PD Smith

Elective Affinity: A Tale of Two Cultures?

By PD Smith

Prometheus 04 (2000), 46-65


Are literature and science divided by an unbridgeable gulf of mutual misunderstanding? Or are the ‘two cultures’ actually united by a common objective: to increase human self-understanding? In reality the relationship between literature and science is closer than many people think. In the twentieth century, literature has given voice to popular fears about the role of science in society as well as expressing profound wonder at a world transformed by science.

Richard Dawkins argues in Unweaving the Rainbow (1998) that the nineteenth century began on a note of hostility as far as relations between literature and science were concerned. In his poem ‘Lamia’ (1820) Keats typified science as ‘cold philosophy’ which stripped the world of her wondrous veil of mystery. The effect of science was to ‘unweave a rainbow’. For Dawkins, a passionate advocate of the scientific world-view, the wonder of a world described by science is self-evident. But literature has been tardy in according science its due: ‘poets could better use the inspiration provided by science’. He concludes his argument with the memorable remark: ‘A Keats and a Newton, listening to each other, might hear the galaxies sing’. [1]

And yet, the story has not simply been one of antagonism; literature has been profoundly inspired by science, particularly in the twentieth century. In contrast to the now rather tired view proclaimed by C P Snow in his 1959 lecture, that the literary reception of science was blighted by a ‘two cultures’ mentality, I believe literature and science have for the most part existed in a close if at times stormy relationship. [2] In fact ‘elective affinity’ might be a more accurate description of the bond between literature and science, an affinity rooted in the knowledge that both writer and scientist are committed to a process of continual exploration of the experiential world. For both endeavours are passionately concerned with deepening humankind’s understanding of itself and its place in the material universe.

In recent years, particularly in British fiction, writers have gone out of their way to engage creatively with science, perhaps in a conscious effort to demonstrate the fallacy of the two cultures thesis. Of course, literature has not always been positive in its assessment of scientific ideas. But, as we will see, even when it is disagreeing with the world-view of science, literature has provided a vital forum in which ideas can be debated and tested. Indeed, by performing this function literature has often helped to form the climate of opinion of an age and thus provided inspiration and guidance to scientists themselves.

Elective Affinities is, of course, the title of Goethe’s classic novel published in 1809, aspects of which John Banville adopts for his short yet intense novel, The Newton Letter (1982). Goethe’s work is a landmark both in the history of the novel and relations between science and literature. His depiction of the interaction of science and human relationships sets a high standard for subsequent literary engagements with science. Its central theme is human desire represented as ‘an indescribable, almost magical force of attraction’ that overcomes social and moral bonds. [3] By exploring this theme through contemporary chemical theories of affinity, Goethe establishes links between the scientifically described material world and the realm of human desires, setting in motion a debate about the role of science in our lives that remains topical to this day.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, chemistry was ‘an exciting discipline promising to reveal the unity of matter – a sphere in which mechanics had merely scratched the surface. [...] Chemistry seemed to exemplify a drive towards unity and simplicity.’ [4] Chemistry was seen as reflecting the dynamic, revolutionary spirit of the age and offering a new paradigm for comprehending the natural world. Indeed, the fascination which writers at this time (such as Coleridge) had for chemistry can be compared with the interest shown by recent writers in the New Physics. Goethe was deeply involved in the science of his day and contributed to the fields of botany, comparative anatomy, meteorology, and geology, as well as developing original theories of morphology and colour. Goethe’s interest in theories of chemical affinity can be dated back to at least 1769. The title of his novel – Die Wahlverwandtschaften or ‘elective affinities’ – is drawn from the theories of the Swedish chemist Torbern Olof Bergman (1735-84). And yet Goethe chose to use a translation of Bergman’s Latin phrase attractio electiva simplex that is inherently ambiguous and paradoxical, particularly because of its anthropomorphic resonances. Indeed, this hermeneutic complexity is central to Goethe’s critique of the naturalistic scientific understanding of the world. [5]

Elective Affinities, 1811 illusGoethe’s characters Eduard and Charlotte are an aristocratic couple enjoying an idyllic life on their rural estate. But their apparently perfect marriage is shattered following the arrival of Eduard’s childhood friend, the Captain, and Charlotte’s niece, Ottilie. The irresistible attraction that they feel for each other is like a force of nature. The discussion of chemistry in chapter 4, from which the novel derives its title, introduces scientific ideas about the material world which resonate throughout the narrative, influencing the way both characters and readers understand events. Goethe establishes an affinity between human relationships and scientific theory. This movement of ideas from one discourse to the other is aided by the inherent ambiguity of Goethe’s scientific phrase. The word Verwandtschaft, or affinity, can be used in both human and chemical realms transforming elective affinity into a slippery phrase that encourages confusion, a confusion that Goethe exploits.

For the Captain, who is the representative of scientific rationality in the book, the process of elective affinity is a unique experience of the lawfulness of the physical world:

One has to have these entities before one’s eyes, and see how, although they appear to be lifeless, they are in fact perpetually ready to spring into activity; one has to watch sympathetically how they seek one another out, attract, seize, destroy, devour, consume one another, and then emerge again from this most intimate union in renewed, novel and unexpected shape: it is only then that one credits them with an eternal life, yes, with possessing mind and reason. (p. 56)

But in his enthusiastic attempt to describe the chemical process for his non-scientific listeners he describes inanimate nature in vitalistic terms, as if it is imbued with life, and attributes human qualities to chemical elements. In their discussion of this chemical process (which arises out of Charlotte’s confusion over the word ‘affinity’) there is a subtle exchange between scientific and human realms. [6] Eduard even uses a chemical formula to represent the elective affinity between Charlotte, himself, the Captain, and Ottilie: AB + CD = AD + BC. But this is an equation that merely represents already existing bonds of friendship and kinship. The decision to invite Ottilie and the Captain is described as an ‘experiment’ and this is exactly what it is: the house and its surrounding gardens are in effect a chemical retort in which the human elements are brought together for the reader to observe the resulting reaction. [7] The explosive reaction that occurs is not the one that was expected. Despite their seemingly happy marriage, Eduard falls passionately in love with Ottilie and Charlotte with the Captain.

