BIOLOGY FOR AMATEUR AND PROFESSIONAL

NEARLY four hundred years ago Pierre Charron wrote ‘La vraie science et le vraie etude de Vhomme c’est I’homme’ a phrase which Pope translated and used in his famous essay as ‘the proper study of mankind is man.’ This statement, like most other generalisations, is too narrow to be entirely correct; there can be no proper study of man unless the whole of his history, his background and his contemporaries and even their ancestors are included. That is to say we believe the proper study of mankind to be man and his world, their origin, growth and development. Surely there is no more close or fascinating theme to us than this, the history of our own selves and surroundings, a history so varied and great that there can be no one who cannot find some subject to his taste if only he seeks.

Enough has already been said to indicate the manifold fields of natural knowledge comprised in those common terms Natural History and Biology. These two terms originally meant the same thing though they have now for practical purposes acquired a slight modification of meaning. The student of natural history is usually named a naturalist, a term that at present connotes an enthusiastic (and usually amateur) worker or collector in the field. He is essentially the practical man who primarily searches for the facts and specimens and only secondarily arranges and examines them in detail. Fortunately, in England, until very recently, the race of naturalists has always been strong, and such enthusiastic workers have made remarkable and valuable contributions to science, have founded some splendid journals, and are virtually the fathers of some excellent museums. Such societies and museums, the fundamental ‘pillars ‘in the scientific edifice, were made by men inspired by Nature; men who loved the fresh air, the trees and flowers, and who, literally, found ‘sermons in stones and books in the running brooks.’ While there is nothing to prevent the naturalist from also being the biologist the latter term has gradually come to mean

something a little more professional. While the naturalist, as we have said, is usually an amateur, the biologist is generally a man who is paid to follow his bent and who has spent years in training for his own particular branch of science. He, too, may love the wind in the willows, the flash of a bird’s plumage, or the song of the stream as well as any naturalist, but his label more often denotes, or seems to imply, rather the quiet investigation of the laboratory or the scratch of pen on paper in the book-lined study; and there are many different and apparently unrelated branches to which the biologist may belong. He may be a research worker interested in cancer, a bacteriologist busy with his microscope, a geologist looking at the amazing complexity of some of the early forms of iife, or some worker on mosquito control.

BIOLOGY THE KEY TO MAN’S ENDEAVOURS HOWEVER great a subject one appreciates biology to be, few fully realise its wide ramifications. Its followers in one way or another are multitudinous, and the work and industries they are concerned with equally large. Brewing and Biochemistry, Mining and Medicine, Prospecting and Publishing, Trawling and Tailoring are only a few of the widely scattered groups which are dependent in some degree upon the work of the biologist. It is important to appreciate this, for the love of nature that the naturalist has, and which some consider to be merely a hobby, has gradually grown into the great science of biology with many branches, some of which, as has been indicated, are necessities of modern civilisation and commerce.

Without a knowledge of insects and of the measures for their control, great areas of the earth now prosperous could not be inhabited, and such a gigantic and time-saving enterprise as the Panama Canal could not have been carried out. Without a knowledge of the microscopic forms of life the conquest of disease would be reduced almost to a farce. The palaeontologist with his detailed and tabulated information of fossils and their range in time has helped the prospector to track the riches of the mineral world and to tap the reservoirs of oil. The brewing of beer, the distillation of whisky, and the making of dyestuffs, depend on a knowledge of many botanical and zoological facts. Cloths and clothing depend on investigation of the breeding of animals just as paper and books require the results of botanical research.

The making of furniture and the building of houses have followed upon a knowledge of wood and trees.

Every object we use, our health and the drugs with which we preserve it, the food we eat and the clothes we wear are all based fundamentally upon the processes of nature. The work we do in office, laboratory, or industry can all be thought out to its basic necessities, and it will be seen that natural science, and generally a biological branch of it, is at the root. Our pleasures too are constantly advancing through such research.

Thus, as one might really suspect, however busy and spectacular the business and industrial powers may be, they cannot with impunity disregard the quietly working biologist. The vast superstructure that we have evolved and erected on our ancient mother earth is part of ourselves, and surely the proper study of ourselves must take notice of all the natural factors past, present, and, as far as possible, future.

