Frederick Lindemann, Winston Churchill's close friend and scientific adviser, died on 3 July 1957, in the spacious set of rooms overlooking Christ Church Meadow in Oxford that he had occupied for half a life-time. His death brought to a close a career that was far removed from the roll of common men. As a child he lived in attractive and peaceful surroundings in Devonshire. The important years of his education were spent in Germany, and in Berlin as a young man, in the early years of the twentieth century when science was on the threshold of momentous advances, he achieved international recognition as a physicist. At the onset of war in 1914 he returned to England, where he contributed remarkably to the development of aeronautics and, through experiments in which he calmly put his own life at risk, discovered the scientific method of escaping from aeroplane spin.
When peace returned he settled at Oxford, where his reputation as a physicist had won him the chair of experimental philosophy, and in the ensuing twenty years he nurtured the study of science at Oxford from mori-bund beginnings to world renown. In the 1930s, as England drifted towards the peril of another war, he entered the political arena, standing for Parliament himself, and campaigning in the face of ministerial hostility and official apathy to alert the country to the neglect of its defences. He also brought to England, and safety, some of Germany's leading Jewish scientists, who were to prove invaluable in the struggle that lay ahead.
The renewal of conflict with Germany, the country of his forefathers, drew him straight to the centre of power, where, as personal and scientific adviser to the Prime Minister and as a member of the Cabinet, his influence and advice directly affected the conduct of the war and came to have far-reaching consequences for the nation. In the post-war years he combined his work as the head of Oxford physics with that of Opposition spokesman on economics in the House of Lords, until he was called once again to serve as a Cabinet minister, becoming responsible for the course and direction that Britain was to take as an atomic power.
These are the main divisions of his life, but the thread that bound the years of his influence was the friendship of Winston Churchill, to whom he became counsellor, confidant and closest companion. His personal charm and love Lindemann reserved for a few; to the multitude he was largely indifferent, but very ready, if obstructed, to draw on an armoury of both wit and invective, disdain and contempt. Between raillery and mockery he steered a delicate course, buttressed by obstinacy, by exceptional intelligence and by unshakeable confidence in the rightness of his opinions.
Along the course of this extraordinary journey he became a Fellow of the Royal Society, a Companion of Honour, a Privy Counsellor and a viscount. Both in science and in politics he climbed to the summit, and at his funeral the long reach of Christ Church Cathedral was full, the mourners ranging from loyal and affectionate servants to the greatest statesmen in the land.
Lindemann had travelled far from his origins. Because of his natural reti-cence, and perhaps because he kept his door closed in the face of enquirers, he was clothed in a certain mystery that he did little to dispel. In fact his background was colourful, its brightness contrasting with the severe persona that he usually presented to the world. His father had wanted early in life to be an explorer, but became instead a successful entrepreneur and a talented scientist. His mother was half-Russian. She was brought up in America and at the age of seventeen had married a banker twenty-eight years her senior, whose ward she was. Her second marriage was to Adolf Lindemann, with whom she had four children. Of these, Frederick Lindemann was the second, born on April 1886.
The earliest detailed record of the Lindemann family is of a Captain Lindemann, serving in the Imperial Army in Strasburg in 1641, and by the end of the seventeenth century the family had settled in the Palatinate - that land of medieval cathedrals, steeply rising castles, thickly wooded hills and vineyards in the valleys of its two great rivers, the Rhine and the Moselle.
For successive generations the Lindermanns served on the estates of the Wittelsbach family, who were long dominant in the Palatinate and were Dukes of Zweibrücken, a duchy that was absorbed by the kingdom of Bavaria after Napoleon's downfall. The Lindemann family was not then rich, but was well established and locally respected. Their homeland had long been a border territory, vulnerable to the designs of France from the west and to Germanic influence from the east. Its population was among the four million people who changed rulers during the Napoleonic Wars, the land becoming for a time the French department of the Sarre, but then after France's final defeat in 1815 being included in the German Federation.
While parts of the family may have settled further south, in the French territory of Alsace, Frederick Lindemann's immediate ancestors came from Germany. However, in the twentieth century it was not always politic to emphasise German connections, and after the Great War, when anti-German feeling had become virulent, members of the family - with the notable exception of Lindemann's father - maintained that they were Alsatian and not German, a notion never dispelled by Lindemann himself.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.