What then is the indescribable force of attraction that grips these four characters, breaking down the powerful social bonds of marriage? Ancient myth, hermetic lore, eighteenth-century theories of chemistry, the Renaissance idea of sympathy, animal magnetism – these diverse attempts to explain natural forces are all reflected in Goethe’s text. Yet ultimately, the attraction between the characters is ‘indescribable’, beyond the reach of language. In this way Goethe asserts the fundamental complexity of the world and the inadequacy of our descriptions of it. For him, the direct experience of nature in all its scope and unique particularity was a prerequisite for understanding its laws and forces. In Elective Affinities he explores the way science, like previous knowledge systems such as alchemy, can actually hinder this process. The careless application of theories can lead to confusion rather than enlightenment.

Elective Affinities ends in tragedy: Eduard and Ottilie die tormented by a love that cannot be fulfilled in this world. But is this a tragedy created by the scientific concept of elective affinity, or is the love of all four people a reflection of a universal law of affinity? Goethe’s novel offers no definitive answer but leaves the reader with a sense of the inscrutability of nature and its resistance to the reductive theories that we impose upon it. Through his use of a deeply ambiguous scientific metaphor, Goethe explores the cogency and the limitations of scientific knowledge, revealing an unparalleled insight into our attempts to understand the world.

Formulaic Fiction?

ZolaÉmile Zola’s Thérèse Raquin (1867) is a text which is equally indebted to science but in a very different way. According to his preface to the second edition, Zola wanted to depict characters whose actions were determined by ‘the inexorable laws of their physical nature’. [8] The protagonists were, in the author’s words, no more than ‘human animals’, a fact reinforced to excess by the narrator’s repeated references to Laurent’s animal passion. Zola’s stated objective in the book was ‘first and foremost a scientific one’: ‘I simply applied to two living bodies the analytical method that surgeons apply to corpses.’ He wanted to explain ‘the mysterious attraction that can spring up between two different temperaments’. Here Zola shares Goethe’s objective of explaining the origins of desire: ‘[Thérèse] came to this room as though drawn by force, and stayed as though nailed to the spot’. For Goethe, this intangible power remains mysterious although ultimately part of a universal order of nature conceived in terms of polarity. But Zola was writing in a period when the progress of mechanistic science seemed irresistible and he was confident that this force would yield to his ‘scientific analysis’.

The formulation of fundamental laws of nature in the mid-nineteenth century, such as the first and second laws of thermodynamics, had an immense impact on people’s perception of the world around them. [9] Derived as they were in part from Sadi Carnot’s theoretical analysis of steam engines in 1824, these ideas fuelled a mechanistic and deterministic world-view. Keen to ally himself with the triumphal progress of science, Zola styles himself as a scientist in pursuit of truth. And yet Zola’s omniscient narrator is not merely scientific but godlike in his knowledge. The narrator has privileged access to the unmediated feelings of all characters. His description of Laurent illustrates this well:

A lazy man at bottom, he had animal appetites, very clear-cut desires for easy and lasting pleasures. All his great powerful body wanted was to do nothing, to wallow in never-ending idleness and self-indulgence. He would have liked to eat well, sleep well, satisfy his passions liberally, without stirring from one spot or risking the misfortune of a bit of fatigue. (pp. 54-5)

In a few words the omniscient narrator sums up Laurent’s character. There is no room for uncertainty or even for development: the reader is presented with a neat two-dimensional figure. Indeed, Zola’s characters are human beings that have been reduced to a formula: all Laurent’s actions are a function of this formula.

In Zola’s ‘scientific’ novel the scientist-narrator is in possession of all the facts about his experimental subjects. The impossibility of a reaction between Camille and Thérèse is as predictable for the narrator as is the explosive reaction between Thérèse and Laurent. Such characters fit admirably the mechanistic world-view Zola expresses in his preface: they function like clockwork mechanisms progressing along the inflexible orbits ordained by their literary creator. But as living, breathing people they are wholly unconvincing. Human psychology, that most subtle and shifting realm, which still resists the light of scientific explanation, is reduced to a mechanistic paradigm. Ultimately, Zola’s novel is no more scientific than a Greek tragedy. It is, however, a supreme example of a scientistic text. Whereas Fate was the dominant force in Greek tragedies, in works such as Zola’s it is the laws and ideology of science that control the strings that determine a character’s every move. For as Alfred North Whitehead pointed out, in the modern world ‘the laws of physics are the decrees of fate.’ [10]

Both Goethe’s and Zola’s novels attempt to explain the natural world and the place of humans within it by reference to contemporary scientific ideas and paradigms. However, Goethe’s is by far the superior work. Though more closely involved with science than Zola he does not adopt the voice of the scientist in his writing. Through literature Goethe explores what science could not – the mediated and inherently metaphorical basis of knowledge and its role in human self-understanding. The reader of Goethe’s novel is faced with a task as complex as that of the scientist confronted by a plethora of experimental data. In contrast, Zola is blinded by the science of his day and uncritically moulds his material to fit the conceptual boxes that it supplies. Zola reduces human experience to a neatly balanced equation. But the scientific paradigm within which he was working was soon to be challenged by science itself.

Present Fears, Future Worlds

Whitehead’s Science and the Modern World articulated an important paradigm shift in the cultural reception of science. Whitehead’s views were in part a response to the new situation in science, particularly physics. Relativity and quantum theory heralded new ways of looking at the world in which the Newtonian absolutes of time and space were useful but limited concepts. The physicist Hermann Weyl wrote in 1918: ‘in our time there has been unloosed a cataclysm which has swept away space, time, and matter hitherto regarded as the firmest pillars of natural science’. [11]

For Whitehead this served to illustrate the fact that scientific thought for the last three hundred years or so had been dominated by a now outmoded world-view:

There persists, however, throughout the whole period the fixed scientific cosmology which presupposes the ultimate fact of an irreducible brute matter, or material, spread throughout space in a flux of configurations. In itself such a material is senseless, valueless, purposeless. It just does what it does do, following a fixed routine imposed by external relations which do not spring from the nature of its being. (p. 22)

But scientific materialism was no longer subtle enough to cope with the newly discovered complexity of the physical world. Writers such as E. A. Burtt and J. B. S. Haldane joined Whitehead in re-examining the philosophical foundations of science. [12] They found its mechanistic reductionism – although fitted for the analysis of steam engines – inadequate as a universal paradigm.

