Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Edinburgh, my multi-cultural city, and Peter Higgs.

In October 1962 I first met Peter Higgs when he gave the first year, first term course in Mathematical Physics to me and about 100 17/18 year olds. The Xmas term exam was devastating. I got 20% which placed me in the upper decile. The top mark was 32%. I was delighted to read today that he has been awarded the Nobel prize for Physics. What makes me really proud is that Peter Higgs was English. The first Edinburgh  professor of mathematical physics from 1936 to 1953 also got the Nobel prize for in 1954. He was a German Jew called Max Born.

Why am I proud? Because it gives the lie to the allegation that Scots are parochial and nationalistic. Scotland has always welcomed talent from any country and will continue to do so if it becomes independent. All the Scottish universities recruit solely on talent, both staff and students.

The latter sets it apart from Oxford and Cambridge. Both are great universities with much more money than Edinburgh but are in hock to the English class system in their student intake. Over 50% are from public schools, eg William Legge, Eton & Oxford  UKIP MEP, with an additional 10% plus intake of rich Johnny Foreigners. That leaves less than half for the remaining 95% of the UK populace. So much for equality of opportunity.

J K Rowling, born in England, wrote her Harry Potter books in Edinburgh and now lives there. She is pictured in today's DT meeting Princess Anne opening a clinic at Edinburgh University for MS which killed her mother. Note that whilst JKR is lightly dressesd Princess Anne is wearing gloves. For why? She cannot bear to be touched by ordinary people like the talented Ms Rowling, that's why. Says a lot about the Royals the apex of the class system.

Finally I am alive today thanks to the TB treatment I received in 1957 from Prof John Crofton and his team, Dean of Edinburgh medical school and president of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. He was Anglo Irish and educated in Kent and London. He lived and worked in Edinburgh for over 50 years.

Scotland believes in talent and equality of opportunity. That's why the US founding fathers based their Declaration of Independence on the Scottish Declaration of Arbroath, 1420. I hope Scotland votes for independence.

Adam Smith, founder of much of modern economics made his reputation by giving a series of lectures at Edinburgh but was appointed Professor at Glasgow where he had done his first degree before winning a scholarship to Balliol College, Oxford. He was scathing about Oxford. I quote from Wikepedia,

In Book V of The Wealth of Nations, Smith comments on the low quality of instruction and the meager intellectual activity atEnglish universities, when compared to their Scottish counterparts. He attributes this both to the rich endowments of the colleges at Oxford and Cambridge, which made the income of professors independent of their ability to attract students, and to the fact that distinguished men of letters could make an even more comfortable living as ministers of the Church of England.[

Adam Smith was Professor of Political Economy. He thought you could not sensibly seperate the two. Its sad to see his view hi-jacked by Oxford with its politicians O level course, PPE. Presumably the Philosophy part was added to satisfy the likes of Ralph Milliband has his fellow travellers

Has anything really changed? Compare Andrew Neil, Paisley Grammar and Glasgow, with Jeremy Paxman, Malvern and Cambridge. One is polite and does his homework the other does not.

1 comment:

ALAN WOOD said...

At the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, where I studied for my first degree, I had the pleasure of meeting a fellow ex-Naval Dockyard apprentice from Rosyth called Stuart Nicol who later was a manager there. We still exchange Christmas news after 46 years. Also "Jock" Winsor who played soccer with me. We gazed together at robust Wrens in the next dormitory to fulfil our lusty desires !

They started out with a historic dislike of the English, but we all became good friends.

The Scottish system of education seemed to have a good effect on them and stood them in good stead, as did my Grammer school education.

I actually believe it makes more sense for Northern Ireland to be part of an All-Ireland government than for Scotland to go fully independent. Split Islands never seem to work well. Historic religious ties also create problems of integration, which is why it will be a problem for the secular West to accommodate the Islamic Middle East incomers in the short term, and perhaps they will never fully accept each other.
Religion can be so divisive. Prayer followed by combat followed by more prayer for the dead seems such a weird practise.

So this leads me to my question to you - why should Scottish independence be considered a good thing ?