The Value of Science in Society and Culture: Selections from the Speeches, Essays and Articles of Gerhard Herzberg (book abstract)

Paul Dufour

The Value of Science in Society and Culture: Selections from the Speeches, Essays and Articles of Gerhard Herzberg (edited by A.M. Herzberg and P. Dufour), Queen's University, 2019

This edited book provides a selection of Nobel Laureate Gerhard Herzberg’s views on key issues affecting the relationship among science, society and culture. While his science and research were well recognized globally, Dr. Herzberg’s writings and advocacy on the role that science has in improving the understanding of our world remain highly relevant today. This book highlights his cogent views on the notion of excellence, public policy and culture.

He made clear his disdain for creeping bureaucracy in the administration of research and calls for its immediate economic returns. As he noted: Here in Canada, we should be able to spend a proportionate amount of money for the advance of knowledge without considering at every step, what it is doing for the economy of the country.

GH, as he came to be known, was outspoken on the strengths of Canadian science, arguing that at times, Canadians tend to belittle their accomplishments. And, in speaking over the years to many groups of students he reminded them that: your aim should be to make Canada a  country that is recognized throughout the world, and throughout history, as a country that has advanced in a significant way the progress of science, art and literature.

A strong promoter of peace and human rights, GH had little time for those who would try to repress freedom and stifle creativity and curiosity. He maintained that society’s survival would depend heavily on ensuring that citizens embraced the works of art, literature and knowledge as the essence of human existence…

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