Charles (CP) Snow (1905-1980)


Baron Charles Percy (C.P.) Snow, CBE, was a British novelist, scientist, and government administrator. He was born in Leicester on 15 October 1905, the second of four boys. He attended Alderman Newton's School, and then Leicestershire and Rutland College, which is now the University of Leicester, where he read chemistry. He then continued to a master's degree in physics. From Leicester, he successfully gained a scholarship to Christ's College, coming up to read physics, in which he gained a PhD. In 1930, at the age of 25, he became a Fellow of Christ's College until his death in 1980.

After working in molecular physics at Cambridge for around 20 years, he became a university administrator, but with the outbreak of World War II, he became a scientific adviser to the British government. In this capacity, Snow served in several civil service positions, such as technical director of the Ministry of Labour from 1940 to 1944, and as a civil service commissioner from 1945 to 1960. During his time 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.

He was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 1943 New Year Honours. In the 1957 New Year Honours, he was knighted and was created a life peer, as Baron Snow, of the City of Leicester, on 29 October 1964.

In the 1930s Snow began the 11-volume novel collectively called Strangers and Brothers (published 1940–70), about the academic, public, and private life of an Englishman named Lewis Eliot. The best-known of the sequence is The Masters, which deals with the internal politics of a Cambridge college as it prepares to elect a new master. It was later, along with The New Men, awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1954. In 1974, Snow's novel In Their Wisdom was shortlisted for the Booker Prize

On 7 May 1959, Snow delivered a Rede Lecture called The Two Cultures, which provoked heated debate and 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.

Snow married Pamela Hansford Johnson in 1950 and they had one son.