The ideology of scientific materialism, propagated in influential works of popular science such as Ludwig Büchner’s Force and Matter (1855), had convinced the reading public in the second half of the nineteenth century that science was an engine of social as well as technological progress. This unquestioning faith in rationalism and scientific method was communicated to the new century in H. G. Wells’s scientific fiction such as A Modern Utopia (1905) and Men Like Gods (1923). Wells ‘never deeply sifted and probed the ideology of science; he always assumed its value-free status and, for the most part, attributed its potential subversion to a separate category of explanation such as economics or politics’. [13] But after the wholesale mechanised destruction of World War One, science and technology was revealed as a Janus-headed god: one aspect promised progress, the other more lethal weapons. It is a dilemma powerfully depicted in Georg Kaiser’s plays Gas and Gas II, written between 1917 and 1919. Kaiser shows how advances in technology could lead to a total war of apocalyptic proportions, a theme that was to preoccupy many other twentieth-century writers.

These two developments – the loss of certainty in earlier scientific paradigms and a scepticism towards science as the engine of progress – gave rise in the 1920s and 30s to a dystopian literature. Döblin’s novel Mountains, Oceans and Giants (1924) reflects these doubts. Trained in the biological sciences, Döblin had conducted extensive psychiatric research before the war. In the 1920s, however, his earlier positivistic view of science began to be transformed, a process apparent in his most famous novel and a classic of literary modernism, Berlin Alexanderplatz (1929). [14] Although convinced of the value of science, Döblin became increasingly sceptical towards the mechanistic reductionism of modern science and its effect on society.

DoblinMountains, Oceans and Giants begins in the twenty-third century and chronicles humankind’s disastrous attempts to control and exploit the forces of nature across five hundred years, from the replacement of natural food with scientifically crafted substitutes to the catastrophic failure of the attempt to melt Greenland’s glaciers by harnessing the energy of Icelandic volcanoes. It is this latter Faustian exploit that leads to the discovery of a force of nature that gives science ultimate control over matter. But it is a power that results in the devastation of their technologically advanced civilisation.

By the end of Mountains, Oceans and Giants what remains of humanity has left the cities to re-establish agricultural communities: humankind is once again part of nature. The message of the book is clear: ‘We were not mature enough for these things.’ [15] Science and technology had advanced more rapidly than humankind’s ability to control and manage the forces which were unleashed. Döblin depicts a civilisation that has not grown wise in proportion to its power and his message is clear: knowledge does not lead necessarily to understanding.

Yevgeny Zamyatin’s extraordinary dystopian novel We was published in the same year as Döblin’s. A naval architect by training, Zamyatin’s literary work was dismissed as bourgeois by Communist critics and suppressed in Russia. Although stylistically dissimilar the two books share important themes. Both depict the limits to the scientific world-view that had dominated the previous century. Döblin highlights how science’s ideological assumptions, a product of the scientific materialism defined by Whitehead, alienate humankind from nature with disastrous consequences. Zamyatin depicts a world some 900 years hence in which humankind is similarly isolated from nature in a society which has raised Euclidean geometry to a state of mind and way of life:

Yes – we must unbend the wild curve, we must straighten it out at a tangent – at an asymptote – to a straight line! Inasmuch as the line of The One State is a straight line. The great, divine, exact, wise straight line – the wisest of lines! [16]

Zamyatin’s narrator D-503 (numbers have replaced names in this society) is a mathematician involved in the construction of the Integral, a space ship which will carry their scientific ideology to the other planets of the solar system. Zamyatin succeeds brilliantly in capturing the mindset of someone who sees the world in terms of mathematics and for whom: ‘there is no greater happiness than that of figures, existing in accordance with the harmonious, eternal laws of multiplication tables.’ The occupants of this mathematical culture inhabit a geometrical glass city and spend their lives in sterile seclusion from nature. The idolization of Euclidean geometry, of fixed, plane co-ordinates, results in a regimented, mathematical existence. They are taught that individual liberty leads to unhappiness and that their One State is the realization of Paradise:

Those two in Paradise were offered a choice: of happiness without freedom or freedom without happiness. They were not offered a third. They, the dunderheads, chose freedom – and what do you think happened? Naturally, for ages thereafter, they longed for shackles. For shackles, you understand – that’s what Weltschmerz is all about. For ages! And it is only we who have again struck on a way of bringing happiness back. (p. 72)

And yet there are flaws in this ‘crystal-pure’ world. Imaginary numbers represent one such anomaly for D-503 and he recalls with emotion how as a child he became hysterical upon learning about them:

I cried, pounding my desk with my fists and wailing, “I don’t want this square root of minus one! Take this square root of minus one out of me!” This irrational root had become ingrown as something alien, outlandish, frightful; it was devouring me; it could not be rationalised, could not be rendered harmless, inasmuch as it was outside any ratio. [17]

For D-503 this is an early intimation of a realm of experience beyond the predictability of Euclidean geometry. This other side to reality is brought alive when he meets the woman E-330, who is a member of a group committed to overthrowing the authoritarian rule of the Benefactor. Through his sexual relationship with E-330, who personifies the disturbing realm of irrational numbers, the mathematician begins to see the world around him in a new light. He is transformed from a two-dimensional plane, like a mirror that reflects but never retains images, into a self-critical, self-reflexive individual.

We is not an anti-scientific book. Zamyatin’s depiction of the way science provides us with conceptual frameworks with which to comprehend the world is unsurpassed. The crystalline simplicity and beauty of D-503’s vision of the world is even beguiling. And yet, unlike science itself, this society does not evolve and grow: it cannot cope with new ways of seeing the world. Zamyatin shows how one way of conceptualising reality can create a Moloch that tolerates no alternative viewpoints. For all its technological advances this is a society that has ossified in its adherence to outmoded approaches: ‘The ideal state – or state of being – for Zamyatin would reflect a non-linear, anti-mechanistic, Einsteinian view rather than the “fixed, plane co-ordinates of Euclid’s world”.’ [18]

D-503’s understanding of the world expands beyond the two-dimensional limits of the scientific paradigm by which his society lives. This cannot be tolerated and D-503 is forced to undergo a ‘fantasiectomy’, a prefrontal lobotomy. When E-330 is captured he watches impassively as the woman who opened his eyes to a new reality is tortured. But it is clear that the days of the One State are numbered. The glass walls of the city have been breached and ‘a considerable body of numbers […] have betrayed rationality’, says the lobotomised D-503. As in Russell McCormmach’s novel Night Thoughts of a Classical Physicist (1982), which describes the early days of the New Physics through the eyes of a scientist trapped in outmoded ways thinking, so Zamyatin’s We shows that the glass edifices of this utopia are inherently flawed.

