The Lord Snow
C. P. Snow in 1969
(Jack Manning, New York Times)
|Died||1 July 1980 (aged 74)|
|Alma mater||University of London|
University of Leicester
Christ's College, Cambridge
|Fields||Physics, chemistry, literature (novelist)|
|Institutions||Christ's College, Cambridge|
|Doctoral students||Eric Eastwood|
Charles Percy Snow, Baron Snow, CBE (15 October 1905 - 1 July 1980) was an English novelist and physical chemist who also served in several important positions in the British Civil Service and briefly in the UK government. He is best known for his series of novels known collectively as Strangers and Brothers, and for The Two Cultures, a 1959 lecture in which he laments the gulf between scientists and "literary intellectuals".
Born in Leicester to William Snow, a church organist and choirmaster, and his wife Ada, Charles Snow was the second of four boys, his brothers being Harold, Eric and Philip Snow, and was educated at Alderman Newton's School.
In 1923, he passed the intermediate British School Certificate, and in 1925 went on to take a University of London external degree in Physics at the University College, Leicester (now the University of Leicester). Snow later gained a scholarship to Christ's College, Cambridge, and gained his PhD in physics (spectroscopy). In 1930 he became a Fellow of Christ's College.
Snow served in several senior civil service positions: as technical director of the Ministry of Labour from 1940 to 1944, and as a civil service commissioner from 1945 to 1960. He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1943 New Year Honours. Snow's was among the 2,300 names of prominent persons listed on the Nazis' Special Search List, of those who were to be arrested on the invasion of Great Britain and turned over to the Gestapo.
As a politician, Snow was parliamentary secretary in the House of Lords to the Minister of Technology from 1964 to 1966 in the Labour government of Harold Wilson. In the 1957 New Year Honours he was knighted, having the honour conferred by Queen Elizabeth II on 12 February, and was created a life peer, as Baron Snow, of the City of Leicester, on 29 October 1964.
Snow married the novelist Pamela Hansford Johnson in 1950; they had one son. Friends included the mathematician G. H. Hardy, for whom he would write a biographical foreword in A Mathematician's Apology, the physicist P. M. S. Blackett, the X-ray crystallographer J. D. Bernal, the cultural historian Jacques Barzun and the polymath George Steiner. At Christ's College he tutored H. S. Hoff - later better known as the novelist William Cooper. The two became friends, worked together in the civil service and wrote versions of each other into their novels: Snow was the model for the college dean, Robert, in Cooper's Scenes from Provincial Life sequence. In 1960, Snow gave the Godkin Lectures at Harvard University, about the clashes between Henry Tizard and F. Lindemann (later Lord Cherwell), both scientific advisors to British governments around the time of the Second World War. The lectures were subsequently published as Science and Government. For the academic year 1961 to 1962, Snow and his wife both served as Fellows on the faculty in the Center for Advanced Studies at Wesleyan University.
Snow's first novel was a whodunit, Death under Sail (1932). In 1975 he wrote a biography of Anthony Trollope. But he is better known as the author of a sequence of novels entitled Strangers and Brothers in which he depicts intellectuals in academic and government settings in the modern era. The best-known of the sequence is The Masters. It deals with the internal politics of a Cambridge college as it prepares to elect a new master. Having all the appeal of an insider's view, the novel depicts concerns other than the strictly academic that influence the decisions of supposedly objective scholars. The Masters and The New Men were jointly awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1954.Corridors of Power added a phrase to the language of the day. In 1974, Snow's novel In Their Wisdom was shortlisted for the Booker Prize.
In The Realists, an examination of the work of eight novelists - Stendhal, Honoré de Balzac, Charles Dickens, Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Benito Pérez Galdós, Henry James and Marcel Proust - Snow makes a robust defence of the realistic novel.
On 7 May 1959, Snow delivered a Rede Lecture called The Two Cultures, which provoked "widespread and heated debate". Subsequently, published as The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, the lecture argued that the breakdown of communication between the "two cultures" of modern society - the sciences and the humanities - was a major hindrance to solving the world's problems. In particular, Snow argues that the quality of education in the world is on the decline. He wrote:
The satirists Flanders and Swann used the first part of this quotation as the basis for their short monologue and song, "First and Second Law".
As delivered in 1959, Snow's Rede Lectures specifically condemned the British educational system, as having since the Victorian period over-rewarded the humanities (especially Latin and Greek) at the expense of scientific education. He believed that in practice this deprived British elites (in politics, administration, and industry) of adequate preparation for managing the modern scientific world. By contrast, Snow said, German and American schools sought to prepare their citizens equally in the sciences and humanities, and better scientific teaching enabled those countries' rulers to compete more effectively in a scientific age. Later discussion of The Two Cultures tended to obscure Snow's initial focus on differences between British systems (of both schooling and social class) and those of competing countries.
|Coat of arms of The Lord Snow|
|Crest||A telescope fesswise between two pens in saltire Proper.|
|Blazon||Azure a semy of snow crystals Proper.|
|Supporters||On either side a Siamese Cat Proper.|
|Motto||Aut Inveniam Viam Aut Faciam |