This edited volume comprises a series of essays about Patrick Maynard Stewart Blackett, one of the greatest scientists of the 20th century, as well as a prominent figure in the Royal Navy and British politics.
Blackett was battle-hardened in World War I and contributed directly to the Allied victory in World War II. Showing precocious ability in mechanical invention and benefiting from the Royal Navy's revolutionary education - the most advanced available in Britain in the early 1900s - Blackett had gone to war in 1914 aged 16. Escaping death and drowning, he saw action in two major battles, and spent several gruelling years on patrol in small ships. When the Royal Navy sent its young officers to be "civilized" at Cambridge after World War I, Blackett decided to stay on.
Blackett would go on to become one of the most remarkable scientists of his generation, winning the Nobel Prize for physics in 1948 for his work on cloud chambers. He also helped prepare Britain for war, working with Henry Tizard in the 1930s on the Committee for the Scientific Survey of Air Defence, which led to the installation of radar stations, and later developing the science of operational research, which helped defeat the U-boat menace. Although not a pacifist, he was strongly opposed both to nuclear weapons and to indiscriminate bombing, on grounds of morality and efficacy. Blackett would go on to advise Harold Wilson in Britain and Jawarharlal Nehru in India on defence and science policy. Throughout his life, Blackett would keep the commanding presence and habits of a naval officer, which helped him apply his influence.
Published: 29th September 2002