Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1979. — 376 p.The Visible College is a collective biography of five British scientists who became committed socialists around the time of the First World War — and stuck to that commitment for the rest of their lives. Their names — J. D. Bernal, J. B. S. Haldane, Lancelot Hogben, Hyman Levy and Joseph Needham — celebrated at the time, may be unfamiliar to some readers today. But from the mid-thirties to the mid-fifties, through their writing and through the publicity attached to their own activities, these men were widely recognized as some of the leading intellectuals of their generation. This book recounts the story of their lives and, as they saw it, their times. Their origins were extraordinarily diverse, ranging from the aristocratically assured upbringing of J. B. S. Haldane to the impoverished working class home of Hyman Levy. Yet from these contrasting backgrounds emerged a group of men who were united in their dedication to the causes of science and of socialism. Unity however, did not mean sameness. For within their company they each embraced very different forms of scientific and socialist practices. The Visible College dwells upon the personal and political circumstances that led each man to opt for his particular brand of "scientific socialism." The narrative is also laced with a number of larger themes, including the fate of different groups of radicalized intellectuals from the 1930s, the politics of the Communist Party, and the role of science in a socialist society. By skillfully wedding these topics to the biographies of five highly individual personalities, The Visible College is an engrossing, original, and authoritative account of what it meant to be a socialist and intellectual, at a crucial point in British history.
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