Tscherning on Thomas Young

Marius Hans Erik Tscherning (1854-1939) published the Ophthalmological oeuvres of Thomas Young in 1894. He gave the First Thomas Young Oration to the Optical Society in 1907. The Fourth Thomas Young Oration to the Optical Society was given by Charles Sheard who, after a preamble, quoted from Tscherning's Oration:


We have gathered here on this occasion to pay tribute to the name of Thomas Young and to breathe our appreciation of the love of and search for the truth which dominated this great man who lived in this great land over a century ago. True it is that Thomas Young was born an Englishman and died an Englishman. But the true scientist, while he is a member of a state, belongs to no state but rather to the world at large. For at the heart of the scientist - the searcher after truth and the instrument whereby the unknown may be made known - is desirous of contribution to the happiness and welfare of man some fragments which may prove good and which may become part of the ultimate, sum total of all knowledge, to the end that man may become master of the unseen forces about him. Hence, though Thomas Young was born an Englishmen, through his contributions to his fellow men and to succeeding generations, he became one of the world's greatest scientists and one of her first citizens.

It is fit and proper that the world should pay tribute to the name and memory of Thomas Young. For as Dr Tscherning said in his delivery of the first Thomas Young Oration a decade and a half ago: "It is surprising that Young played the role of the first man in so many different branches of science. For if you take Young as the first man in the question of the theory of light, the name of the second man is Fresnel; in the question of the anomalies of refraction of the human eye, the name of the second man is Donders; in the question of colour senses, you can call the second man Clerk Maxwell, or Helmholtz; in the question of hieroglyphics the name of the second man is Champollion; in the question of terrestrial radiant heat the name of the second man in Wells, and I have not yet finished the list. For his own reputation it would certainly have been better if Young had completely developed but one of his ideas. But for the advancement of science it was better that he did as he did. For if the second man is not frequently met with, the first one is extremely rare."

[Note. The date of Tscherning's Oration is wrongly given as the 1920's in several sources.]


JOC/EFR August 2016

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