From War to Knowledge: The Vulcan Science Academy

In Surak’s youth, there were centers of learning, but the Vulcan VSA Shi'KahrScience Academy did not yet exist. In its place stood a massive fortress complex known as Pelasht, named for the Phelsh’t, the ancient tribe which occupied the basalt cave and defended the oasis that became the city of Shi’Kahr.1  Vulcan education was centered in nearby temples and led by a pyllora, a word usually translated into Federation Standard English (FSE) as “mentor” or “guide.” One such pyllora was T’Plana-hath, whose dictum, “Logic is the cement of our civilization, with which we ascend from chaos using reason as our guide,” shaped the philosophy of Surak and the future of Vulcan.2 Surak was one of her prized pupils.

Surak himself became a pyllora at the Suta Temple, where he could be found on the steps spreading his message of logic and emotional restraint to a curious audience in the plaza below.3 Before a formal collegium developed around his school of thought, most of his early lectures were given in the open air in the shade of the temple. Eventually, his lectures became so popular that the old fortress was repurposed into vast halls to hold audiences of thousands. In 399, when Surak was 120 years old, it became the heart of the new Vulcan Science Academy. While he lived, Surak encouraged the study of all subjects and the application of logic to learning in order to reach a heightened understanding of the universe and its infinite possibilities. This ultimate quest for knowledge and truth led to the birth of the concept of IDIC, a leading dictum of the Academy to this day.4

It wasn’t long after Surak’s death in 481 that the campus of the VSA spread beyond the walls of Pelasht. Today this central core of the earliest building houses the administrative complex, along with the lecture halls, the archives, and visitors’ center. The silver-white domes and spires of ancient temples contain labs, classrooms, and offices, and blend with clusters of new facilities devoted to specific disciplines.5 Beyond the fortress complex, where public lectures and performances are held, only two other areas are open to the general public: the Archives and the Medical Center. The Medical Center serves as the main hospital for the city as well as a state-of-the-art research facility. Above its bronze gates on a plaque in flowing calligraphy is its simple mission statement, which reads: “Nam-tor hakaya svi’la na’fan-veh ma vi bolaya. (There is healing within for any who have need.)”6 The databases of the Archives serve as a repository of knowledge on a planetary scale, housing over 164 billion volumes. Offworld, the VSA Archives are often referred to as simply the Vulcan Archives. A few documents remain classified by the Minister of Defense, but the vast majority of the archival files are accessible to any who wish to do research.

In most cases, it is not difficult to gain access to other areas of the VSA. All visitors are asked to stop at the Visitors’ Center to gain admission. Tours of various colleges, labs, and research centers are easily arranged. A special stop on any tour of Pelasht is the stone building annexed on the west side. Archaeologists believe it originally served as an armory. Here T’Pau’s office is located, situated close to the bubbling spring. Outside the entrance one can find an interactive plaque featuring recordings in over 400 languages welcoming visitors and giving a brief history of the VSA. Here is an excerpt in FSE, recorded by Amanda Greyson:  “To this oasis in the desert, Surak came five thousand years ago with a small band of followers, to practice a new philosophy of nonviolence. It is said that when warrior bands approached, seeking to seize control of the precious source of water, Surak welcomed them and bid them drink their fill while he spoke to them of logic, and the peace found through emotional control…..The Academy grew up around the philosophers who followed Surak. Disciples came here to learn from them, and the first buildings are the ones clustered here about the spring. Over many centuries the Vulcan Academy of Sciences grew from this center into the huge complex you see today.”7

There are a few rooms, such as private offices, which are not open to the public and they are marked with signs only in Vulcan. All public spaces, including a small museum displaying some of Surak’s personal belongings, are marked with signs in multiple offworld languages.8 T’Pau often keeps a few relics from the museum in her office for study. At present these include scrolls written in Surak’s own hand.9 Offworlders are often puzzled as to why these writings were committed to a papyrus-like paper and the words hand-written in an ancient script when Surak had digital technology at his disposal and communicated with the masses through the nets. These scrolls were specifically created for the monks of the Kolinahru Monastery, who to this day lead an austere life and use no advanced or automated technology. The scrolls are currently on loan from the monastery for three more years and are displayed in the museum every tenth day.

