting to learn that in those days a leg of mutton sold in Sydney for sixpence. Properties became unsaleable and were disposed of for the value of the stock, the land being given in for nothing. The Sydney College, which opened in 1831 and carried on in the building now occupied by the Sydney Grammar School, closed its doors in 1847. It was in this atmosphere, and under these conditions, that the plans for the foundation of the Sydney University were first made, a decision indicative of the spirit of the men of those days, who rose superior to the trials and tribulations that then beset them. If, when you leave this Hall, you turn and look back, you will see on the outside walls, cut in the stone and built into these walls nearly a hundred years ago, two coats of arms or escutcheons, one on either side of the eastern entrance door. On the northern wall of this Hall you will find six more, and on the south-east wall you will find another two. Those escutcheons were carved into the imperishable stone when this Hall was built to commemorate the names and memories of men who were then regarded as having contributed substantially to the creation of this University. The first shield on the south-east wall bears the coroneted heart of the arms of the Black Douglas, the red heart of Robert Bruce, King of Scotland, which that Douglas took back in the 14th Century to be buried in the Holy Land. It is the Coat of Arms of Henry Grattan Douglass, and his is the first name we should remember today. It is a name not often heard now in this connection, but it was one which evidently was in the forefront of the thoughts of those who built this Hall, commemorated in this fashion so that it might not be forgotten. Dr. Douglass came to Sydney in 1821 and from that time took the keenest interest in all matters conducive to the social welfare of the community. In 1848 he returned from a visit to England fired with the idea of establishing a university in this city. It was not an opportune time. The Sydney College had just ceased to exist, and with that portent before them many might have feared to take the step of attempting to found a university. But Douglass returned to this colony filled with enthusiasm for this new project, and the man whom he first approached, and whose sympathies he first sought to enlist, was Francis Lewis Shaw Merewether, whose escutcheon is also to be found on the east wall of this Hall. They obviously had many discussions on the topic, and Merewether told Douglass that the man whose aid he should invoke and who could bring their idea to fruition, if he could be induced to interest himself, was William Charles Wentworth. Wentworth's response was immediate and enthusiastic, and undoubtedly he will always, and justly so, be regarded as the father of this University. He brought to the promotion of this enterprise all the force of his powerful personality. He adopted Douglass' idea with patriotic zeal, and it was he who procured the appointment of a select committee of the Legislative Council to consider the petition which had been signed by all those concerned with the Sydney College, praying that the College buildings might be taken over as a university. His path was not an easy one, as you can imagine, and opposition was not lacking, but he devoted all his energies to the task. Associated with him in this effort was another name never to be forgotten, that of Dr. Charles Nicholson, afterwards Sir Charles Nicholson, President of the Legislative Council, whose name is indissolubly connected with this University through his gift of the Nicholson Museum of Antiquities, now attaining world-wide recognition. It was said that Douglass moved Wentworth, Wentworth moved the Legislative Council, and Nicholson moved heaven and earth; and between them, finally, on the 1st October, 1850, success was achieved, the Royal Assent was given to the Act of Incorporation of this University, and in December, 1850, the first Senate was appointed.
I cannot take time to traverse fully the vicissitudes of those early endeavours, the many discussions, disputes and disagreements that took place as to the form the University should take, the difficulties involved in deciding to what extent it was to be a secular institution, or how far it was to recognise in its teaching the religious or spiritual side of life, and what the exact form of its constitution was to be. Originally it was intended to be an examining and a certifying body only, and not a teaching body, and that is the form for which provision was made in the original Act; but this was changed later and it became both a teaching and examining body, its functions as such being purely secular. The religious and spiritual needs of the students were to be provided for by the erection of denominational colleges within the University grounds.
