The swish $1 million renovation of a two-floor penthouse Greenwich Village apartment for the imminent residence of the present vice-chancellor (that is, head) of Oxford University is at least a three-fold indicator of the new era that is growing rapidly around us:
1. Internationalism. Prof Andrew Hamilton, FRS, English-born (Guildford) eminent research biochemist, has already been ricocheting between universities just like a career businessman. His itinerary so far has read Exeter, British Columbia, Cambridge, Strasbourg, Princeton, Yale (as provost) and Oxford. Next month he will be president of New York University at a salary in the region of $750,000, maybe $1 million;
2. The rise of academe. As conveyed above, Hamilton is already up there with a business-level salary. His salary and that of maybe another half-dozen of American university heads don’t yet compare with a dozen or so chief executives of American multinational corporations or major banks but, nevertheless, there’s already been an amazing transformation of the role of universities in national pecking-orders;
3. And, with the above is also the rise of science within academe, rather than the traditional ‘mods and greats’ and other liberal arts (and the increasing attenuation of the latter). This carries with it the insinuation of scientists into the highest levels of political influence. After 500 years — let’s say since Galileo — of the slow rise of science, it is now coming into ints own as an acceptable part of the social elite. And an increasingly important part, too. as most businesses — of the value-adding, rather than laundry-taking, sort — are becoming totally dependent on science.
There’s a lot more involved in the dawn of the new era — the rise of advanced service skills and automation, for example — but the the career of Professor Hamilton has given us a few more facets. I can but thank him for giving me my first blog prompt of today and wish him and his family a happy life in their new surroundings.