D-503 is appalled by the ‘unscientific’ sexual activities of our own era: ‘Isn’t it laughable – to know horticulture, poultry culture, pisciculture […] and yet be unable to reach the last rung of this logical ladder: child culture.’ Although he claimed to have been ignorant of Zamyatin’s novel, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World (1932) takes this application of scientific knowledge as its starting point. Zamyatin’s analogy of Adam and Eve, the choice between an unhappy liberty and a happy ‘unfreedom’, is also central. John (‘the Savage’) prefers freedom, even the irrationalism of the Reservation, to the biologically and chemically engineered happiness of Mustapha Mond’s technocratic society. As Huxley wrote in his 1946 introduction, the correct path should lie between these two extremes.

HuxleyThe opening passages of Brave New World present a wonderfully satirical view of utopia: a stable society in which equilibrium is maintained by eugenics and Pavlovian conditioning. Bokanovsky’s Process ensures a continual supply of workers for the factories: ‘Ninety-six identical twins working ninety-six identical machines! […] Standard Gammas, unvarying Deltas, uniform Epsilons. Millions of identical twins. The principle of mass production at last applied to biology.’ [19] It is a society which recreates ‘human beings in the likeness of termites’. [20] The scientific ideology behind Zola’s notion of ‘human animals’ has been carried to its materialistic extreme. Huxley knew Burtt and many other thinkers who were critical of the mechanistic world-view which had ‘emptied life of mystery, complication and metaphysical speculation and replaced those qualities with cold scrutiny, manipulation and technique’. [21] But Huxley’s targets were not so much science as the misuse of science for economic and political ends.

As in We, ideological stasis is central to the maintenance of social stability in the Brave New World. Even science is tightly controlled: ‘Every discovery in pure science is potentially subversive; even science must sometimes be treated as a possible enemy.’ Scientific theories that threaten to challenge the shibboleth of social stability are suppressed and their originators banished to far-flung islands. Mustapha Mond himself was once a promising physicist who had heretical hypotheses:

I was a pretty good physicist in my time. Too good – good enough to realise that all our science is just a cookery book, with an orthodox theory of cooking that nobody’s allowed to question, and a list of recipes that mustn’t be added to except by special permission from the head cook. I’m the head cook now. But I was an inquisitive young scullion once. I started doing a bit of cooking on my own. Unorthodox cooking, illicit cooking. A bit of real science, in fact. (p. 177)

Faced with the choice of continuing with science in a far outpost of the Brave New World or renouncing it and committing himself to the cause of stability he chose the latter.

Crucially, science itself is responsible for this situation. Once ‘knowledge was the highest good, truth the supreme value’. But after the Nine Years’ War it was realised that science must be controlled: ‘What’s the point of truth or beauty or knowledge when the anthrax bombs are popping all around you?’ Since that time scientific research had been ‘sedulously discouraged’. The result is a technologically advanced yet intellectually stagnant society: ‘It hasn’t been very good for truth, of course. But it’s been very good for happiness.’ [22] Here, as in Kaiser’s play, the Janus-like nature of science is revealed: science yields unparalleled insight into nature and yet that knowledge entails responsibilities for which society may not be ready.

Galileo and the Bomb

WellsIn each of these three dystopias the attempt to create a perfect state follows from the experience of devastating war in the twentieth century. In the years after the First World War there was a widespread sense of foreboding at what horrors the scientifically advanced arsenals of the future would unleash on people. As early as 1914 Wells had anticipated the possibility of a devastating nuclear war in his novel The World Set Free, a book which was to make a decisive impression on Leo Szilard in the early 1930s. Huxley noted that his omission of nuclear fission from Brave New World was a ‘vast and obvious failure of insight’. In 1938, as the world stood on the brink of another war, Bertolt Brecht, one of the century’s great literary figures, began work on a play dramatising the life of Galileo. Through the figure of one of the founding father’s of science, Brecht examines the purpose of science in the atomic era.

Brecht’s Life of Galileo had a long genesis, the original play being completely re-written twice. Work on the play coincided with key moments in science: the news that Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann had successfully split the atom in December 1938, the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945, and the explosion of the first hydrogen bomb on 1 November 1952. Brecht learned of the splitting of the atom in February 1939 from a radio discussion. [23] The first version was essentially complete and depicts science as the embodiment of progressive rationality and as a bastion of intellectual resistance to the irrationalism of fascism. Similarly, Brecht’s original Galileo personifies the archetypal scientist and symbolises the plight of intellectuals attempting to survive beneath the Nazi regime. In March 1939, Brecht sent a large number of copies of this version to contacts around the world including Albert Einstein.

In 1945, Brecht (then living in America) was working on an English-language version when on 6 and 9 August the first atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki respectively. A new scientific era had dawned, a fact immediately apparent to Brecht: ‘Overnight the biography of the founder of the new physics read differently. The infernal effect of the huge bomb placed the conflict of Galileo with the authorities of his age in a new, sharper light.’ [24] For Brecht, the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan represented the culmination of a trend in science which allowed scientists to abstract themselves from the ethical and political implications of their research. Brecht began to see the historical Galileo’s recantation before the Inquisition as the point at which science attempted to extricate itself from its sociohistorical context and to create the myth of pure science, an activity separate from the concerns of society, politics and philosophy. Mustapha Mond relinquished the quest for truth and betrayed science by aligning himself with the authorities. Galileo Galilei in Brecht’s play publicly denies the truth and submits to the authorities. For Brecht, Galileo’s recantation came to represent the Fall of science. This new emphasis in the American version of Galileo remained the defining concept behind the final version.

