from School Archives
The Leader 29 April 1961
DR MANSEL DAVIES, Senior Lecturer at the Edward Davies Chemical Laboratories at Aberystwyth University College, himself an old boy of the Aberdare Boy Grammar School, startled parents and members of the school staff in his Prize Day speech at the Coliseum last week by raising the controversial issue of the scientist and his conscience in this nuclear age.
He is associated with the Council for Nuclear Disarmament, and took part in a Brains Trust during Aberdare’s big Ban-the-Bomb Week.
He told the boys that they should put loyalty to humanity as a whole above loyalty to their school, their town, or their country.
Scientists who were working for the Defence Ministries of their country were probably “merchandising death”, he declared, and he expressed the hope that boys with a scientific future would choose to benefit mankind rather than work at double the salary at installations such as Aldermaston.
Dr. Davies started quietly, congratulating Mr. Jesse Warren, the headmaster, on his annual report. He had checked the performance of the school, he added, and could say it was comparable with any in the country; the number of distinctions gained last year was above the national level.
Then he went on to say that there was “something special about Aberdare.” One would have to travel a great distance to find an area which had had two Parliamentary representatives so worthy of emulation as Keir Hardie and Henry Richard (the Apostle of Peace).
He referred to the loyalty one felt towards one’s school, town and country, and said, “I am going to suggest to you that in the modern world these lights are not necessarily going to suffice . . . we cannot afford to pitch our lights and our reference points on anything less than humanity as a whole.”
The theme of the unity of mankind had a long history and Henry Richard had devoted his public life to that ideal. “Keir Hardie and his Aberdare friends formed a movement that was at least partly based on the ideal of the brotherhood of man. I am afraid that I have to say ‘at least partly’ because I am not too certain where it has got to by today,” he said.
Then he went on, “In the crisis through which we are passing today — and I am sure that none of you who reads the daily papers is in any doubt that the world is passing through a crisis in the mid-twentieth century — we have to ask that our whole outlook be to envisage the problems of humanity as a whole.
Every scientist, wherever he is, in whatever country he lives, should ask himself whether the work in which he is engaged is likely to be contributing to the future benefit of mankind, or whether it is being promoted because it might possibly lead to some more efficient or devastating method of killing people he will probably never see.”
“This question is one that can never be given a precise answer. No scientist knows what is going to arise or develop from his work.
“There are circumstances in which one can be fairly certain of what the consequences will be and I can only state that if this scientist, in whatever country he may be, is working for one of his government’s defence ministries the probability is very high that he is merchandising death.
“You might feel that this is far beyond you. Perhaps you are not aware that if you have Advanced Level passes in two science subjects and very little other experience you can get a post in a place like Aldermaston at a salary of £1,000 per annum. I can only hope that you would rather choose to do work which is more likely to be of some benefit to mankind — even if at half the salary.
“This comment has been made in the past by moralists, and in Wales by our preachers. The only distinction I can draw is that I am prepared to make this as a scientist, as a person with a respect for the facts, and in that respect, as I see it, unless we re-adjust our attitude very rapidly and put humanity first ... civilisation will not survive, even for us to discuss what our attitude should be.”
He recalled that H. G. Wells had once written that the choice was “between education and catastrophe”, and he concluded by saying, “This statement, I feel adequately emphasises the cardinal role of the teacher, be it in the form, school or the University. Let us hope that education wins.”
DR. Mansel M. Davies, senior lecturer at the Edward Davies chemical laboratories at University College, Aberystwyth, said today he resented the suggestion that he had used the occasion of a speech day at Aberdare Grammar School for Boys to propagate his beliefs in nuclear disarmament.
Referring to a leading article in a local newspaper commenting on his speech, Dr. Davies said: “I am very disturbed there is this implication that I made a propagandist statement to the boys in the school along the lines of the nuclear disarmament campaign with which I am associated.
“I never mentioned the word ‘bomb’ or ‘nuclear,’ ‘campaign,’ and certainly not the word ‘unilateral.’
“I made three statements to the boys. The first was essentially that we should in our present circumstances put humanity first in our assessment of the situation.
“Secondly, I said we should remember these facts, that scientists are very generously paid for work of the character which goes on in Aldermaston, and, thirdly, I quoted Wells’s dictum that civilization is a race between education and catastrophe.”
Dr. Davies told the boys in his address that those who had G.E.C. Advanced Level passes in two science subjects and little other experience could get a post in a place like Aldermaston at a salary of £1,000 a year and he hoped they would rather choose to do work more likely to be of some benefit to mankind, even at half the salary.
He said today, “We have to put humanity first. There are, doubtless, many people who do not agree with this, but really it is something which has been said for the last century and a half from the pulpits of Wales, and also by another organisation which commands respect the Welsh League of Youth.”