First of all, I would like to welcome all those who have come from overseas to take part in our anniversary celebration; many of whom are old friends. We are also glad to have other guests among us, who are no strangers to me. In particular, I would like to say how appreciative we are to Sir William Slater for accepting our invitation to come and give this year’s anniversary address, and for having chosen a topic so stimulating and so appropriate — appropriate, because we are embarking on a real agricultural and industrial revolution in this country. Our Seven-Year-Plan, which will soon be published and launched, is keyed to the development of our industry and agriculture. I hope that all of you who have come to join us in these celebrations will enjoy your visit.
Most people usually expect after-dinner speeches to be made in a somewhat light and frivolous vein. But at a dinner for an Academy of Sciences, surrounded as I am by so many serious-minded scholars, scientists and research workers, I hesitate to treat you to the trite remarks that characterize after-dinner speeches. On the other hand, I don’t want you to feel like the Mathematician-Scientist who breathlessly burst into a room, shouting excitedly: "Minus four, minus three, minus two, minus one — I’ve done it! I’ve recited the negative numbers!"
It is fitting on this Fourth Anniversary of the Academy of Sciences that we should consider how far we have been able to carry out our objectives and make our plans accordingly for the future development of the Academy.
The Academy of Sciences, as we know it today, is the result of a happy merger between the Academy of Learning and the National Research Council. Many of you here will recall that both these institutions were inaugurated by the Duke of Edinburgh during his visit in Ghana in 1959. At my request, the Duke of Edinburgh accepted the invitation to become President of the Ghana Academy of Learning for the first two years of its existence. In his inaugural address, the Duke stated that if the Academy carried out its duties and functions with enlightenment and integrity, it would not be long before its influence was felt throughout Ghana and, indeed, throughout Africa. This challenge applies with equal force to the Ghana Academy of Sciences which has replaced these two institutions. We are determined to fulfil that prophecy.
The National Research Council, the second parent of the Academy of Sciences, was established by us in the determination that scientific research should take its proper place in our count1y’s development.
Recently, however, we felt that the then existing situation in which the Ghana Academy of Learning and the National Research Council operated separately was unsatisfactory. There was too much duplication of effort. The two bodies were complementary to each other, in that while the National Research Council was responsible for the more practical research programmes, the Academy of Learning was engaged mainly in fundamental research.
We decided that better results would be achieved, if these two bodies were joined together in a common endeavour.
The Academy of Sciences was created, therefore, as a new and dynamic body to assume full responsibility for the co-ordination of all aspects of research and the promotion of scientific pursuits and learning. In this way, we have combined in one institution, the fundamental academic functions originally envisaged for the Academy of Learning and the applied scientific research so vital for our national development. We expect that from this amalgamation will grow the strength and power which will push us faster in the development of the sciences and literary arts.
We do not however conceive the functions of the Academy as passive, or as the mere collection and compilation of date from our universities and research institutions. The Academy is expected to design and carry out research programmes, related to the life, changes and growth of our society. For this reason, the Academy has under it about twenty Research Institutes among which are the National Institute of Health and Medical Research, the Cocoa Research Institute at Tafo, the Building Research Institute at Kumasi and the Agricultural Research Institute at Kwadaso. There is even a research project attached to the Academy which is doing vigorous research into Ghanaian herbal and botanic medicine and natural therapies.
It is in these Institutes that the Academy, assisted by a team of competent scientists and research workers, is tackling some of the problems of pure and applied science in Ghana.
We expect that those who have been elected as Fellows of the Academy will justify their selection by their work and by assisting in the solution of some of the many problems facing us in both applied and pure research. Facilities have been made available in our Universities for Fellows to carry out their work. I would suggest, in this connection, that an annual register should be kept showing the work in progress and the work completed by Fellows. We believe not only in pure research as a legitimate endeavour, but we also attach great importance to applied research. Modern science has taught us enough, and has already given us enough, to be able to tackle our agricultural, industrial and economic problems. Modern science has taught us enough to be able to assist us in solving the n practical problems of education, agriculture, medicine, engineering and industry.
There is no need for us to go through all the long and complicated stages of the development of science which other countries have gone through in the past. We are, as it were, jumping the centuries, using the knowledge and experience already available to us. What others have taken hundreds of years to do, we must achieve in a generation. It is useless to say that we must move through the stages of coal, oil and gas to electricity. Ghana is already in the era of electricity. We have jumped from coal and kerosene to electricity within a generation. We are now face to face with Atomic energy.
Ladies and Gentlemen, the Academy can and must accept a positive and active role in the life and development of our nation.
A full-size Secretariat has been established in the Academy, and its existence must facilitate the work and the expansion of the institutes directly concerned with research. The Academy must show initiative in identifying research problems and in suggesting research priorities of national significance.
