Renaissance Men

The historian Eric Hobsbawm (who sadly died recently) has made the point that a number of British scientists of the interwar years, the 1930s and 40s, were very widely knowledgeable across a number of disciplines, including science and the arts. They were “Renaissance men” of the time (do we have any today?). They included J. B. S. Haldane (poetry), Desmond Bernal (lectured on Iranian art), Bronowski (wrote on Blake), C. H. Waddington (had an extra degree in music), Joseph Needham (classics, theology, philosophy, history). Many were leftists in politics (Gary Wersky has described them as the Visible College). Hobsbawm says: “They also tended to combine the imaginations of art and science with endless energy, free love, eccentricity and revolutionary politics” [Fractured Times, 2013, p.185].

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