In his notes, Brecht identifies Einstein’s famous equation E=mc2 as an example of pure science and links this scientific ideal with the politics and technology of war. It is an idea that is powerfully present in the final version of Galileo completed in 1955. What had been a play about science as a discipline with the potential to liberate people from an irrational and metaphysical world-view, is recast into one which illustrates the refusal of scientists to accept their responsibility to humankind and their complicity in the misuse of science. As Huxley acknowledged in Brave New World Revisited (1958): ‘Pure science does not remain pure indefinitely. Sooner or later it is apt to turn into applied science and finally into technology. Theory modulates into industrial practice, knowledge becomes power, formulas and laboratory experiments undergo a metamorphosis, and emerge as the H-bomb.’ The final version of Brecht’s play argued that the commitment of science to its delusions of neutrality was untenable in the nuclear age, when the destruction of life itself had become a real possibility.

The changes made to the penultimate scene, which depicts Galileo as an old man meeting his former pupil Andrea, reveal Brecht’s new attitude to science. In the original version, Galileo did not just represent the cause of science, but rather the plight of intellectuals in general who resist authoritarian regimes in the name of intellectual freedom: for Galileo we can read the names Sakharov or Solzhenitsyn. But the Berlin version is very different. No longer is Galileo’s recantation a part of his attempt to continue researching in secret. Rather than being presented as a pragmatic hero who bends beneath the weight of irresistible force in order that the truth may survive, Galileo emerges in the 1955 version as someone who betrays the new science.

The effect of Galileo’s final confession to Andrea is shocking. Galileo is shown to be working unwittingly for the interests of the authorities. The idealism of earlier speeches has vanished and we hear the voice of a disillusioned man, disgusted by his own weakness. Although he is nearly blind, Galileo is now able to see all too clearly where he went wrong. Unlike Andrea he no longer believes the Faustian argument that the advancement of science is an end in itself. It is not enough to have secretly completed the Discorsi. Galileo now understands that science is about more than describing the laws of nature. It is also about the practical application of that truth to alleviate the hardships endured by ordinary people, a point he makes by paraphrasing his contemporary Francis Bacon: ‘I believe that the sole objective of science consists in reducing the drudgery of human existence.’ [25]

Charles Laughton as Galileo, 1947At the end of his life, Brecht’s Galileo firmly rejects the notion of pure science, ‘knowledge for knowledge’s sake’, as playing into the hands of those in power who wish to control and exploit science in order to create ‘new hardships’. Although such a science will indeed bring new discoveries and technological progress, it will also mean ‘progress away from humanity’. The scientists’ shrieks of Eureka! will be greeted by ‘a universal cry of horror’ because of the ever more lethal technologies their discoveries make possible. Galileo realises that he has supplied science with a role-model which will make possible a science that serves the holders of power rather than one committed to humanitarian ideals. By publicly recanting and accepting the role of a pure, theoretical scientist offered to him by the authorities, Brecht’s play suggests that Galileo makes the hydrogen bomb and the possibility of nuclear holocaust a reality. [26]

For Galileo at the end of Brecht’s play, a science which does not accept that it is a fundamentally human-centred discourse denies its very justification to exist. Indeed, Galileo suggests that the new scientific age which has dawned will bring further suffering to the ordinary people unless it is able to reform itself by the introduction of a Hippocratic oath, a demand taken up most recently by Joseph Rotblat. [27] Clearly, if one views Life of Galileo as a historical drama, a theme such as this is anachronistic, as the tendency in science from the founding of the Royal Society in the seventeenth century up until Brecht’s own day was to assert the objectivity and value neutrality of science.

Nevertheless, Galileo is a play about modern issues which was performed in its final version before an audience in the midst of the Cold War. It was a period when people were keenly aware both of the way scientists were implicated in atrocities committed under the Third Reich as well as the huge investment of scientific resources in developing the technology of mass destruction. Life of Galileo reflected the widely-held view that twentieth-century science was in crisis.

During the 1950s and 1960s a series of works followed from other writers which also dealt with these issues. Indeed, Brecht himself planned another play on science, this time about Einstein who died on 18 April 1955, two days after the Cologne première of Galileo. [28] The Physikerdrama has become an important genre in late twentieth-century German literature. Plays such as Carl Zuckmayer’s Cold Light (1955), Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s The Physicists (1962), and Heinar Kipphardt’s In the Matter of J. Robert Oppenheimer (1964) took up, with varying degrees of success, themes which Brecht’s Galileo had raised.

These works demonstrate an awareness in literature of the new complexities present both in the scientific understanding of the physical world and the role of science itself as a discourse with access to unprecedented knowledge and power over that same world. The Life of Galileo gave voice to a widespread anxiety about science that shocked the scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project. The contribution of scientists both to the development of nuclear weapons and to medical experiments in Hitler’s Third Reich raised urgent fears about the role of science in society.

Indeed, these issues continue to be examined by contemporary writers such as Martin Amis in his haunting portrait of a Nazi doctor, Time’s Arrow (1991), and his collection Einstein’s Monsters (1987), which is prefaced by an essay on the obscenity of nuclear weapons. Marcel Beyer’s disturbing novel The Karnau Tapes (1995) uses the persona of an acoustician in the Third Reich to explore the racist mindset of Nazi scientists. Michael Frayn’s intriguing play Copenhagen (1998) dramatises the wartime friendship of Bohr and Heisenberg, raising questions about the role of ethics and ambition in science. Such works are eloquent expressions of a profound disquiet regarding the misuse of science. These concerns do not stem from ignorance of science but from a passionate belief in the potential of science to create a more enlightened society. They are the result of critical friendship not hostility.

New Physics, New Wonder

Goethe’s fears expressed in Elective Affinities about the reductive and mechanistic tendencies of science were revisited with a vengeance by authors in the first half of the twentieth century. But science has also been the cause of wonder in recent literature. Amongst writers in the second half of the century, science inspired a new sense of awe that did not degenerate into Zola’s scientism. Perhaps spurred on by C. P. Snow’s problematic statement on the two cultures, writers in the late twentieth century have enthusiastically embraced the concepts of relativity and quantum theory. The mechanistic determinism that was inherent in Newtonian physics, and which so appalled Goethe, was seen to be challenged by science itself. There were now ways of seeing the world that emphasised the complexity of matter.