THE VALUE OF MAKING CONTACTS

Now, as we have already indicated, many may be attracted to the study of natural things for the very present pleasure such study affords. Others may see in the wide importance of the subject an outlet for professional ambition and the chance of a useful and pleasant career. Both groups will naturally wish to know how further knowledge, on more or less organised lines, may be obtained so that the pleasures of the hobby or the prospects of the career may be increased or made more certain.

In the following paragraphs we shall therefore attempt to outline the sort of education that will best suit these two divergent groups of naturalists, and we shall indicate where and how this training may be obtained.

For the non-professional person who is interested in natural history as a hobby, there are several ways in which he (or she) may develop a wider scientific knowledge out of working hours and either free of expense or at very little cost. They are so well known to many that it would seem needless to mention them here, yet some appear to remain unconscious of the great treasure houses of information that are open to them.

Sooner or later the individual naturalist will tend to specialise or, at least, to prefer one subject to the others he may still enjoy. To develop his general knowledge the most useful

thing to do is to join the local Natural History Society, or any particular branch of such a society which may be desired. In this way the naturalist is brought into touch with people of similar tastes, quite apart from the fact that most of these societies possess suitable premises with a library from which the member may borrow. The society may even manage a small museum, and above all it is certain to arrange lectures on a diversity of appropriate subjects and to organise excursions. It is wise to join such a society even if it is not close at hand, for the annual subscription is usually low and the ability to borrow books is a great convenience and soon recompenses for the annual contribution.

Many such societies have their own journals and the facility of having one’s ideas and observations published is not to be regarded lightly. However obvious this advice may be, it is an unhappy fact that even among the most famous of such bodies, die membership is declining, even although so many persons appear to be interested in the subject they encourage. Perhaps, after all, too few recognise the advantages that accrue from so little expenditure and how useful the strength of combined effort and interest can be.

Every naturalist, whether amateur or professional, should belong to one such society. If the eminent biologist may not gain much from membership at least he has the satisfaction of being able to advise, and to guide the footsteps of those who will eventually fill his place.

TREASURE HOUSES OF KNOWLEDGE: THE MUSEUMS ANOTHER fruitful source of assistance is the local museum, and nowadays the country is well supplied with such iustitu-tions. Most museums have a library accessible under certain conditions to the bona fide student. The exhibited collections give an indication of local or general knowledge systematised. Education can be obtained by examining the series and reading the labels, and especially by comparing one’s own specimens with the material on show.

The larger museums have additional facilities of considerable value, perhaps the most directly useful of which is the series of lectures given by the guide-lecturer, or someone acting in dais capacity. The Natural History Museum in London, for example, has a guide lecturer, scientifically fully qualified, who gives a lecture each morning and afternoon during the week, while on Monday mornings and Sunday

afternoons members of the Museum Scientific Staff give more advanced lectures. In this way, and free of charge, a very good outline of any special branch of natural history can be obtained. Many of the other museums have somewhat similar arrangements, the Horniman Museum in London, for example, running an excellent series of lectures on Saturday afternoons throughout the winter season.

These helpful features are fortunately not confined to London. Museums in Folkestone, Bcxhill, Leeds and Sheffield, to mention only a few, give series of lectures at times to suit the average amateur, and much assistance can usually be obtained in this way. It should not be forgotten that the curators of museums are enthusiastic men only too ready to assist those of an inquiring mind and who show some desire to take the subject seriously.

There are hundreds of museums in this country alone, and the museum is a public university, without age or time limit for its students, and above all free. No amateur (or professional) biologist can afford to neglect these storehouses of knowledge which are the results of the work of generations of enthusiastic men.

THE EVER-OPEN DOOR TO LEARNING

OTHER sources of information are the extra-mural, or extension, courses arranged by various universities. Mention will be made of these later and generally they are held only in the more populous places. If the amateur is bent on a really scientific foundation for his studies he can, of course, attend some university lectures. Nearly every university and college in the country has occasional lectures by distinguished men to which the public are admitted. Further, there are numerous evening schools where a first-class training in a subject may be had usually for quite a small fee. Summer schools in various branches of biology are frequently held at some English universities. They may last for a week or a fortnight and are not expensive.

These university and college activities will be mentioned again later, but from what has been said it will be seen that the person who is a keen naturalist has plenty of strings to his bow. The local natural history, scientific or philosophical society, however it may be named, will be delighted to welcome him, encourage him and be pleased to have his observations and reports. The same is true of the museums. Their

libraries will help his studies, and even if he is so unfortunate as to have no such aids in his locality the National Central Library in Malet Place, London, W.C.I, will allow him to borrow the books he desires through his nearest public-library.