Offworlders are surprised to find that classrooms, laboratories, dorm rooms, and other nonpublic areas of the campus are not marked with any signage. Instead, the Vulcan tradition is to use variations in texture and shades of color as cues to function and location.10

Following traditional Vulcan architecture, all interior rooms throughout the Academy complexes receive natural light through an elaborate system of skylights, even at ground-level and sub-surface locations in multistory buildings. The thick stone walls and minimalist transparent steel windows keep the interiors naturally cool. The acoustics of the lecture halls are such that no amplification is needed at the lectern or during theatrical or concert performances. The largest hall of the fortress complex, simply known as the Hall of Pelasht, is noted in many guidebooks as “one of the largest room in the known worlds – nearly half a mile long, a quarter mile across, five hundred feet up to the roof, and all carved out of the living stone, an ancient volcanic basalt.”11 Thousands of lamps recessed into the walls often remind visitors of distant stars.

Another of the Academy’s grand lecture hall complexes lies off campus on the other side of Shi’Kahr. Originally known as va’ne’meLakht (Hiding from the Rage), it was built as a place of refuge from sunstorms and was large enough to hold the entire population of the city and its environs just prior to Surak’s time – a time when there was a resurgence of solar activity. Today it is known as the Halls of the Voice and is constructed out of a smooth blue-grey stone known as bureki. The majority of the halls in this complex are located several hundred feet underground. They are cool in temperature and light but far from dark. Shafts, cut through the vaulted ceilings, allow sunlight to stream in slanting columns from ground level. The halls are mostly used today for the biggest lectures, debates, and meetings, in addition to many ceremonial occasions.12

The main campus, tucked away in Shi’Kahr’s oldest quarter is laid out so that its buildings, walkways, and green space make maximum use of the small plot of land. All VSA buildings are multi-story both above and below ground and are positioned so that the pedestrian has a view of most facilities from any one point on the carefully groomed pathways. The meditation gardens are open to all and no permission is needed to stroll or sit within their quiet beauty. Most species of trees planted on the grounds, such as lhm’ta and mah’ta, are actually giant herb specimens, according to their botanical classification. Other trees include the ancient flame-leaved induku, clustered near the fortress complex. The carpet-like blue-green groundcover is a plant known as kh’aa and may be walked upon. Unlike Earth’s lawn grass, it never needs cutting. The various fountains are programmed to display an endless variety of cones, parabolas, and hyperbolas through their water jets.13

The visitor is reminded that there are no parking facilities for vehicles of any kind. The closest structures are located in the adjacent government quarter. Shuttle services and grav-chairs are available for the non-ambulatory, and all campus buildings are connected through underground tunnels where it is always possible to escape the extreme heat of the day. There one will find cafés and full cafeteria services.

When attending lectures and other performances, it is important to remember that at the end of the presentation, there is no applause. It is customary to wait a few moments – to show respect to the speaker – before asking questions.14

It is hoped that your visit to the Vulcan Science Academy will be an enlightening and meaningful one. Below is a list of colleges and their corresponding departments, along with a map of the campus. Please direct your questions and requests for tour arrangements to Stepn, Head of Visitor Services.

Vulcan Science Academy: Shi’Kahr Campus

Vulcan Science Academy Map (click here)

College of Agriculture

  • Dept. of Agroforestry
  • Dept. of Conservation Biology
  • Dept. of Horticulture
  • Dept. of Hydroponics
  • Dept. of Soil Science
  • Dept. of Veterinary Science

College of Chemistry

  • Dept. of Analytical Chemistry
  • Dept. of Photochemistry
  • Dept. of Physical Chemistry
  • Dept. of Quantum Chemistry
  • Dept. of Theoretical Chemistry
  • Dept. of Thermochemistry

College of Computer Science

  • Dept. of Artificial Intelligence
  • Dept. of Computer Architecture
  • Dept. of Cryptology
  • Dept. of Holography and Optics
  • Dept. of Medical Imaging
  • Dept. of Network Engineering
  • Dept. of Plasma Engineering and Diagnostics
  • Dept. of Robotics
  • Dept. of Sensor Technology
  • Dept. of Software Engineering