The first Senate did not remain idle. Immediate steps were taken to select the necessary teaching staff, and the first three appointments were made to chairs in this University in 1852. The Rev. Dr. Woolley became Principal and Professor of Classics; Professor Pell, Professor of Mathematics; and Dr. John Smith, Professor of Chemistry and Experimental Philosophy. They were the first three teachers with whom this University began its career, with additional staff in the form of a Registrar, to which position Dr. Greenup was appointed. The Senate then gave consideration to the question of the provision of accommodation for this new University, and the choice fell upon the building which now forms the College Street front of the Sydney Grammar School. With the building itself there was also taken over a small collection of books, mostly classics, some dictionaries, and, with a careful attention to detail, the inventory records the remaining items with which the University began its career, namely, "a clock, a portrait of Sir Francis Forbes, two maps, two blackboards with stands, and a pair of large globes." With that technical equipment this University entered upon its life's task. The mustard seed had been planted.
Early in October, 1852, the first matriculation examination was held, and 234 candidates succeeded in satisfying the examiners. The standard may not seem to have been a very high one, as all that was called for was a moderate knowledge of the classics, both Greek and Latin, such as was expected of every educated man in those days, some arithmetic, algebra as far as simple equations and the first book of Euclid. With these 24 students, a professorial staff of three, a Registrar, and, I suppose, some small additional working staff, this University commenced to function after the Inauguration Ceremony on the 11 th October, 1852. That was the Ceremony of which I spoke earlier, held in the big schoolroom of the Sydney Grammar School, which marked the foundation of this, the first, and now the largest, University in the southern hemisphere. The speeches on that occasion were delivered by Sir Charles Nicholson, who had been appointed as Vice-Provost, and by Dr. Woolley, with a dignity and an eloquence which I cannot attempt to emulate. The whole spirit of those speeches was one of sanguine expectation and enthusiasm. They voiced the confident hope that this University would be for the people of this land an "everlasting inheritance" and that when this colony achieved the status of a nation, this University would take its place amongst the great schools of learning of the world. We may be well assured that they would feel that their hopes had not been falsified were they to see the University today.
Matters did not remain long at that stage. It was early felt that the first building was not suitable, and that it was inadequate for the purposes for which it was required. The first idea was to expand and enlarge the school building itself. Remember again that the building, as it then stood, was not the Sydney Grammar School as it is now, with its present crowded surroundings. In those days, on the eastern side of the School, vacant ground stretched to the shores of Woolloomooloo Bay and across to the higher land leading to what is now known as King's Cross and Pott's Point, where some of the larger homes had been built. The first plan was to build the University on a portion of that vacant land. Wiser counsels, wiser in the light of after events, prevailed, however, and in 1853 the Government made a grant to the University of 128 acres of ground known as Grose Farm, and to this area a further 14 acres was later added. That is the land upon which all the University buildings now stand, the land now bordered by Parramatta Road, Missenden Road, and City Road, then occupied as farm land. There was an outcry against the choice of this remote site, and some opposition to the University being built out in the wilds of the bush; and even at the Inauguration Ceremony in 1859, held in this Great Hall, some complaints were made that it was so far away as to make it difficult of access. But those who had the vision pressed on. The building committee responsible for the plans of the new building were Wentworth, Nicholson and Merewether, and they are three men never to be forgotten when we think of the origins of this University. The first set of plans was, on Merewether's suggestion, rejected as being inadequate. Another set was prepared, and that was the set which resulted in the present buildings. They were the plans for the whole eastern section of the present main building of the University, including the Tower and the Great Hall. Although Merewether would have desired something even larger and more impressive, Wentworth closed the discussion by saying, in effect, that if they kept on talking and calling for more plans, the committee would never get anywhere. So these plans, prepared by Edmund Blacket, were accepted; and his is a name also to be remembered. His initials will be found, together with the date, 1855, cut in the stone just outside the eastern door of this Hall. It was in 1854 that the work began on the building of this eastern front, and in 1859 it was completed, at a total cost of £80,000. A portion of the new building was earlier in use, for it was in 1857 that the first lectures were delivered in the University on this present site.
