The times they aren’t a-changin’

Thanks to @drpeterrodgers for pointing out these two chemistry-related articles from Nature in 1970.

First up, is Chemists are Like Dodos (you need to be a subscriber — sorry), which looks at a report by Prof. Colin Eaborn entitled, ‘Committee of Enquiry into the Relationship between University Courses in Chemistry and the Needs of Industry’ for the Royal Institute of Chemistry. Here’s a quote from the article:

With touching devotion to the belief that chemistry is not so much a discipline as a virtue, the committee proclaims the advantages of the present system for training chemists at British universities, deplores the way in which students appear to be increasingly unwilling to exploit these advantages, bemoans the difficulties which beset graduates seeking jobs and then hopes—its recommendations are hardly better—that by some magic everything will come right. In much the same spirit, no doubt, the last of the now vanished quill pen manufacturers must have wrung their hands in bewilderment over the falling away in trade. Are not our quill pens as good or even better than ever? Is it not mere fickleness and even fecklessness that has driven the customers away? And will not everything be right again if we hang on (with government subsidies to help) waiting for people to change? This, at least, is what the least adventurous among the quill makers would have said—their more farsighted colleagues would have been investing heavily in the manufacture of steel nibs. The danger now, in British chemistry, is that Professor Eaborn’s report will serve only to undermine the flickering resolution of those who may have considered that the time is right for change.


Following on is a second piece, No Formula for Change (again, subscribers only), which opens as thus:

A SORRY tale of a declining proportion of the most able students being attracted to university chemistry courses and of poor prospects for chemists in the job market is told in a report published this week by the Royal Institute of Chemistry.

Oh dear…

It seems that chemistry has similar issues/problems, whether in 1970 or 2013 — not enough jobs and we’re just not willing to change (enough).

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