\Snow, C. P. Variety of Men. London: Macmillan, 1967.\

 

\Snow, C. P. Variety of Men. London: Macmillan, 1967.\

This is a set of biographies of "interesting" men. These sketches are personal impressions of
people who have been influential in Snow's life and in his thinking. He wrote the book because,
"The real fun was in the variety of human beings. That has been my chief preoccupation ever
since I can remember: even when, for a mixture of reasons, I have had to turn my attention to
other things." (p. x)

The men involved are: Rutherford, G. H. Hardy, H. G. Wells, Einstein, Lloyd George, Winston
Churchill, Robert Frost, Dag Hammarskjold and Stalin. He met them all, except Stalin, and his
reports on them are to some extent autobiographical. I had expected this author of Two Cultures
to have stuck to scientists but, as one can see, he draws upon his two worlds of experience. All of
his subjects are, as he has it, optimists about the future and he thinks this trait absolutely
necessary for scientists. It is essential for artists, too.

There is much sadness in the book. H. G. Wells wanted to become a Fellow of the Royal Society
before he died. He even went out and got a doctorate at an advanced age, but the Fellows would
not make an exception to their rules. (Snow was furious because they had made exceptions in the
past.) Robert Frost was almost paranoid about his failure to get a Nobel prize. Einstein is
reported to have wasted half his life searching for the unified field simply because he did not
want to see his determinacy go down the tubes ("God does not play dice.") Stalin was a literary
man who knew full well the power of the written word, and he used his literary skills throughout
his life.

Perhaps the most telling episode in the book regarding fudging concerns Rutherford, the
experimentalist who first described the structure of the atom. With Snow at Cambridge,
Rutherford was concerned about Snow's first book which drew heavily on Snow's knowledge of
science and of the university. The book was a novel but that was what bothered Rutherford most.
After reading the book, Rutherford warned Snow: "‘It's a small world, you know.' He meant the
world of science. ‘Keep off us as much as you can. People are bound to think that you are getting
at some of us. And I suppose we've all got things we don't want anyone to see.'" (pp. 8-9) The
novelist can be dangerous to science, as Snow was to show in other works.