I have suggested that you should look at the outside of this Hall when you leave. May I also suggest that you do not content yourselves merely with looking at those coats of arms which I mentioned. Look along the whole front of this building. Look up to all the carved history in the stone; and upwards again to the gargoyles, copies of mediaeval church architecture, carved with all the artistry of mediaeval craftsmen. Look up to the turrets on each corner of the Tower, shaped in the form of a bishop's mitre and each crowned with a representation of the crozier; the bishop's crook casting its protection over all who come within these walls. Look at the beauties of the interior of this Great Hall in which we are gathered today; and remember that these buildings were erected on a dairy farm a hundred years ago. One small and interesting matter concerning the Great Hall reflects Blacket's foresight. It is in connection with the electrical installation, the gift of the Electrical Trades Association, made some twenty-five years ago. Considerable discussion took place as to where the pendants should hang, but when the scaffolding was erected all argument ceased. In the roof of this Hall there were to be found iron hooks bolted into the roof timbers and placed there nearly a hundred years ago. Electric light was then unknown, but those hooks now carry the electric pendants which you see above you. Blacket, the original architect and designer, with prophetic foresight, had fixed them in the roof, probably to carry some form of lighting, and the pendants now hang on the brackets as he placed them, and as he must obviously have intended them to be used.
The first lectures were held in this building in 1857, and progress thenceforward has been steady, though slow at first. When Dr. Badham, one of the great names of this University and a man who set his stamp on generations of students, came here in 1867 he found only 44 undergraduates. Under his principalship the University grew and expanded, and, largely owing to his persuasion, a momentous step was taken in 1881, when women were admitted as members of this University. Two years later the Engineering and the Medical Schools were founded. I cannot trace in detail the development of all the present schools, but those two should be remembered by us today, and particularly the Medical School. This was started in a small four-roomed cottage situated to the west of the Great Hall and between this building and the present Union building. In 1883, with four students, Sir Thomas Anderson-Stuart began the building up of the great School of Medicine that it is today; and his is the name always to be remembered in that connection. It may perhaps interest some here today to know that he had one demonstrator to assist him with those four students - a man who afterwards rose to fame not only as a teacher but also as a great surgeon - Alexander MacCormick. The Engineering School started with three students, and has grown to a position of pre-eminence in this community. To appreciate the progress that has been made you only need to look around and see all the schools and faculties that now exist to realise the growth that has taken place in the community generally and in this University in that short space of time. The open paddocks are now covered with buildings. The 24 students of 1852 have grown to an enrolment in 1951 in the neighbourhood of 10,000. Of those first 24 students, seven graduated at the first ceremony in 1856; today there are in all nearly 28,000 men and women who have received their degrees from this University. The part the University has played in training men and women to take commanding positions in public and professional life, and to lead in every activity in this community, could hardly have been conceived possible by the men who first brought this University into being. The first three professors and the Registrar - a staff of four - have grown to 54 professors, nearly 300 full-time lecturers and demonstrators, and nearly 500 members of the part-time teaching staff, and the total staff now numbers nearly 1500. That such growth should have been possible in so short a time is a tribute not only to the original founders of this institution, but to all who have worked and laboured for it, and whose names I cannot delay to enumerate, worthy as they are of recognition and remembrance. There are the names of the great benefactors. We should remember the Challis Bequest, the first great gift which enabled the University to expand its sphere of operations; there is the Peter Nicol Russell Bequest, upon which the Engineering School is based; the Fisher Bequest, commemorated in the Fisher Library; there is the Bosch Bequest, and the Oswald Watt Fund. And there are many others whose names and benefactions we commemorate every year but which time prevents me from reciting in detail today. They all have played their part in bringing this University to its present position.
