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[87] Lecture I. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice: C. P. Snow and J. Bronowski On May 7, 1959, the eminent British scientist, novelist, and civil servant C. P. Snow delivered the annual Rede Lecture in the Senate House at the University of Cambridge. The topic he chose—The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution—did not come out of the blue; as Snow observed in his opening remarks, he had been turning over in his mind the problem he addressed for “about three years,” and had published an earlier version of the lecture in the New Statesman in 1956.1 Nevertheless, the lecture caused a furor among practitioners of both the arts and the sciences, rising to a crescendo following the distinguished literary critic F. R. Leavis’s splenetic rebuttal of Snow’s argument in his 1962 Richmond Lecture, Two Cultures? The Significance of C. P. Snow. Although he was deeply wounded by Leavis’s public assault, Snow chosenottoreplypubliclyuntilalmosttwoyearslater,inTheTwoCultures: A Second Look (Times Literary Supplement, 1963; Cambridge University Press, 1964).2 There, admitting that he had been unprepared for the uproar his lecture had caused, Snow specified that his friend Jacob Bronowski had written extensively on the potential dangers of a growing arts-science divide among British intellectuals, before he had ever thought of doing so. Initially, Snow wrote, response to his lecture was largely favorable, but gradually he “began to feel uncomfortably like the sorcerer’s apprentice,” that he had “unleashed a torrent of forces far beyond his own powers”:3 It was clear [he wrote] that many people had been thinking of this assembly of topics. The ideas were in the air. . . . It seems to be pure A draft of this lecture was read by Guy Ortolano and Timothy Sandefur. I am extremely grateful to them for their comments, all of which I have endeavored to incorporate in my revised text. I did not discover Ortolano’s outstanding book, The Two Cultures Controversy: Science, Literature, and Cultural Politics in Postwar Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), until I was well into writing these lectures, and I greatly appreciate his having read and commented on my own efforts at short notice. 1. For a clear indication of how comparatively uncontroversial the lecture at first appeared, see the review in the Times published the following day (see the appendix). 2. Looking slightly forward in this lecture, Jacob Bronowski records in his personal diary, on October 25, 1963, “Snow’s TLS ‘A Second Look’ published.” So Bronowski had clearly been alerted to Snow’s return to his Rede Lecture, in which he would credit Bronowski with initiating the debate. 3. This latter quote is from D. Graham Burnett, “A View from the Bridge: The Two Cultures Debate, Its Legacy, and the History of Science,” Daedalus 128 (Spring 1999): 193–218. The Tanner Lectures on Human Values 88 chance that others had not found themselves, some time earlier, in the same apprentice-like position. Jacob Bronowski had, at various times in the fifties, dealt imaginatively with many aspects of these problems . Merle Kling in 1957 published an article—unknown to me until much later—which closely anticipated the first half of my lecture.4. . . In 1956 and 1957 I myself wrote two pieces which, though shorter than the Rede Lecture, contained much of its substance. Yet none of us got much response. Two years later the time was right.5 I shall be devoting my second Tanner Lecture to what I maintain are the real issues raised in Snow’s two-cultures lecture, and arguing for their lasting importance. In light of the close affinity affirmed by Snow himself between his and Bronowski’s views on the matter dealt with in this controversy, I shall concentrate in my first lecture on how several facets of what the phrase the two cultures perhaps misleadingly suggests are a single problem, emerged together in the sometimes parallel and sometimes combined work of the two men. This will, I suggest, help us to disentangle the key strands in Snow’s argument from the many-voiced, and often parochial, clamor that followed its publication, particularly after Leavis’s intervention. ◆ ◆ ◆ Jacob Bronowski (1908–74) was a mathematician and polymath, a public intellectual (on television and radio) whose talents and interests straddled the arts and sciences.6 He is best remembered today for his pioneering television series The Ascent of Man, first broadcast in 1973. He was also my father, and this lecture includes some previously unseen material from...


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