It can truly be said nowadays that there is no bar in this country to those who wish to learn. All the seeker after free knowledge needs is energy and sincerity. Given these elementary qualities and the advice of his librarian and museum curator he can draw upon the richest stores of knowledge at a purely negligible cost. Supplementing reading, writing, and listening to lectures by his customary work in the field, any man will find a hobby that will never fail and that presents a new problem every day. He will soon learn that Nature is ever changing, ever attractive and always accessible. Here is a hobby, a pursuit, for all, of all ages, and of an allurement that will persist.

HOW TO STUDY IN SPARE TIME

THERE are many followers of this hobby who may desire to serve more fully in its cause than can be done in their leisure, and it may have occurred to them that a certificated education, or the attainment of a diploma or degree may place them in a position to give full time to their desires.

There are few universities in Great Britain which allow evening or outside students to proceed to their degrees. The most notable exception is London, where external students are admitted to its examinations and where evening education leading up to the degree standard is quite easily obtained. While it is no light task to work commercially by day and to study by night, hundreds of degrees have been obtained by this method, and the recipients now occupy splendid positions in the scientific world. As examples of affiliated colleges in London which give such training we may cite the Battersea Polytechnic, Birkbeck College, Chelsea Polytechnic, and Northampton Polytechnic.

I The fees in these institutions are moderate and the tuition excellent, but they are in London. Those who desire further particulars of them should write to the Registrar of the individual college or institute, or better still to the Registrar of the University of London, S.W.7, for information as to the most suitable evening class.

Outside London there are no fewer than 135 technical

colleges in England, 3 in Ireland, 1 in the Isle of Man, and 4 in Scotland. The addresses of these institutions can all be found in Whitaker’s Almanack, and the Registrar or the Secretary will willingly furnish the applicant with information as to costs and courses. Not all of these colleges or institutes deal with biology, but many of them will provide all that the student needs. A course of one or more subjects will lead, by examination, to a certificate which is always useful.

In addition to this form of education, advantage should be taken wherever possible of the university extension lectures. These courses are arranged by certain universities and are conducted by highly competent lecturers. Attendance over a few years will give an excellent education along the selected line, and again certificates are awarded under certain circumstances. Such courses are conducted in England under the auspices of the universities or colleges at Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Exeter, Hull, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool, London, Manchester, Neweastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Reading, Sheffield and Southampton, and by each of the four University Colleges in Wales. Information concerning the nature and scope of the various lectures can be obtained on application to the Director of Extra-Mural Studies at the university concerned.

DEGREES FOR THE PART-TIME STUDENT

THE summer schools run by one or two universities and the facilities occasionally obtainable at marine biological stations are again useful, but these are intended for people who have some acquaintance with the subject, and are more in the nature of refresher courses. The announcements concerning them are to be found usually in the advertisement pages of the scientific weekly Nature.

By a judicious selection or combination of these methods the part-time student will be able to obtain some sort of certificate, if, indeed, he does not take a degree, which will help him towards a biological career.

The claims of the various correspondence schools should not be overlooked. The whole theory of the subject is adequately taught and arrangements are made for practical work, so that by this means alone the student can proceed at a moderate cost to an external degree in Arts or Science of London University, no matter in what district he lives or how he is employed. The examinations, of course, have to be

taken in London under the very strict university regulations. The path of the part-time student is therefore fairly clear, though it will never be easy and it demands an amount of determination and hard work, which is itself an eloquent testimony to the character of the student.

We must say something, however, for the young man or woman who wishes to take up biological work as a career, and who is prepared to devote his or her whole time to the study. A certain amount of biology is now taught in the schools, so that at a comparatively early stage the student has perhaps decided on the subject that is most attractive. It need hardly be pointed out, however, that early decisions are not infrequently regretted or changed, and since most of the biological sciences are interrelated there is ample opportunity for the development of new interests.

THE BEST TRAINING FOR THE PROFESSIONAL

WHAT then is the best method of procedure? If the student definitely decides at school to go in for Natural Science then the immediate problem is the entrance examination to a selected university and the determination on the course to be pursued there, for there is no doubt that a university education and a degree are essential. The matriculation examination may usually be taken at school, though the form and conditions vary with the different universities. From a general point of view the natural science degrees will include the same subjects, the only difference being the emphasis on certain subjects that the student’s taste dictates.