College of Engineering and Applied Science

  • Dept. of Aerospace Engineering
  • Dept. of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences
  • Dept. of Chemical Engineering
  • Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Dept. of Electrical Engineering
  • Dept. of Industrial Science
  • Dept. of Macromolecular Science
  • Dept. of Mechanical Engineering
  • Dept. of Nanotechnology
  • Dept. of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences
  • Dept. of Photonics

College of Geophysics

  • Dept. of Aquatic Sciences
  • Dept. of Ecology
  • Dept. of Geochemistry
  • Dept. of Geology
  • Dept. of Geophysics and Seismology
  • Dept. of Meteorology
  • Dept. of Volcanology

College of Historical Studies

  • Dept. of Archaeology
  • Dept. of Architecture and Urban Planning
  • Dept. of Art and Music
  • Dept. of History
  • Dept. of Language and Linguistics
  • Dept. of Literature
  • Dept. of Museum Studies
  • Dept. of Paleontology
  • Dept. of Political Science
  • Dept. of Religion
  • Dept. of Sociology

College of Information Technology

  • Dept. of Archival Sciences
  • Dept. of Communications Engineering
  • Dept. of Infomatics and Information Theory
  • Dept. of Information Analysis and Retrieval
  • Dept. of Information Services

College of Mathematics

  • Dept. of Adaptive Systems
  • Dept. of Analysis
  • Dept. of Applied Mathematics
  • Dept. of Fluid Dynamics
  • Dept. of Mathematical Logic
  • Dept. of Probability Science
  • Dept. of Topology

College of Medicine and Life Sciences

  • Dept. of Biochemistry
  • Dept. of Biology
  • Dept. of Biomedical Engineering
  • Dept. of Biophysics
  • Dept. of Cardiology
  • Dept. of Dentistry
  • Dept. of Dietetics
  • Dept. of Endocrinology
  • Dept. of Experimental Medicine
  • Dept. of Genetics
  • Dept. of Geriatrics
  • Dept. of Internal Medicine and General Surgery
  • Dept. of Kinesiology
  • Dept. of Microbiology and Immunology
  • Dept. of Neurology and Neurosurgery
  • Dept. of Pediatrics
  • Dept. of Pathology and Toxicology
  • Dept. of Pharmacology and Therapeutics

College of Physics

  • Dept. of Applied Physics
  • Dept. of Astrophysics
  • Dept. of Nuclear and Subatomic Physics
  • Dept. of Quantum Physics
  • Dept. of Theoretical Physics

College of Thought

  • Dept. of Mental Disciplines
  • Dept. of Philosophy
  • Dept. of Psionics
  • Dept. of Psychology

College of Xenology

  • Dept. of Xenobiology
  • Dept. of Xenolinguistics
  • Dept. of Xenopsychology
  • Dept. of Xenosociology

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SOURCES

1 Duane, D. (1988). Spock’s  World. New York: Pocket Books, pp. 117, 126.

2 The Way of Kolinahr: The Vulcans. (1998). Culver City, CA: Last Unicorn Games, p. 15.

3 ibid, p. 55.

4 ibid, p. 56.

5 ibid, p. 57.

6 Sherman, J. & Shwartz, S. (1999). Vulcan’s Heart. New York: Pocket Books, p. 366.

7 Lorrah, J. (1984). The Vulcan Academy Murders. New York: Pocket Books, p. 183.

8 ibid, p. 185.

9 ibid, pp. 187-188.

10 Strickland, B. & B. (1996). Crisis on Vulcan. (Starfleet Academy). New York: Pocket Books, p. 57.

11 Duane, D. (1988). Spock’s  World. New York: Pocket Books, p. 117.

12 ibid., pp. 184-185.

13 Strickland, B. & B. (1996). Crisis on Vulcan. (Starfleet Academy). New York: Pocket Books, pp. 55-57.

14 Sherman, J. & Shwartz, S. (2004). Exodus. (Star Trek: Vucan’s Soul, Book 1). New York: Pocket Books, p. 143.