On the opening day of the Cheltenham Science Festival, Cheltenham
College supported a fascinating discussion with Graham Farmelo and Philip Ball
at their event Science and war: working
for Hitler and Churchill.
Dr Alex Peterken, Headmaster of Cheltenham College,
introduced the event and commented: “We are delighted to be supporting this year's
Science Festival. Cheltenham College has a long tradition of strength in the
Sciences. As with all the great public schools of England, College led the way
in the introduction of science to the school curriculum in the nineteenth
century and many Old Cheltonians have gone on to make an impact in their
specialist scientific areas on the world stage. Of course, as part of the wider
community we are also keen for our students to explore the ethical dilemmas
often faced by scientists."
Farmelo and Ball have both published new works that
respectively look at how scientists worked for Churchill and Hitler on the
Bomb: A Hidden History of Science War and Politics takes a fresh view of
Churchill’s pioneering role in the age of nuclear science. He shows how
British physicists first demonstrated that the bomb was a practical possibility
in 1940 but that Churchill, on the advice of the controversial scientist,
Frederick Lindemann, allowed leadership to pass to the Americans.
the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler
some leading scientists continued to work for Hitler. Some eventually left
Germany and others later maintained that they had deliberately delayed
production of an atomic bomb.
Farmelo is a by-fellow of Churchill College,
Cambridge. His biography of Paul Dirac, The
, won the 2009 Costa Biography Award and the 2010 Los Angeles
Times Science Book Prize. Ball is a writer and former editor for physical
sciences at Nature
. His books include H2O: A Biography of Water
; Critical Mass
winner of the 2005 Aventis Prize for Science Books; and The Music Instinct
In a far-reaching discussion with a lively Q&A session
Farmelo and Ball helped enlighten the audience on some of the ethical issues
facing scientists during the Second World War and the implications of their
Cheltenham College guests enjoyed lunch at the Festival before
the event and a reception at College afterwards.