THE GODKIN LECTURES ON THE ESSENTIALS OF FREE GOVERNMENT AND THE DUTIES OF THE CITIZEN
Cover: Science and Government, from Harvard University PressCover: Science and Government in PAPERBACK

Science and Government

Science and Government is a gripping account of one of the great scientific rivalries of the twentieth century. The antagonists are Sir Henry Tizard, a chemist from Imperial College, and Frederick Lindemann (Lord Cherwell), a physicist from the University of Oxford. The scientist-turned-novelist Charles Percy Snow tells a story of hatred and ambition at the top of British science, exposing how vital decisions were made in secret and sometimes with little regard to truth or the prevailing scientific consensus.

Tizard, an adviser to a Labor government, believed the air war against Nazi Germany would be won by investing in the new science of radar. Lindemann favored bombing the homes of German citizens. Each man produced data to support his case, but in the end what mattered was politics. When Labor was in power, Tizard’s view prevailed. When the Conservatives returned, Lindemann, who was Winston Churchill’s personal adviser, became untouchable.

Snow’s 1959 “Two Cultures” Rede Lecture propelled him to worldwide fame. Science and Government, originally the 1960 Godkin Lectures at Harvard, has been largely forgotten. Today the space occupied by scientists and politicians is much more contested than it was in Snow’s time, but there remains no better guide to it than Snow’s dramatic narrative.

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Who We Might Have Been, and Who We Will Become

Who among us hasn’t considered what our lives would be like if we had taken alternate paths, made different decisions? Storytellers of every stripe write of the lives we didn’t have, says Andrew H. Miller, author of On Not Being Someone Else: Tales of Our Unled Lives. As we live through a worldwide pandemic, the ideas of what might have been are even more appealing. Much like the adolescents on the verge of adulthood in Sally Rooney’s novel Normal People, Miller tells us, we wait to see what comes next.