In the work of Italo Calvino, the concepts of atomic physics and astrophysics are treated with a sense of wonder tempered by playfulness. Calvino’s subtle satires on scientific cosmology are both impossible and profound. In Cosmicomics, published in Italian in 1965, he knowingly commits a scientific sin by anthropomorphizing the cold outer reaches of the universe, creating galactic characters endowed with human emotions and weaknesses. Indeed, his work seems to be a more than adequate response to the rhetorical question that Dawkins poses to writers: ‘Isn’t the speechless universe a worthy theme?’ Calvino’s answer is an emphatic ‘Yes’. He mythologizes the amoral scientific cosmos, creating a supremely ironic pantheon of post-modern gods to populate the sterile vacuum of space bequeathed to us by scientists such as Galileo and Kepler.

Another writer who uses overt scientific themes is Nicholas Mosley. His novel Hopeful Monsters (1990) tries to make sense of the chaotic events of the century from a post-Einstein, post-Bohr perspective. In what is one of the most ambitious British novels since the war, Mosley suggests that somewhere beneath the random incalculability of events there is an order of being into which even the unique patterns of human experience can be fitted. Like Goethe’s novel, although using physics rather than chemistry, Hopeful Monsters depicts an ultimate unity in nature, a material connectedness that bonds us to each other and world around us.

Mosley’s book charts the interconnected lives of Eleanor Anders and Max Ackerman, both born in the second decade of the twentieth century. Eleanor’s father is a philosophy lecturer, who is fascinated by the theories of his fellow academic at Berlin university, Albert Einstein. Her Jewish mother is a political activist, a Communist who dies in a concentration camp. Max is the son of a leading Cambridge biologist conducting research into inheritance. His mother is on the fringes of the Bloomsbury group and studying the work of Freud. Physics, philosophy, biology, politics, and psychology: Mosley’s complex and penetrating novel examines the ways in which the waves from these discourses collide and overlap in the course of this troubled century.

Narrated alternately by the voices of Eleanor and Max, the book tells the story of their lives and the dramatic events they live through – the murder of Rosa Luxemburg, the Reichstag fire, the Spanish Civil War, the splitting of the atom, World War Two and the Cold War. Appropriately for a book that explores the nature of understanding, Max and Eleanor meet for the first time at a performance of Goethe’s Faust. They meet by chance and yet, as with many events in this book, it seems destined: ‘Surely “chance” is just a word for what cannot be explained by natural science. We call “chance” what in our experiments is manifestly out of our control. But we still observe processes, patterns. One might as well use the word “God”.’ Like Goethe’s Eduard and Ottilie, they are drawn together by an inexorable force: ‘it was, yes, as if we were held by a force as strong and brittle as light; as gentle and vulnerable as that which forms a drop of water; so delicate that a shaft from outside might break us; so indestructible that we would still be together even if we were at different parts of the universe. I thought – What joy, even with the chance of the universe blowing up!’ [29]

Both narrators describe their experiences using analogies and metaphors drawn from science, constantly pushing the boundaries of scientific language to encompass the subtle patterns underlying human lives: ‘I said “But you know Bohr’s theory that, in fact, the force which holds a nucleus together is like that which holds together a drop of water –”’. The force that holds Eleanor and Max together is equated with Bohr’s model of the atomic nucleus. Life and science coalesce. What remains an unproven hypothesis in science is tested for its fittingness in the human sphere. Like Goethe’s classic novel, it seeks to expand the possibilities of scientific theory by placing it in a human context. ‘Does it not make one think that there may be some connections between these apparently different orders of things – the human and the scientific?’ Mosley does not adhere to a positivistic agenda as does Zola. Instead, he explores the ideas of science, searching for metaphors which increase our understanding of what it means to be alive at a given period in history.

Hopeful Monsters is a book that implicitly challenges the nineteenth-century world-view expressed by Max’s father: ‘Science and ethics belong to different worlds’; and ‘Scientists are interested only in what you can test and measure and tabulate.’ Max, who becomes a physicist, is haunted by the feeling that ‘there are connections here beyond the reach of the scientific world’. The central paradoxes of quantum theory – that indeterminacy is inherent at the sub-atomic level and that reality is ‘a function of the experimental condition’ – recur throughout Hopeful Monsters and particularly in Max’s scientific research:

But we are trying to achieve two things here: one is to understand what might be going on in the nucleus of an atom; the other is to understand what is meant by understanding; and in this, of course, we are doing an experiment with mind. That which experiments is in a sense the same as that which is experimented on; but to understand understanding – would there not have to be developed some further level of mind? Perhaps it is just this for which I am waiting in front of these switches and dials – for some stray seed to be encouraged by this I that is watching and to be nurtured in this strange world of mind. (p. 483)

Max and Eleanor, like the hopeful monsters of the title, are ‘creatures that [are] able perhaps naturally to watch themselves and their relation to the universe’. Mosley is describing the philosophical tensions that gave birth to the postmodern consciousness – self-aware, ironic, relativist. It is an impressive novel of ideas, a dense though moving account of two lives that are torn apart by the chaotic events of the twentieth century, but which remain bonded by forces as invisible yet tangible as those that govern atomic particles. By placing scientific ideas in a human and historical context, Mosley’s novel attains moments of genuine insight into both the practice and meaning of science.

Another recent novel that engages with the New Physics is Ian McEwan’s The Child in Time (1987). In order to highlight the limitations of traditional masculinity, the new physics becomes a metaphor for the way in which men must embrace a more complex self-image. The theoretical physicist Thelma articulates this new world-view. She admires the physicist David Bohm (McEwan acknowledges reading Wholeness and the Implicate Order (1980)) and tries to help Stephen Lewis cope with the loss of his child by initiating him into the mysteries of quantum theory. McEwan – ‘a voracious reader of science’ [31] – uses Thelma to berate contemporary writers for their ignorance of science:

Who do you want? Luther? Copernicus? Darwin? Marx? Freud? None of them has re-invented the world and our place in it as radically and bizarrely as the physicists of this century have. The measurers of the world can no longer detach themselves. They have to measure themselves too. Matter, time, space, forces – all beautiful and intricate illusions in which we must now collude. What a stupendous shake-up, Stephen. Shakespeare would have grasped wave functions, Donne would have understood complementarity and relative time. They would have been excited. What richness! They would have plundered this new science for their imagery. And they would have educated their audiences too. But you ‘arts’ people, you’re not only ignorant of these magnificent things, you’re rather proud of knowing nothing. As far as I can make out, you think that some local, passing fashion like modernism – modernism! – is the intellectual achievement of our time. Pathetic! [32]

Yet Thelma’s own husband, Charles Darke, fails to accept the lessons of this revolution in understanding. Although he is a successful politician he longs to escape responsibility into an idyllic childhood innocence, a dream that leads to his death.

