In supplementing salaries and enabling members of the Faculty to carry on research which would otherwise be impossible, the Milton and Clark Awards announced today fulfill a vitally important purpose at Harvard. Only with the aid of such grants can the original work be done which keeps a University from stagnating.
Until recently it was a general attitude in English universities that students were tolerated only because their tuition fees supported the "fellows", in whose study lay the main purpose of the institution. American colleges have often neglected that point of view in their preoccupation with undergraduate problems. Rather too little emphasis has been placed in this country on that part of a university's function which includes making new contributions to knowledge.
There is some justification for skepticism as to the value of ultra-scholarly research. To the layman, study of the wood-feeding roach, Cryptocerus punctuates Scudder, seems futile. Work on obscure points of history irritates a "practical" mind. In all probability, however, much more of this research than is commonly supposed has a practical value; and in any case, it is the work which renews the mental vitality in a college.
With the general low level of college salaries, some special grants naturally have to be made for advanced studies. Professors can often make fairly heavy profits from textbook writing, but that task is a barren one so far as either intellectual stimulus or increased knowledge are concerned. Because they allow members of the Faculty to devote themselves to work which gives them some inspiration and which results in some contribution to learning, the Milton and Clark Funds are invaluable to the University.