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Churchill's Iceman: The True Story of Geoffrey Pyke: Genius, Fugitive, Spy Hardcover – 14 Aug 2014

4.8 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 544 pages
  • Publisher: Preface Publishing (14 Aug. 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848094434
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848094437
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 4.5 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 443,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


"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)

Book Description

The extraordinary story of Geoffrey Pyke – one of the greatest minds of the twentieth century

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Format: Kindle Edition
Those with any perspective on the originators of the technology that was used or created in the second world war to baffle and confound the enemy will recall the designs and inventions that became famous for their ingenuity and effectiveness. Watson Watt with A.D. Blumlein and radar, Barnes Wallace and the bouncing bomb, R.J Mitchell for the Spitfire, Whittle, Halford and Fedden for the British jet engine, Shepherd and Turpin for the ubiquitous Sten Gun, Randall and Boot for the cavity magnetron, Turing, Newman and Flowers for code breaking and the Colossus digital computer and so on.
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Geoffrey Pyke was a genius destined to fail. His gift was to devise solutions by first defining the question, often finding that the wrong question had been asked in the first place.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very readable and well researched volume describing the many-faceted life of a virtually unknown but highly intelligent British eccentric who in WWII was invited by Mountbatten to take a job as 'Director of Programmes' at Mountbatten's Combined Operations HQ in London, without any formal vetting by the security services. At the start of the Great War he travelled to enemy Germany disguised as a neutral American war correspondent, was arrested and imprisoned in Ruhleben Camp. He escaped after 10 months and reached the neutral Netherlands. Between the wars he was engaged in research on the education of young children, setting up a school to study this; the pupils included his own young son. During the 1930s he organised aid for the legitimate Republic during the Spanish Civil War and instigated an investigation into what ordinary Germans actually thought about the impending war; this work can be described as the origin of the Mass Observation Movement. The 'Iceman' in the book's title relates to work for Mountbatten on the development of aircraft carriers built from reinforced ice to aid the Battle of the Atlantic. Experimental constructions were prepared at Lake Louise in Canada, but the project was later dropped as more conventional methods started to win over the U-Boat menace. His political affiliations were studied by many, he certainly had many important friends on the left, but nothing was ever proved. He died in February 1948, by his own hand, aged 54. The book is well supplied with photographs, full academic footnotes and a bibliography. Magnus Pyke, the TV scientist, was a cousin.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is an interesting study of an intelligent bi polar disorder, who, while up with his condition had classical flight of thought, pressure of speech, inability to complete tasks, and many other features of the condition. A ready reference is either ICD10 or DSMV, both of which list many aspects of Pyke's personality.
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.
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