Stephen’s experience of the relativity of space-time (he ‘hallucinates’ an event from his parents’ life that occurs before he was born) confirms the complex account of reality described by the New Physics. Modern science must cast off its nineteenth-century world-view and adapt to this new paradigm. And in a skilfully wrought analogy McEwan suggests that human relationships are governed by equally outmoded principles: personal fulfilment can only be found by accepting the uncertainty and indeterminacy of life. To impose absolutist rules on life, as the reactionary government hopes to do with its Authorised Childcare Handbook, is to revert to redundant notions of reality.

Just as men such as Stephen and Charles need to experience a personal paradigm shift to cope with the uncertainties of modern life, so (according to Thelma) science must itself grow up: ‘When science could begin to abandon the illusions of objectivity by taking seriously, and finding a mathematical language for, the indivisibility of the entire universe, and when it could begin to take subjective experience into account, then the clever boy was on his way to becoming the wise woman.’

In Hopeful Monsters and The Child in Time there is an attempt to test scientific paradigms against the felt complexity of human being in the world. In Elective Affinities, Goethe asks whether the chemical theory of elective affinity can describe the power of human love. Similarly, Mosley explores whether relativity and quantum theory can explain the twists and turns of the twentieth century’s chaotic history. For many writers at the end of the twentieth century the answer seems to be that science – particularly physics – does offer models resilient enough to accommodate the complexity of the life-world.

Unlike Goethe’s novel, neither Hopeful Monsters nor The Child in Time has a tragic conclusion. Far from rejecting the ideas of science, recent creative writing expresses an elective affinity with it. Having started the century giving voice to anxiety about the threat science posed to society, literature rediscovered the wonder of science as the Cold War thawed, finding in the quixotic and enigmatic realm of photons and quarks an equivalent for human experience. However, as the twentieth century closes and the new millennium begins, anxiety about science is returning. Biology, the most tangible and human of the sciences, is the cause. Genetic engineering has provided an excuse for headline writers to resurrect Frankenstein’s monster one more time. Books as diverse as Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park (1991) and Jenny Diski’s Monkey’s Uncle (1994) have raised questions both about the ethics of the new biology and the deterministic implications of the new materialism that it entails.

It is appropriate, however, to end this article as we began: with a great writer who was also active in the sciences. Primo Levi – an industrial chemist, a Jew who survived Auschwitz because his scientific knowledge meant he was useful to the Nazis, and a writer who explored human nature using metaphors and analogies drawn from chemistry. For Levi, people and chemical elements are fundamentally part of the same material order of being. Like McCormmach’s fictional scientist Victor Jakob in Night Thoughts of a Classical Physicist, Levi is a classical scientist, believing in the unity of matter and a physical world that is fundamentally predictable. His world does not recognise the paradox and incommensurability of the quantum realm.

The world that Levi describes has at its heart a nineteenth-century faith in lawful taxonomy. Dimitri Mendeleev’s 1869 classification of chemical elements, the Periodic Table, expresses perfectly this rational order. In his autobiographical book The Periodic Table (1975), Levi recalls explaining to a fellow university student that he was studying chemistry because ‘the nobility of Man, acquired in a hundred centuries of trial and error, lay in making himself the conqueror of matter’. Furthermore: ‘conquering matter is to understand it, and understanding matter is necessary to understanding the universe and ourselves: and that therefore Mendeleev’s Periodic Table, which just during those weeks we were laboriously learning to unravel, was poetry, loftier and more solemn than all the poetry we had swallowed down in liceo; and come to think of it, it even rhymed.’ [33]

According to Jacob Bronowski, Mendeleev had ‘a passion for the elements. They became his personal friends; he knew every quirk and detail of their behaviour.’ [34] Levi was equally passionate about chemistry, and The Periodic Table bears witness to both the scientific knowledge and the personal understanding that can be derived from the study of (one might almost say reverence for) matter. It is from this experience – which is both scientific and ontological – that insight into self and world is to be found. For Primo Levi writing is like science. It is ‘the work of a chemist who weighs and divides, measures and judges on the basis of assured proofs, and strives to answer questions.’

Science and literature are part of an elective affinity, interacting in creative tension, each guiding and modifying the other. As The Periodic Table demonstrates in beautifully measured prose, both discourses deal with essential questions regarding human self-understanding, questions regarding who and what we are and where we are going. For Primo Levi and many other writers, science does indeed allow us to – in the words of Dawkins – ‘hear the galaxies sing’.


1. Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder (London: Penguin, 1999), 17, 313.

2. C. P. Snow, The Two Cultures, and A Second Look: An Expanded Version of the Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 1964).

3. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Elective Affinities, trans. R. J. Hollingdale (London: Penguin, 1971), 286 (translation modified).

4. David M. Knight, ‘The physical sciences and the Romantic movement’, History of Science 9 (1970), 63.

5. For details of Goethe’s scientific knowledge, see Jeremy Adler, ‘Eine fast magische Anziehungskraft’: Goethes ‘Wahlverwandtschaften’ und die Chemie seiner Zeit (Munich: C. H. Beck, 1987), and P D Smith, Metaphor and Materiality: German Literature and the World-View of Science, 1780-1955  (European Humanities Research Centre, Oxford, 2000).

6. The chemical discussion was a popular genre at this time, a prime example of which was Jane Marcet’s Conversations on Chemistry, Intended more especially for the Female Sex (London, 1806). By 1853 this text was in its sixteenth edition and had sold 160,000 copies in America alone.

7. The metaphor of the chemical experiment extends to the characters’ names which contain a common element – ‘Otto’ – as in the names of related chemical compounds. The Captain’s name is Otto and Eduard surrendered the name in childhood to avoid confusion with the Captain. Otto is also present in Charlotte and Ottilie. Significantly Eduard and Charlotte’s child, conceived after the process of human elective affinity has occurred, is also named Otto.

8. Émile Zola, Thérèse Raquin, trans. Leonard Tancock, (London: Penguin, 1962), 22.

9. The first law of thermodynamics states that the energy of the universe is constant. The second law asserts the irreversibility of natural processes, whereby heat cannot be transferred from a cold to a hot body.

