1918 19th Century On the Land Electricity Iron Sands to Steel Think Big


 "There seems to be no sound reason, from the purely materialistic point of view, why modern methods of production and distribution, such as are illustrated in the great factories of the larger manufacturing countries, should not be extended to almost every field of human labour.  Indeed, the rapid extension of these methods to new fields has been one of the most remarkable, as it is one of the most natural results of the present world war.

That this rapid development will be stayed when peace comes seems very improbable; every indication points to an acceleration of the present rate of growth of industrial organization.  It is also evident that in all Allied countries the State will be compelled to encourage and to regulate the development of the industrial machine in order, if possible, to meet the cut-throat competition which at present seems inevitable, without at the same time sacrificing these humanitarian and democratic principles for which the war is now being waged.

The root problem here involved is to find means of reconciling the creation and operation of a perfectly organized industrial machine with the development of a sturdy, stable, and refined democracy.

To understand the nature of this problem we must consider the main principles, which must be, observe in developing the industrial machine; the labour conditions for its efficient operation; and finally the main principles on which from an industrial point of view, the well being of the democracy depends.

Now the main aim of the industrial machine is the utmost possible utilization of natural resources with the least possible human effort.  This involves the highest possible productive capacity per unit of population.  The two main principles involved are:-

  • division of labour or specialization; and
  • increase of mechanical power used by each operative. 

By the first of these principles the demand on each worker is simplified; and by the second his power is increased; by both together his efficiency as a producer is enormously increased.

W.S.La Trobe – Director Wellington Technical College

N.Z.J. of Science Technology Vol 1 1918.


The year 1918 appears to have been for New Zealand the threshold of a technological era which lasted until the 1980s.  It was the year the New Zealand Journal of Science & Technology commenced publication, and as is shown on this site the first volume contained papers indicating that the groundwork was being laid at that time for many technical ventures pursued over the next sixty years. 

As noted in the Journal (Vol 1 Page 119) 1918 was the year agriculture was included as a science subject for the Bachelor of Science degree of the University of New Zealand and at the same time the University proposed to allocate money for a three-year travelling scholarship in forestry.  Within eight years, after pressure from a number of interests, a central scientific body, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research (DSIR), was established .

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Note: William Sanderson La Trobe (1870-1943):
La Trobe was a contemporary of Ernest Rutherford at Cambridge. He became superintendent of technical education with the Department of Education. See the Dictionary of National Biography (Volume III ).
Think Big

The Path to Think Big

A Plea for Forestry Research
A Belief in Technology
Think Big Intro
A Path to Think Big I
A Path to Think Big II
A Path to Think Big III
The Ammonia/Urea Plant
A Path to Think Big IV
The Big Decisions