Oxford University Gazette

Encaenia 1998: Speeches by the Public Orator

Professor ROBERT HINDE, CBE, FRS

Formerly Master of St John's College, Cambridge

Homo sum, humani nil a me alienum puto: sic olim effatus senex ille Terentianus summam humanitatis gloriam adeptus est. sed ne nimium ista histrionali urbanitate pellecti humani generis angustiis hominum cognitionem circumscribamus admonet cum fabularum scriptor vaferrimus Aesopus, qui ceteris animalibus linguam et orationem adsignando doctrinam significat salutarem, tum hospes hic noster, qui ita sese avium bestiarumque moribus scrutandis excutiendis explicandis contulit ut hominum quoque ingenio ac moribus clarissimum lumen infuderit. sed ille pueris magis et aniculis cantat, hic ethologorum princeps est, in scientiae genere tam sincero quam novo versatur. aves, et alites et oscines, tam intentis observavit oculis quam nemo umquam augur, non quidem rerum augurandarum causa sed scientiae multiplicandae; mox ad simias progressus observavit quo modo mater partum suum foveat, partus matrem suam diligat; nec diu erat cum hic, quippe qui Ennio poetae adsensus observarit

simia quam similis, turpissima bestia, nobis,

ad hominum studium se contulit, hominum societatem intellegere enisus est. qua in re hoc primum sibi proposuit, ut affectuum vinculorumque indolem qua nos homines inter nos coniungimur non quidem interclusam et secretam intellegere conetur sed sic ut cum universa rerum natura cohaereat. hoc enim sibi persuasum habet, hoc ceteris persuadere studet: ea quae extra nos sunt, terram silvas animalia, a nobis adfecta mutari, nos autem in vicem adeo ab externis formari ut si mutantur nos necessario immutemur. itaque hoc magis libet proclamare: Homo sum, omnino nil a me alienum puto.

Praesento virum in rerum natura scrutanda oculatissimum, in explicanda ingeniosissimum, Robertum Hinde, Excellentissimi Ordinis Imperi Britannici Commendatorem, Societatis Regiae Sodalem, Collegi de Balliolo Socium honoris causa creatum, ut admittatur honoris causa ad gradum Doctoris in Scientia.

Admission by the Chancellor

Arcanorum indagator sollertissime, qui cetera animalia observando nos nobis explicavisti, quique in Academia nobiscum coniunctissima Collegio amplissimo praesedisti, ego auctoritate mea et totius Universitatis admitto te ad gradum Doctoris in Scientia honoris causa.

Paraphrase

The old man in Terence's comedy said `I am a man: I think nothing that is human is alien to me', and that utterance has won him high praise for his humanity. But we should not be carried away by that piece of theatrical rhetoric and assume that in order to understand mankind we need not go beyond the observation of human beings. We could take a tip from Aesop's fables, where the animals are endowed with human speech and behaviour, for the sake of the human morals to be drawn from them; although those stories seem more suitable for grandmothers to tell to children. We can also learn from Professor Hinde, who has observed the behaviour of animals and birds and used his observations to shed light on the mind and behaviour of our own species; and who has done so in a genuinely scientific way, as one of the founders of the new science of ethology. He has subjected the behaviour of birds to closer scrutiny than any of the augurs of ancient Rome: for scientific purposes, not to foretell the future. He went on to study apes, and the nature of the attachment between parent and child. Soon he turned to the study of our own species, observing with the poet Ennius that there is a disconcerting resemblance between apes and us. The thrust of his work has been to study human affections and the links of human society, not as isolated phenomena, but as intelligible parts of nature as a whole. He is a convinced proponent of the view that the external environment is affected by us, and that equally we are affected by it, changing as it is altered. Thus we see that really what we should proclaim is `I am human: I think that nothing at all is alien to me'.

I present a scientist who is most perceptive in observation of the natural world and also most ingenious in explaining it, Robert Hinde, CBE, FRS, Honorary Fellow of Balliol College, for admission to the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.

Admission by the Chancellor

Most talented investigator of nature's secrets, by your observation of other species you have advanced our understanding of our own. You have also found time to be the head of a great college in our sister university. Acting on my own authority and that of the whole University, I admit you to the honorary degree of Doctor of Science.

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