Tale/innlegg | Dato: 03.05.2007
Kunnskapsminister Øystein Djupedals innlegg på Det Norske Videnskaps-akademis 150-års jubileum.
Kunnskapsminister Øystein Djupedals innlegg på Det Norske Videnskaps-akademis 150-års jubileum 3.05.07, Oslo
Your Majesties, excellencies and distinguished academy members!
It is a great honour and pleasure to congratulate the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters with its first 150 years! These 150 years have been spent building an organisation which is committed to excellent science and which now play a more active part in society than ever before. I would like to start this little speech with a personal approach. I have to admit – I was not sure if it was appropriate to do so in this setting, but I guess this is one of my privileges as a minister…
The thing is that my father was a member of this academy for many years, a membership he was truly proud of. When I stand here tonight – celebrating the academy’s 150 years anniversary – I have to admit that I feel very proud of what he accomplished in his academic career. Through my father I feel a strong personal connection to this academy. Personally, I don’t expect to be offered membership for at least a few decades…
But anyway – back to the honourable jubilant. The last years the academy has expanded and shouldered new challenges. Our main street Karl Johan has been known for the children’s parade in May. Now a new May-tradition has been established with Abel-banners and Abel-festivities. And in September next year, the capital will fully experience that the Kavli prizes are established. For a minister of research, it is great to see how the Abel prize in the course of just a few years has won worldwide reputation as the equivalent of a Nobel prize in mathematics. And when I hear about the good work being done prior to the first awarding of the Kavli prizes, I am sure that the Academy will contribute to increased attention around the three scientific fields in question: neuroscience, astrophysics and nanoscience. All three exciting, promising areas!
Even though vitality and future-orientation mark the Academy as we see it today, a 150 years’ celebration is also a time for retrospection. Today Norway embraces a broad range of colleges, universities and other research institutions. 150 years ago the situation was completely different. Our only university was still young, and even though it was about to get foothold as an academic institution, it was still a small university at the outskirts of Europe. Norwegian academics, many of them educated abroad, needed a common forum, a place for discussion and reflection – and not the least, for financial support for publication. Holberg pointed out a century earlier that the academies which he saw being established in Europe, could be places were scholars could come together to “resolve curious and difficult questions and reward the ones who are lucky in untying the knots”.
Many of you around these tables are indeed ”lucky in untying the knots”. So have many of your predecessors been. But in spite of Holberg’s choice of words, being lucky is not enough in order to untie the knots of today’s science. Research is by nature an elite activity. Production of new knowledge demands curiosity, concentration, intelligence and – of course – a massive workload.
And the quality of research is enhanced and assured by discussion and feed-back from fellow scientists. Here the Academy offers a unique forum for the top selection of our scientific community. In that respect the Academy has truly been a Centre of Excellence, long before the term was even conceived. But of course, not every single member of every academy has been equipped with the same level of, let’s call it, luck. Joachim Andreas Stuckenbrock was accepted as a member of the Royal Society of Science in Copenhagen as early as 1750. Great expectations were held, but unfortunately he died without having “confided his excellent knowledge to his pen”, as a friendly reporter chose to call it. Old Stuckenbrock kept his excellent knowledge to himself. The Academy has chosen the opposite path.
The venerable house on Drammensveien has been opened up more and more to the general public – giving everybody the opportunity to meet great scientists. The Academy is also open to the rest of the world, being distinctly international. The Academy has a high number of foreign members, it cooperates with academies in other countries and it promotes Norwegian science through meetings and conferences. Furthermore, the scientific prizes offers a unique possibility to build international networks. In total this fosters both personal bonds between scientists and in addition cooperation between organisations. Both are aspects which fit the Government’s priorities concerning internationalisation of research perfectly.
“It takes an endless amount of history to make even a little tradition”, the American writer Henry James claimed. Well, actually, it doesn’t take more than roughly 150 years. I admit that I find it fascinating that we now repeat an evening that took place exactly one hundred years ago.
At the 50 years’ anniversary a meeting and a dinner were held in the exact same places as tonight. Furthermore, one hundred years ago his Majesty the King was present. So he is tonight. I will take the opportunity to express the Government’s gratitude towards the King and the Queen, who are truly excellent ambassadors of Norwegian research and long-time supporters of the Academy.It is also a good tradition to bring a gift to a birthday party. Well, I have to disappoint you today… The reason is that the Academy has already received 500 000 kroner as the Government’s gift half a year ago, and I am convinced that it will be spent well. I am also happy to say that the Government has contributed to the commerative book that was published yesterday. A book I was lucky to get an early copy of and that I recommend!
In 1822 the historian Gustav Ludvig Baden gave the following description of the Royal Scientific Society in Copenhagen: “What happens with such societies, as with most institutions, is that they with time are marked with vanity, laziness, envy and other such things.” I can’t judge whether his description of the society in Copenhagen in 1822 was fair, but I can tell you, it is not valid for the academy we celebrate today. 150 years young; it is vital, open to society and still based on a true commitment for science.
It is therefore my great pleasure to ask you to join me in a toast to the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters!