IN 1953 scholars of diverse interests, but chiefly members of University College, London, met to form a Communications
Research Centre. The enterprise was to promote the systematic study of the problems of (mainly human) communication. And since many of these problems were seen to have an obvious bearing upon practical activities, it was thought wise to interest 'the more enlightened industrial leaders' in the project—although nobody expected to reach any practical conclusions very rapidly. This book is the first offering of the Research Centre; it is a collection of nine papers, introduced by the Provost of University College.
Professor A. J. Ayer's contribution on `What is Communica- tion?' displays with characteristic lucidity and elegance the range and intricacy of the problems which present themselves, and deals specifically with 'the relationship of verbal symbols first to the experiences they are supposed to encode and secondly to what they signify.' It is followed by Professor J. B. S. Haldane on 'Communication in Biology,' Mr. Colin Cherry on 'Communi- cation Theory and Human Behaviour,' Sir Geoffrey Vickers on `Communication in Economic Systems,' Mr. D. B. Fry on `The Experimental Study of Speech,' and two other papers dealing respectively with the Greek and the English language as mediums of communication. But, besides Professor Ayer's, the two most original papers are Professor J. Z. Young's on The Influence of Language on Medicine,' and Professor R. Willkower's brilliant contribution on 'Interpretation of Visual Symbols in the Arts.' It is intended to publish further volumes as the work of the Centre proceeds; but a field of study has already been opened up in these papers which promises to be rewarding.
• - MICHAEL OAKESHOTT