Scientist and Vice-Chancellor: “Man Shall Not Live By Bread Alone”

Keith Burnett, formerly Head of the Division of Mathematical, Physical and Life Sciences at the University of Oxford and now Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sheffield, writes on his blog on November 15, 2010:

Keith Burnett“Man shall not live by bread alone.” It is true for our lives, and it is true for our University. When I see what richness the work of our colleagues around this great place have brought us, I am reminded of how their research sustains us. Sir Ian Kershaw’s books on Hitler are on sale in every bookshop in the world, and his collaboration with the BBC Timewatch series on the Nazis shed a unique light on how fascism emerged, sometimes most tellingly in the testimony of its ordinary participants…. Mike Braddick’s new book on the Civil War brings together a social and political history which helps us understand how we came to be who we are as a nation, who we are…. Leafing through Bob Stern’s new book on Kant, [I see that] an outstanding academic is considering in detail issues of autonomy, moral realism and ethics. In an age which constantly challenges our ethics and morality in new and demanding ways, are we in any position to think less about issues such as these? And there is so much more…. These are some of the many reasons why we want our children to be taught by people who have been tested in the fire of research. As Oscar Wilde knew, it is not enough to know the price of everything, we need to understand its value. One of our most powerful resources as a country, and as a University, is our cultural insight, our deep questioning of our own society and ideas – perhaps we have never needed that analysis more as we consider how best to go forward…. In a world of global competition and profound change, we want our children to have more than just bread to live on. And to do that, they will also need to appreciate the value of the full range of knowledge, and why our good colleagues do need, and deserve, some bread. (Read full statement; scroll down to blog entry for 15 November 2010.)

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