By Ray Fleming
AN event that has been rather lost in the political turmoil of the past few weeks is the 50th anniversary of the lecture by the novelist C P Snow in which he first spoke of “The Two Cultures” which existed in Britain, separating the scientific and literary communities. Snow, both a scientist and a novelist, moved confidently between the two groups but he felt he was one of the few able to do so and that as a result Britain was unlikely to keep its place in the world as a centre of scientific and literary excellence.

Snow gave his lecture at Cambridge University and was soon subjected to a fierce attack by a Cambridge contemporary, F R Leavis, which generated much more heat than light. After half a century the matter is unresolved. Does it really matter whether scientists and authors speak each other's language and understand enough of each other's specialisation to be able to contribute usefully to it? For the most part the communication traffic is likely to be from author to scientist since the latter seems to be living in an increasingly complex world that is virtually closed to outsiders. In Snow's original observations there was a implication that the literary community considered itself superior to the scientists. If that was ever true it is certainly not so today. Indeed the reverse is probably the case. But there is still a need for better understanding and communication between the two cultures.

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