Cambridge Centre for the study of Western Esotericism

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Posts Tagged ‘Francis Crick



Image, place, source: unknown

Image from Reflections: Sixties Counterculture in Cambridge. Filmmaker: Kameron Stroud, Alexandros Papathanasiou

The Counterculture Research Group is an interdisciplinary series of seminars, lectures and associated events that focuses the multiple artistic, historical and social manifestations of the countercultural impetus.

 for more information please contact: 

Yvonne Salmon FRSA



Josie Gill (University of Cambridge)

Francis Crick, Race, and The Poetry of Richard Nixon


Francis Crick 1954

Amongst the hundreds of files which make up the Francis Crick archive is a file dedicated to Crick’s correspondence with Arthur Jensen, an American educational psychologist whose work focuses on proving a link between race and intelligence. The letters, which date from the early 1970s, provide an insight into Crick’s views on this controversial topic, and his role in galvanising support for a statement on academic freedom in the face of calls for the study of racial differences to be halted. However the file also contains two literary documents; a photocopy of The Poetry of Richard Nixon, a satirical collection of found poetry based on the Watergate tapes, and an essay on feminism by the science fiction writer Isaac Asimov. What do these documents tell us about Crick’s thinking about race and why are they included in a file of his professional correspondence on the matter? In this paper I will suggest that the poems and essay reflect Crick’s ambivalent relationship to the political culture of the early 1970s which his participation in the debate over race exposes. Crick felt threatened by the questioning of traditional sources of authority such as science, yet embraced the more liberal movements of the time through an interest in beat poetry and drugs. Examining the authorship, production and content of the texts reveals a complex web of connections between Crick and the politically conservative, as well as countercultural, figures of the period, providing an alternative view of the relationship between literature and science in the second half of the twentieth century.

Josie Gill is a PhD student in the Faculty of English. Her thesis is on race, genetics and contemporary British fiction.


James Purdon (University of Cambridge)

‘A Nation-Wide Intelligence Service’: Mass-Observation, Hermeneutic Paranoia and the Invasion of Cambridge


Mass -observation (1943)

In the summer of 1940, a loose-knit coterie of Cambridge fellows submitted a file to Mass-Observation, the well-known social research organisation which since the spring of that year had been preparing reports for the Ministry of Information. The file consisted of a spectacularly paranoid collection of readings of graffiti, chalk-marks and ‘litter trails’ in the Cambridge countryside, pointing, it was suggested, to German invasion targets. Taking the Cambridge invasion file as a starting point, this paper explores English paranoia at the beginning of the Second World War, beginning with a survey of public reactions to Mass-Observation before and after its annexation by the wartime government, and moving on to consider literary responses both to the information-gathering methods of Mass-Observation itself, and to the wider wartime matters of surveillance and information restriction.

James Purdon is currently completing a doctoral dissertation on British writing from Joseph Conrad to Elizabeth Bowen and the rise of the information society.

For further information contact:

 Yvonne Salmon FRSA

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