Churchill's Iceman: The True Story of Geoffrey Pyke: Genius, Fugitive, Spy Hardcover – 14 Aug 2014
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"The papers that MI5 released in 2009 have led to the discovery of a wonderful new subject for modern biography. Geoffrey Pyke was a tragic and lonely genius who attempted to plant new ideas into the unresponsive soil of Britain during the first half of the twentieth century. His final wish "to be forgotten as if I had never lived" has now been dramatically eclipsed by this amazing story of mystery and adventure. It is as if he had been invented by G. K. Chesterton and given posthumous fame by John le Carré – which underlines the extraordinary accomplishment of his actual biographer Henry Hemming." (Michael Holroyd)
"His was not a lucky life but, in his biographer, he has gained a little bit of posthumous luck. This admirable and thoroughly enjoyable book should rescue a weirdly original and innovative talent from oblivion" (The Sunday Times)
"A biography that reads wonderfully like an adventure story and looks set to restore to Pyke the fame he deserves… Hemming’s great achievement is to turn the story of a nerdish chameleon into a page-turner and to make someone hitherto unknown seem crucial to his century" (Guardian)
The extraordinary story of Geoffrey Pyke – one of the greatest minds of the twentieth centurySee all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
And yet there were innumerable unsung heroes who had the creative and ingenious facility so much needed when conventional solutions to enemy actions failed to block the tide of impending disaster.
One such hero, now recognised in a new book, can only be said to have had been saved from total and undeserved obscurity by the author Henry Hemming who has diligently researched the life of Geoffrey Pyke, cousin to the famous and eccentric Magnus Pyke the TV science guru of the 1970's and 1980's.
If anything, Geoffrey Pyke stood head and shoulders above his later cousin in terms of creativity and ingenuity. Coupled with a brilliant intellect (at Cambridge a contemporary likened him to Einstein) he constantly thought outside the conventional problem solving competency of a scientist. Yet, because of his eccentric approaches, he too often made enemies in the scientific community of the time.
Born in 1893, by 1914 he had breached the German wartime security and arrived in Berlin purely as an act of bravado - to him it was adventure and fun On being arrested he contrived an escape and at 21 was the first escapee of the first world war.Read more ›
His various activities included smuggling himslef into first World War Germany and escaping from an internment camp, launching a polling organisation, setting up a school for six-year-olds without formal lessons or discipline,writing a best-seller, successfully gambling in shares (until he went bankrupt)/
At his lowest ebb - physically exhausted and virtually penniless - he came up with an idea to win the second World War, an idea which led to a close friendship with Lord Louis Mountbatten. Introduced in turn to Winston Churchill, Pyke made detailed proposals for creating aircraft carriers out of ice. This foundered, as did so much else, because Pyke the visionary was frustrated by those who could see no further than the present problem.
In counterpoint to an absorbing tale is the question of whether Pyke was at the same time a Soviet agent. The author has unravelled a the tale of a frustrated life that ended in suicide. Only towards the end does the book lose a fifth star by over-analysing Pyke's personality, extensively recapping earlier material.
His lack of insight, and inability to perceive risk are reflected in activity as banal as failing to attend to personal care, clothes and washing, an inability to see the wrecking effect of behaviour on personal relationships and the pyramid of both diplomatic and military command. The flight of concentration makes him an unlikely spy as though contributing intelligence,he is unlikely to have been able to operate with deep cover, or in plain sight. He seems to have been too noisy and disorganised for either.
Much of what he did was as a dabbler, diving in, submerging in a subject, but on surfacing moving on, often without supporting his original process. The luck of his trading in metals, riding the wave but then as his bets grew larger risking the farm, and losing everything, completes the circle.
It is interesting how those in power frequently seem bowled over by someone like this, plausible on first sight, coming from left field with an unexpected idea, lateral thinking with ideas which buck the convention and defy process.
The raised risk of suicide in bipolar presents itself as he is finally worn out by his condition and the evident struggle over the previous 20 years.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A biography that was hard to put down; full of great stories and interesting take aways. I'd recommend it to anyone with an interest in history, innovation, eccentric characters or... Read morePublished 11 months ago by C. Cook
Another British Genius who had the same fate as Alan Turin, a compelling read.Published 13 months ago by Michael Flannery
An exhaustively researched and well written book by Henry Hemming. Geoffrey Pyke was clearly a man with a inquiring and creative mind who was able to persuade others to support his... Read morePublished 17 months ago by parker
Brilliant book and a great read also came very quick thank you ******Published 19 months ago by Mr. S. Lombardo
Every person in the creative industries should read this book - amazing insight into the mind of a genius. Inspiring stuff, very well written and researched.Published 21 months ago by Gino Ginelli
I don't normally like biographies, but this is a well-researched story which reads more like a thriller - truly fascinating and beautifully writtenPublished 23 months ago by louisa Service
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