10. Alfred North Whitehead, Science and the Modern World (Cambridge University Press, 1927), 12-13 (based on the Lowell Lectures, 1925).

11. Hermann Weyl, Space–Time–Matter, trans. Henry L. Brose (New York: Dover, 1952), 2.

12. See in particular Edwin Arthur Burtt, The Metaphysical Foundations of Modern Physical Science: A Historical and Critical Essay (London: Routledge, 1924), and J. B. S. Haldane, Daedalus or Science and the Future (London: Kegan Paul, 1924).

13. Robert S. Baker, Brave New World: History, Science, and Dystopia (Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1990), 38.

14. On this see PD Smith, ‘Science and the City: Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz’, London Magazine 39 (2000).

15. Alfred Döblin, Berge Meere und Giganten (Olten: Walter-Verlag, 1977), 508 (my translation).

16. Yevgeny Zamyatin, We, trans. Bernard Guilbert Guerney (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1984), 19. We was written in 1920 and first appeared not in its original Russian but in an English translation. An abridged Russian version was printed in 1927 in an émigré magazine in Prague.

17. Zamyatin, p 52. Strictly speaking, the square root of minus one is not an irrational but an imaginary number. This is a motif which Zamyatin possibly borrowed from the Austrian writer Robert Musil, who was also trained in the sciences. Musil’s first novel Törleß (1906) uses imaginary numbers to symbolise a schoolboy’s sense of the incommensurability of individual experience. See PD Smith, ‘The Scientist as Spectator: Musil’s Törleß and the Challenge to Mach’s Neo-Positivism’, Germanic Review, vol 75 (2000), 37-51.

18. Alexandra Aldridge, The Scientific World View in Dystopia (Ann Arbor, Michigan: UMI Research Press, 1984), 34 (citing Zamyatin’s Essays).

19. Aldous Huxley, Brave New World (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1963), 18.

20. Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited (New York: Harper & Row, 1989), 27.

21. Aldridge, p.48.

22. Huxley (1963), p 179. The suppression of scientific ideas deemed politically incorrect occurred under both Hitler and Stalin. In Germany the ‘Jewish physics’ of Einstein was suppressed in favour of Nobel laureate Philipp Lenard’s ‘German physics’. In the Soviet Union, Trofim Lysenko’s neo-Lamarckian brand of biology was deemed more acceptable to dialectical materialism than the Mendelian theories of Nikolai Vavilov, who died in a Siberian prison in 1943. Nicholas Mosley deals with both episodes in Hopeful Monsters.

23. Taking part were Otto Frisch as well as other scientists from Niels Bohr’s Institute in Copenhagen, including Dr Christian Møller. Dr Møller was Bohr’s assistant and he advised Brecht, who was in exile in Denmark at this time, on astronomical and scientific problems during the writing of the first version of Galileo. For more details on Brecht and science, see my study Metaphor and Materiality.

24. Bertolt Brecht (1947), ‘Ungeschminktes Bild einer neuen Zeit’, in Werner Hecht, ed., Materialien zu Brechts ‘Leben des Galilei’ (Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1963), 55. Brecht was extremely well-informed about developments in physics. In the final stages of the work on Galileo after the dropping of the atomic bombs, Brecht often consulted the physicist and logical positivist Hans Reichenbach. During the writing of Galileo it is known that Brecht read Sir James Jeans’s The Mysterious Universe (1930) and the German edition of A. S. Eddington’s The Nature of the Physical World (1928; trans. 1931). In particular Brecht was interested in quantum theory and the ideas of Bohr, Erwin Schrödinger, Werner Heisenberg and Max Planck, whose work suggested that at the subatomic level causality breaks down and effects can only be calculated on the basis of statistical probability.

25. Bertolt Brecht, Leben des Galilei (Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1972), Scene 14, 125. Whilst writing Galileo, Brecht used Kirchmann’s edition of Bacon’s Novum Organon (1620). The corresponding sentence is underlined in Brecht’s copy (J. H. von Kirchmann, ed., Franz Baco’s [sic] Neues Organon (Berlin, 1870), 131).

26. Whilst writing the final version of Galileo, Brecht took a keen interest in J. Robert Oppenheimer’s appearance before the Personnel Security Board of the Atomic Energy Commission. He saw a direct parallel between Oppenheimer’s trial and the historical Galileo’s ordeal before the Inquisition. He owned many books on and by Oppenheimer and kept cuttings from the New York Times during June and July 1954. Just as the harnessing of the power of the atomic nucleus was widely portrayed in contemporary films and articles as the culmination of the scientific revolution begun in the seventeenth century, so some contemporary commentators saw parallels between Oppenheimer and Galileo.

27. In an editorial for Science (19 November 1999), Nobel Peace Prize laureate Sir Joseph Rotblat called for scientists to recognise their responsibility as individuals: ‘many scientists still cling to an ivory tower mentality founded on precepts such as […] “science is neutral”’. ‘Ethical codes of conduct’ should be drawn up and a Hippocratic oath taken by scientists at graduation. Brecht devised the idea of a scientific Hippocratic oath for the American version but decided not to include it. Only after the development of the H-bomb did he feel that such an ethical code was necessary for scientists as well as medical doctors. See also Raphael Sassower, Technoscientific Angst: Ethics and Responsibility (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997), 81-99.

28. During the rehearsals of Galileo in Berlin, Brecht had begun a play called Life of Einstein, which would focus on the dilemma of scientists such as Oppenheimer whose ideas were exploited for the production of weapons of mass destruction. Brecht had been fascinated by the figure of Einstein for many years and owned many books on him. The central theme of the play was to be the paradox of the scientist who set out to prove the fundamental harmony of the physical world but who sees his theories exploited in order to create the ultimate weapon with the ability to destroy the world. He died before he could complete the play.

29. Nicholas Mosley, Hopeful Monsters (London: Minerva, 1995), 179, 467.

30. Ibid. 471, 188.

31. McEwan quoted in The Times Higher Education Supplement, 17 April 1998.

32. Ian McEwan, The Child in Time (London: Picador, 1988), 44-5.

33. Primo Levi, The Periodic Table, trans. Raymond Rosenthal (London: Abacus, 1993), 41.

34. J. Bronowski, The Ascent of Man (London: Book Club/BBC, 1977), 322.

© PD Smith 2007