And now, what of the future? The last hundred years have, I suppose, been unique in history. We have, metaphorically speaking, been catapulted into a new and different world from that in which this University was founded. It is difficult for us to recapture the atmosphere of those days and to eliminate from our minds all the things that we now accept as normal and commonplace but of which they knew nothing in those times. It is but a short span in the story of mankind, this period of one hundred years, and perhaps I may make my meaning clearer by a picturesque illustration of what I am endeavouring to convey to you. One of the great names in English legal and political history is that of the Earl of Halsbury, seventeen years Lord Chancellor of England, who, at the age of 84, published that standard work known as "Halsbury's Laws of England." He deserves also to be remembered for the part he played in the passing of the Australian Constitution Act through the Imperial Parliament. Halsbury was born in 1823 and died in December, 1921, fifteen months short of a hundred years of age. He preserved his mental powers to the end, and he used to speak of the time when, as a boy of seven, he went out sailing from the Kentish coast, and on one occasion saw the English Fleet coming up the Channel in line of battle. What that old man, who died in 1921, saw as a boy was the English Fleet, with vessels in it that served under Nelson, the wooden walls of England, ships that fought at Copenhagen and Trafalgar; these were seen by him, and later remembered when submarines and Dreadnoughts formed part of the British Fleet. As a boy he went to school as Tom Brown went. He knew the England Mr. Pickwick knew, and Manor Farm, Dingley Dell, was not unfamiliar to him. He saw the first railway train, the first motor car, and the first aeroplane, and he lived to have his rest disturbed by bombs dropped from the air. That one life spanned the gap between two worlds so far apart that we can hardly picture to ourselves what the conditions of living were in the times just preceding the foundation of this University. And we are still moving forward; we are still advancing at breath-taking speed. The question we have to ask ourselves is: Are we to assume that this progress will continue in the same way as it has during the past fifty or one hundred years? We do well to remember that there is no inflexible rule that progress shall continue along any definite lines. Rather, the universal rule is the rule of change. If we are to preserve our new way of life, if we are to progress toward the goal we so eagerly seek, this will only be achieved by conscious and unremitting effort on our part. In that alone lies the assurance of our future security.
Let me go back to the past again for an example of a trusting belief that was rudely confounded. Picture, if you can, a middle-class Romanized Briton, living in England in the Third Century. He lived in a comfortable villa, centrally heated, with all such conveniences as water supply, bathrooms, and up-to-date plumbing which we might in some circumstances envy today. His was a secure and ordered world. He was firmly convinced that the stable society in which he lived would last forever. He formed part of an Empire firmly based and solidly built; with one government, one law, one official language, one coinage. The country was securely policed; it had excellent roads with regular posts travelling along them; and trade flowed freely. If his wife did not have nylon garments, she had a very suitable and equally transparent substitute from the Isle of Cos, and he could procure his new spring overcoat from Cilicia. If he so wished, he could watch a game of football; he could play dominoes at home in the evenings. His wife could have a permanent wave, and she had ample supplies of scented soap and various cosmetics. Life for him, and his family, seemed safe and secure. And yet, within a hundred years that life had vanished, and darkness settled on the land for seven centuries. That orderly life ended; those excellent roads degenerated into muddy horse tracks; the post was supplanted by robbers and highwaymen; the homes were miserable and unwarmed hovels, with glassless windows and rotting rushes on the floor; and rude and uncouth indeed was the way of life in the days of the Heptarchy. That man would never have believed that these could have happened to his world; but yet they did.
