Science Festival

Science Festival

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 nuclear bomb.    

Famelo’s Churchill’s 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.    

Ball’s Serving the Reich: The Struggle for the Soul of Physics under Hitler explains how 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 Strangest Man, 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 decisions.   

Cheltenham College guests enjoyed lunch at the Festival before the event and a reception at College afterwards.

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