You can’t blame them. It would go to anybody’s head.
You can, in a way, blame Frederick Lindemann, the first (and last) Viscount Cherwell.
Apart from the facts that he more or less founded Oxford physics and so got a laboratory named after him and was some sort of scientific adviser to Churchill, most of what I know about Lindemann I learned today, from this site, aimed at children in secondary schools, and Wikipedia.
Lindemann ought to be more famous. He developed the first theory of how to recover when an aeroplane goes into a spin, and learned to fly so that he could repeatedly and dangerously put it to the test on his own aircraft. Umpteen pilots owe him their lives. Umpteen Germans owe him their deaths: his hatred of Nazism was “almost pathological” and – well, let Wikipedia give you the flavour:
When Churchill became Prime Minister, he appointed Lindemann as the British government’s leading scientific adviser … Lindemann established a special statistical branch, known as ‘S-Branch’, within the government, constituted from subject specialists, and reporting directly to Churchill. This branch distilled thousands of sources of data into succinct charts and figures, so that the status of the nation’s food supplies (for example) could be instantly evaluated. Lindemann’s statistical branch often caused tensions between government departments, but because it allowed Churchill to make quick decisions based on accurate data which directly affected the war effort, its importance should not be underestimated … In 1940, Lindemann supported the experimental department MD1. He worked on hollow charge weapons, the sticky bomb and other new weapons … “In his appointment as Personal Assistant to the Prime Minister no field of activity was closed to him. He was as obstinate as a mule, and unwilling to admit that there was any problem under the sun which he was not qualified to solve. He would write a memorandum on high strategy one day, and a thesis on egg production on the next” … Following the Air Ministry Area bombing directive on 12 February 1942, Lindemann presented the dehousing paper to Churchill on 30 March 1942, which advocated area bombardment of German cities to break the spirit of the people … Lindemann also played a key part in the battle of the beams, championing countermeasures to the Germans use of radio navigation to increase the precision of their bombing campaigns.
Lindemann’s achievements in science, though distinguished, have been surpassed by those of other scientists. But never before or since has a single scientist, in his role as a scientist, been so close to the seat of power. He was like a Grand Vizier of old. His name may not be that famous, even among scientists, but his role in the Great Drama has become a folk memory; a fantasy.
In the 1950s Isaac Asimov, writing under the pseudonym Paul French, produced an enjoyable series of science fiction novels for teenagers featuring David “Lucky” Starr, Space Ranger. (In which occurs the first known appearance of the lightsaber trope. I didn’t know that.) Like the Lone Ranger, Lucky has a faithful sidekick. Like James Bond – whose career began at about the same time – Lucky has gadgets. And backup. On Lucky’s wrist there is a tattoo which is invisible until Lucky exerts his will, triggering some chemicals or hormones or something, which makes the tattoo become visible. Then they sit up, take notice, and hasten to do what he says, because the tattoo reveals that he is a member – indeed, the youngest ever member – of the Council of Science.
The Council of Science!
Quoting Wikipedia again:
In a later novel in the series, Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus, the Council of Science is described this way: “In these days, when science really permeated all human society and culture, scientists could no longer restrict themselves to their laboratories. It was for that reason that the Council of Science had been born. Originally it was intended only as an advisory body to help the government on matters of galactic importance, where only trained scientists could have sufficient information to make intelligent decisions. More and more it had become a crime-fighting agency, a counterespionage system. Into its own hands it was drawing more and more of the threads of government.”
And just for a while a year or two back it all looked like coming true. Lindemann’s heirs back in the saddle again. Maybe not the tattoos, but the Scientist taking the President’s calls, speaking with grave wisdom to the frightened assemblies and governments of mankind.
You can’t really blame them, can you? For remembering their time of glory and feeling just a smidgeon of pleasure that those days were here again?
From the story quoted by Brian in the post below this one:
Scientists have called for Second World War-style rationing in rich countries to bring down carbon emissions, as world leaders meet in Cancun for the latest round of talks on climate change.