It is perhaps too seldom realised that the best biological education for those with the time and money to spare is the medical degree course. Medical men spend four years or so in the study of one particular animal from all aspects, and this study is preceded by one or two years’ study of zoology, botany, chemistry and physics. A medical degree is a splendid general biological education with the additional advantage that the student has two strings to his bow. First, one of the purely biological avenues he sees in the course of his studies, and, secondly, the practice of medicine. The professional aspect of this study will be mentioned later when we deal with the question of remuneration.

Usually, however, the student will enter a university or college to study zoology, botany, geology or anthropology,

and a word or two of advice and caution may be given. In the first place the ultimate object must be a good honours degree; a pass degree, though a sign of a good general education, is almost useless in the competition for an attractive post, so that an honours standard should be the student’s goal. What class of honours he attains ultimately will depend on his natural aptitude for the subject and his industry, but a first- or second-class honours degree will see him well on the way towards congenial employment.

Then, however much one subject may be admired, the others should not be neglected. In the first place degrees are not given for three or four years’ study of one subject alone, and in the second place, there is no subject that cannot be amplified by, or is unconnected with, another. The embryo zoologist should therefore not neglect some botany which will tell him of the conditions of life in another kind of medium, while the comparison of reactions of the two types of life are interesting. To understand the working of living things some knowledge of chemistry and physics is essential and, indeed, the first science examination, by whatever name it passes in the different centres, usually makes such a combination of subjects obligatory.

In his later studies for his final examination the student of zoology will have his principal subject and one or more subsidiary subjects, which might be botany, geology (or palaionto-logy), or physiology. There are often also special facilities for a greater study of insects since quite a number of universities now have a chair of entomology, and the subject is one of great commercial and professional importance.

Those who are interested in botany should follow a somewhat similar course, giving, of course, more attention to their chief subject, and perhaps less to geology, for it is exceptional for much paleobotany to be taught in the Geological Departments nowadays. The importance of the study of fungi should not be forgotten, for mycologists are much in demand at present.

Geologists, and that includes those who study paheontology, must modify their studies according to the side they prefer. Those interested in minerals and rocks need to understand a great deal of chemistry and physics, while for palaeontologists, botany, zoology and anatomy are most valuable subsidiaries. Further, while the student of invertebrate palaeontology cannot do without zoology he will find anatomy of little use,

while the vertebrate palaeontologist will find a study of human anatomy both fascinating and of constant usefulness.

Of the other sciences which have to do with biology, anthropology is an interesting study with a strong zoological and anatomical background.

WHEN THE STUDENT SHOULD SEEK ADVICE COMPLETE information of the facilities available and of the recommended courses of study for the appropriate degree will readily be furnished on application to the Registrar of the selected university, while the student’s tutor will always give the best possible advice on the particular case. Some advice is often very necessary, for as the education develops and interests widen, new attractions come into view and the first love may be deserted. This may be a wise move but it needs reshaping of studies and an abandonment of preconceived ideas. Here it is that the experienced teacher can advise and help the student not only as to the immediate changes involved but also as to the ultimate possibilities.

As no good house is ever built on poor foundations so it is most unwise to confine one’s studies or interests within too narrow walls. Speed in graduation and a limitation of outlook are often attractions for an undergraduate, but the result is apt to be regretted later on. All the biological sciences are interwoven and a knowledge of something of them all is ultimately desirable if not absolutely necessary. Wide studies, ample experience of the different laboratory methods and above all an acquaintance with the literature of natural history and its accessibility are of great importance. Equally so is a knowledge of, or at least the ability to read, German. Scientific work without this ability is almost an impossibility.

Happy is the student, young or old, who can add to these accomplishments and qualifications the ability to write good English and the gift of drawing. His publications will be natural and valuable, and his fame more easily achieved.

Besides the degrees in Arts, Pure Science, and Medicine suitable for the persons we have in mind, several universities have additional diplomas or certificates which may prove desirable. Such for example are the diplomas in Agriculture, Archaeology, and Anthropology, of Cambridge; the diploma in Animal Biology, of Leeds; the diplomas in Anthropology, Archaeology, Biology, Biochemistry, of London; the diploma

of Bacteriology, of Manchester; and somewhat similar diplomas and certificates of Oxford and Reading.

A full list of these subjects and qualifications can be obtained from the Yearbooks or Calendars published by the various universities and also from The University Yearbook (Bell).

