Selected Speeches of Julius A. Stratton
Addressed to the whole body of educated men, these speeches and talks from the decade 1956-1965 were originally prepared for delivery before administrators and managers, educators and students, scientists and engineers, and the general public; indeed, their chief concern is with the increasing intersection of the fields of activity of these once divergent groups.
Julius Stratton, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Ford Foundation and former President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is especially well qualified to discuss these matters. Long before the Sputnik-spurred reappraisal of American education, he advocated – and implemented – broadened content and rigorous method in scientific education and a strong coupling between teaching and research as the driving force of scientific advance. And he eloquently affirms here the public responsibility of the university, which must involve itself with the larger society it serves and shapes. Conversely, he feels that the public – through the use of federal funds – is properly involved with the university and that the university is the natural agency for undertaking government-sponsored research. On this basis, he pointedly argues that the public will be best served in the long run if it allows the university to operate with maximum academic freedom and self-direction.
Likewise, the relation between the scientist and the general public is seen here as a bilateral one. Clearly, the scientist must be more deeply educated in the humanities and social sciences, and his role as a citizen who can make special contributions to public debate and administration must be both more active and more realistically defined. At the same time, the public does not understand the nature of science nearly well enough; the educated man will learn that science itself has intrinsic moral values and embodies modes of thinking that have universal validity. In short, Dr. Stratton would encourage a greater mutual interaction among the disciplines: “The task of articulating or welding together these components of learning into systems of understanding offers the highest intellectual challenge of our time.” He feels that although a détente has been established between the “two cultures,” a free trade of ideas is still a distant hope.
In regard to engineering education, Dr. Stratton proposes innovations in two directions. On the one hand, he envisions the “scientist-engineer” – an engineer who can work at fully scientific levels of rigor, who can communicate with the scientist as an equal partner, and whose sense of profession is inwardly ingrained as well as outwardly expressed; this, he submits, will attract still better minds into the engineering professions. And on the other hand, he describes the “manager-engineer” as one trained to give direction to advancing technology and to relate it to the real needs of our society.
The central theme that underlies these various considerations is clearly sounded in the title address: “We must allow no gulf to grow between scientists and the great body of educated people. The education of scientists and engineers is now too serious a matter to remain wholly the concern of the profession itself. The liberal education of all people is a matter of equal moment to us as scientists.”