Can we be so confident at the present time that our progress over the past century will continue? It is true that science has given us a new world; and the comforts, the conveniences, and the luxuries of life have been multiplied beyond all precedent. Science could do more, if man would so permit; it could abolish the burden of disease, of hunger, of poverty, toil and fear. But is is not through scientific progress alone that we shall secure our own future, or our own salvation. Science is not a good in itself. It is merely power; and whether it is a blessing or whether it is a curse depends upon the spirit with which it is used. It is not power, or force, or fear, that can preserve our civilization and our way of life; in the long run, it is ideas that conquer, it is the spirit that will rule. And so we should ask ourselves: What of man himself? Where does he stand at the end of this hundred years? Has he advanced as a moral and spiritual being in step with his advance in knowledge? I fear that man has lagged in this march of progress. As moral beings it would be hard for us to claim that we have as yet fitted ourselves for life in this brave new world that science has brought into being. Civilization may have altered man's surroundings, but his essential nature has changed but little. Educated men of modern times are still primitive men who have submitted their animal impulses and instincts to some degree of control by reason. But it is not so long ago in our history that death was the penalty for witchcraft; when ignorant yokels sat round eating hard-boiled eggs and waiting for the burnings to begin. It is not so long ago that English law prescribed two hundred offences for which the penalty was death. It is not so long ago that the triangle, on which men were flogged, was a prominent sight in this city. We have applied a veneer and a gloss to our primitive instincts and impulses, but whether we yet hold them in firm subjection is a matter about which we may well ponder. Training and education have brought men from savagery to our present state, and we have erected a barrier of logical, ordered and intelligent thought and discipline between civilization and the jungle. But it is still a frail barrier. It needs constant attention, constant care, and constant strengthening. It is the men and women who pass through this University, and all other seats of learning, to whom we must look to keep watch and ward over this protective wall. The danger to civilization comes not from the multitude of the unintelligent and the unthinking. It comes from the intelligent people who have not been taught to think rationally and with whom primitive impulse is not yet held in firm repression.
There is one quotation I would like to make. They are simple words, quoted by Dr. Woolley in his inaugural address in 1852, and again by the Prime Minister two years ago in this Great Hall. They are the words of Sir William Hamilton, used in the light of things as they existed one hundred years ago, when they were first written:
"The idea of a University," he said, "is twofold. It is first, what its name imports, a school of liberal and general knowledge, and secondly a collection of special schools devoted to the learned professions. Of these, the former is the University, properly so called; the second is complementary and ministerial. The former considers the learner as an end in and for himself, his perfection as man simply being the object of his education. The latter proposes an end out of and beyond the learner, his dexterity, namely, as a professional man."
Those words carry for us an even more vital meaning than they had when they were first written, and when they were quoted by Dr. Woolley a hundred years ago. This dual task of a university must ever be borne in mind, and never lost to sight. The mission of a university is not confined to imparting information or working in fields of scientific research. It exists for the promotion of all that makes for the intellectual advancement and moral elevation of mankind; and one of its functions - and perhaps the major one - is to remind us constantly how much there is in life beyond mere material development and business or professional success. Science is a smaller thing than the human will. It is that will, with all its human fears, and human hopes, and human aspirations, that determines the form of our social system. We must keep our moral standards in line with our scientific and our technical equipment, bearing in mind always that it is the spirit that counts. The heart, the mind, the soul of man will ever reach out farther and farther in this expanding universe in pursuit of the Holy Grail. Therein lies the future safety of the world. Upon this University, and upon every other school and university and place of learning, rests the obligation of playing a determining part in translating the ideal of an educated democracy into a lasting reality.
"Ye shall know the truth-and the truth shall make you free."
Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen:
We have been celebrating a great Centenary. I am sure that in the history of this occasion what will be remembered more than anything else is a great oration. I am sure that never before in this Hall has there been heard a more inspiring address than we have heard today. References have been made to the early days, which must have brought home to us in a way that few if any have realised, what actually was the position of this colony, as it then was, when the University was founded. I wonder what those who read this address at the end of the next century - for it will be a permanent record in the archives of the University - will think about the University of today. Just cast your minds back on what the orator has told you about the surroundings of this institution in those early days and try to cast your minds forward into the future and picture the changes that may occur in another hundred years, and how much of what we now see will remain.
Ladies and gentlemen, I know that I can ask you to agree with me and to show your appreciation by acclamation.
University of Sydney Archives
"The University of Sydney Centenary Celebrations August 26 - August 31, 1952" compiled by the Office of Information and Public Relations. Allan Gamble, Information and Public Relations Officer