THE PROSPECTS OF EMPLOYMENT

WHEN eventually the undergraduate becomes a graduate, after a period of research, or perhaps immediately on qualification, the question arises as to the professional possibilities of his studies. He wants to know what outlets exist for the educated and fully qualified biologist.

First of all there are the schools. As we have already mentioned biology is coming, at last, into its proper place in the modern curriculum in both boys’ and girls’ schools. Thus teachers are required and a congenial and useful career is therefore available for those who have a liking for teaching and not averse to exercising their art upon young persons. At any rate tins opportunity does now definitely exist, though it is of recent growth. Especially good work in natural science has been done in recent years by the science masters and staff of such boys’ public schools as Marlborough, St. Paul’s, and Winchester. The salaries, of course, vary with the different class of school but are generally, from the present-day point of view, satisfactory. The positions are more or less permanent, and provide facilities for pensions on retirement.

Then there are posts in the technical colleges to which we have referred earlier. These consist in demonstratorships, lectureships, headships of departments, and professorial chairs with a salary scale of roughly ^250 to £1000 per annum. Promotion is by merit and selection, and it is possible to become even the principal or director of the institution, although it must be remembered that biology is not the only subject taught there. In these technical colleges, where evening teaching is also done, there is probably less time for original work than in a college with a less onerous syllabus, but the work presents many opportunities and the staff meet keen students.

The universities offer similar positions to those in technical colleges, but the salaries and the professional status are higher. There are quite a number of vacancies every year for which those with a first- or second-class honours degree will be

serious applicants. Obviously those with post-graduate research work to their credit will be more suitably equipped, and the opportunities for this should not be overlooked nor its value underestimated. Most of the large universities are well endowed with Fellowships, Scholarships and various research-grants which are usually sufficient to maintain the student for a year or two and to permit him to do some useful piece of work under the supervision of the head of his department. In this way lies perhaps the best approach to academic life. The ultimate end of such a career is usually a professorship with a salary of £1000 to £1200 a year. Riches will, therefore, not lie much in the biologist’s path, but it will be a pleasant life among quiet ways.

CONGENIAL POSTS IN THE MUSEUMS

IN addition to academic lines of employment there are numerous other opportunities for biologists. The museums, for example, employ many botanists, zoologists and geologists. The British Museum (Natural History) has a scientific staff of fifty-two who are qualified in this way, the salaries running from £350 or so to £1400 per annum. The entrance regulations and the competition are naturally rather severe. The principal museums throughout the country have similarly qualified persons and pay salaries of between £250 and £800. Within recent years, thanks very largely to the efforts of The Museums Association, conditions of employment in museums generally and salaries have greatly improved. The museum man has come to be regarded rightly as a well-qualified friend and adviser of the public, and consequently the applicant for a position is expected to have a good degree and a good all-round interest in his work. The Museums Association has recently put a diploma scheme into operation whereby persons who have entered the profession can be examined and granted diplomas on museum competence which, with the additional scientific qualifications the curator has, forms a very important testimonial. No longer can museums be regarded as dull institutions and the larger of them must be looked on as affording congenial employment which is suitably paid, close contact with interesting and enthusiastic people, and ample opportunities for work in the open.

In the same way some of the larger libraries call for qualified biologists, and nowadays the libraries form a very important factor in public education so that they must quite definitely

be considered among the possible sources for appointments. Museums have usually a good library which needs a scientifically-minded librarian, but there are several large libraries and special information bureaux where a biologist is necessary.

SOME ATTRACTIVE BYWAYS OF A BIOLOGIST’S CAREER

APART from these obvious forms of employment, there are many government appointments at home and abroad. The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries has numerous departments where those qualified in natural science are wanted. Those trained in entomology might find an outlet in the Imperial Institute of Entomology at home or as entomologists abroad, where this subject is of immense importance in agriculture and public health. Some excellent appointments are available in these fields. In botany, and especially in mycology, there are similar opportunities at, for example, Kew Gardens, the Imperial Institute of Mycology, and as government mycologists in the colonies.

For geologists and palaeontologists there are many openings in the Geological Survey and the Museum of Practical Geology, in colonial geological surveys, or with the great oil companies, and with many mining and prospecting ventures.

The hospitals, too, require trained biologists for work in zoology, botany and bacteriology. Biochemical work is now much to the fore. With so much attention now paid to cancer research there are great possibilities in hospital work both for research and for teaching.

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