Why should we trust in science and in the knowledge of the natural world and ourselves that science brings?
Firstly, because of the way science works. It is based on reliable and reproducible observations and experiments, proceeding by trial and error. Only after repeated testing, with unsatisfactory hypotheses being rejected through a process of falsification, does scientific knowledge become more secure.
Secondly, trust in science has brought about great improvements for humankind. These began with the dawn of agriculture and metallurgy, leading to the birth of modern science, coinciding with the Enlightenment and the founding of the Royal Society in 1660. This knowledge formed the basis for the Industrial Revolution, and advances in modern biology, crop production and medicine.
Unfortunately science faces threats which undermine public trust. Some in the public realm distort science to support their political, ideological or religious beliefs. Science is revolutionary and can lead to unsettling conclusions which attack such beliefs and so can be strenuously opposed. This occurred when Copernicus and Galileo showed that the earth orbits the sun, and when Darwin proposed that humankind was not specially created.
Societies with respect for science and with strong democratic traditions - such as the values embodied in the Commonwealth charter- deal better with these threats. For science to reach its full potential in bringing benefit to humankind, we must build trust in science, educate our citizens to be at ease with science, properly train our scientists and encourage them to fully engage with the public.
In this presentation, I will outline briefly how I started my research work in India, after returning from the U.S after rich research experience more than half a century ago, when conditions were not encouraging. There were no instruments or foreign exchange. We were poor. I will outline my evolution and progress as a scientist over the years, and how I picked an area of research where I could succeed even with meager facilities, and how this has helped me to work on various aspects of the chemistry of materials. Choosing a lonely road has been very beneficial to me. I have been able to grow with the subject and the subject has also grown with me. Over the years, India has changed and today, I have a fine laboratory with excellent facilities. I will present highlights of my contributions in solid state and materials chemistry including oxide systems, superconductivity, multiferroics and nanomaterials. The lecture will end with a brief mention of my recent interest in graphene and other two-dimensional materials, as well as in artificial photosynthesis to generate hydrogen.Download calendar