Snow, C. P.

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Snow, C. P.

C. P. Snow: (Charles Percy Snow, Baron Snow of Leicester), 1905–80, English author and physicist. Snow had an active, varied career, including several important positions in the British government. He served as technical director of the ministry of labor from 1940 to 1944; as civil service commissioner from 1945 to 1960; and as parliamentary secretary to the minister of technology from 1964 to 1966. As a novelist, Snow was particularly noted for his series of 11 related novels known collectively as Strangers and Brothers. The series traces the career of Lewis Eliot from his boyhood in a provincial town, through law school and years as a fellow at Cambridge, to an important government position; in many respects Eliot's career parallels that of Snow himself. Although the series has been read as a study of power, or as an analysis of the relationship between science and the community, it is primarily a perceptive and frequently moving delineation of changes in English life during the 20th cent. Among the novels in the series are Strangers and Brothers (1940), The Masters (1951), The New Men (1954), The Affair (1960), Corridors of Power (1964), and Last Things (1970). Snow's other novels include The Search (1934), In Their Wisdom (1974), and A Coat of Varnish (1979); Science and Government (1961), a collection of essays concerning the vocation of the scientist; biographical studies such as A Variety of Men (1967), The Realists (1978), and The Physicists (1981); and Public Affairs (1971), a collection of lectures about the benefits and dangers of technology. His 1959 Rede Lecture on The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution, lamenting the increasing gulf between "literary intellectuals" and "scientists," provoked widespread and heated debate. He was married to the novelist Pamela Hansford Johnson. Snow was knighted in 1957 and created baron (life peer) in 1964.

See studies by J. Thale (1964), R. G. Davis (1965), and P. Boytinck (1980).

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