The Telegraph, 17 April, Matt Ridley
On the four corners of the Albert Memorial, a lavish banquet of Victorian Gothic architecture, and beneath allegorical figures representing four continents, are carved four words: agriculture, engineering, manufacture and commerce. Today on such a monument to reflect the priorities of the age, we would be more likely to write race, gender, mindfulness and emissions, but if we were building a monument to Prince Philip – and I hope we do – then Albert’s four words are nearer the mark. How about technology, charity, enterprise and conservation?
As somebody who is 36 years younger than the Duke of Edinburgh, the last week opened my eyes to a lot of the issues he championed in the early years of the Queen’s reign, with its strong emphasis on hard, applied stuff: industry, engineering, science and sometimes even commerce, in a way that sounds courageously controversial today. In a television interview he once criticised “the philosophy that individuals are there for the sake of the state. That seems wrong to me. It seems to me the state is there for the sake of the individual.”
It is clear that especially in the 1950s-1970s the Duke had a passion for new technology, engineering and design. The Royal Academy of Engineering was born out of a conversation at one of his private dinners. He played a similar pioneering role in the Design Council, creating the Designers Prize and chairing the judging panel for years. He looked around the world and saw engineering and innovation zooming ahead elsewhere, especially in Germany, so he saw it as part of his role to cajole Britain to catch up again in these fields.
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