It is not possible to talk of the uses of science nowadays without our enthusiasm being dampened by the use to which science has been put for baneful purposes. I have many times stressed the fact that humanity has a vested interest in peace. The loss of peace in modern times would mean the same as the end of humanity. Except we can have the world without the bomb, or we can have the bomb without the world, but we cannot have both. Unless science is only applied for peaceful ends, the practice of science itself might soon cease. For there would be no scientist; and incidentally there would be no philosophers and politicians.
Our Academy of Sciences has already established contact with a number of Academies of Sciences in other countries. I hope that through such contacts, our scientists will unite their efforts with scientists elsewhere in the positive and beneficial use of science and help to make war through science impossible on our planet.
The importance of the study of sciences in our own educational programmes cannot be emphasised enough. Our need for trained scientists of all kinds and for men with technological skill is fundamental to the socialist society which we are committed to create. Only the mastery and unremitting application of science and technology can guarantee human welfare and human happiness. Socialism without science is empty. To achieve socialism, the emphasis in our educational system must be shifted from purely literary concern to science and technology.
New polytechnics are being established in the country and existing ones are being expanded. Special arrangements have also been made for the training of science teachers with the rapidity necessary to staff our schools, colleges and institutions.
It is the aim of the Academy of Sciences to popularise the sciences and to make the mass of our people science-conscious.
It is significant here that a Science Museum will shortly be established in this country under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences and will be located in Accra. I am sure such a museum will inspire and excite interest in science and technology in both young and old. I am sure that it will help to foster a spirit of wonder and exploration in all who visit it.
Ladies and Gentlemen, A socialist society can only be maintained by people who have a correct understanding of nature, and who hold within their grasp, the knowledge and the means to master and transform nature for the common good of all.
We have the resources to create a better life for our people. What we need is widespread conviction in the correctness of our ideology, the will and the effort to mobilise our intellectual, social and material resources in a dynamic effort to establish the just and the prosperous society.
It is for this reason that this Academy must not become purely honorific, a social club in which members put one another on the back when they meet and engage in endless debates and arguments. Rather, this Academy must become a vital force and the intellectual and scientific centre of the vigour of our nation, committed entirely to the purposes of our society, and bending its talents to the realisation of those purposes.
I am happy to be able to say that already, a pharmaceutical chemist in the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology has succeeded in extracting from Ghanaian plants, a new alkaloid which shows great possibilities of being more efficient for anaesthetics than the alkaloids now used for surgical operation purposes.
But it is towards this sort of achievement, in my opinion, that our energies should be directed. I am not concerned with plans for exploring the moon, Mars or any of the other planets. They are too far from me anyway. My concern is here on earth where so much needs to be done to make it a place fit for human effort, endeavour and happiness. Science must be directed towards fighting and overcoming poverty and disease and in raising the standard of life of the people of the earth; its aims must be for the promotion of peace and, through peace, the happiness of mankind. Unless science is used for the betterment of mankind, I am at a loss to understand the reason for it at all. It does not require a clever brain to destroy life. In fact any fool can do that. But it takes brains — and extraordinarily brilliant brains to create conditions for human happiness and to make human life worth living. The Ghana Academy of Sciences belongs to our society. It belongs to our African revolution. It is one of the valuable organs for our society, and it must work to assist and improve our general welfare. The Academy can justify its status in our society only by the contribution which it makes to the progress and development of the nation.
Political independence is only a means to an end. Its value lies in its being used to create new economic, social and cultural conditions which colonialism and imperialism have denied us for so long.
In Africa today, there is a general agreement that our political independence can only be safeguarded within the framework of a union government of Africa. Our scholars and scientists have a right and an obligation to assist in the creation of this African Continental Union. It is within that union alone that the African genius can thrive in complete freedom, unshackled by imperialism and neo-colonialism.
It is my hope that one day, we shall see one African Academy of Sciences with the regional branches tackling the scientific problems facing us in Africa as a whole. I am convinced that the United Nations and its specialised agencies could achieve better results by working within a federal union government of Africa.
As I have said before, our need for scientists is great. It is encouraging, however; that we have an increasing number of students coming forward for further training in science and technology. Most of these students are already in our universities and polytechnics. We have also increased the number of State scholarships which will enable Ghanaians abroad to qualify in Science, Technology, Medicine and Agriculture. We have over a thousand Ghanaian students in the United Kingdom who have been awarded scholarships to enable them to complete their courses in these scientific subjects. We are extending this scholarship scheme to cover our students in America and in Europe. In addition, over a thousand Ghanaian students are pursuing various scientific studies in the Soviet Union, in China and in other socialist countries.
We can therefore look to the future with nope. Let the Ghana Academy of Science lay firm foundations for the application of science to social needs and development. This will be an inspiration to our young men and women.
And now, Ladies and Gentlemen, l give you a toast! A toast to the progress of the Ghana Academy of Sciences and to the Fellows of the Academy of Sciences. A toast to the scientists and scholars all over the world. A toast to world peace and eternal friendship among the nations and peoples of the earth.