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Frederick Alexander Lindemann

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Frederick Alexander Lindemann, 1st Viscount Cherwell FRS PC CH (5 April 1886 – 3 July 1957) was an English physicist and an influential scientific adviser to the British government from the early 1940s to the early '50s, particularly to Winston Churchill. He advocated the "area" bombing of German cities during World War II and doubted the sophistication of Nazi Germany's radar technology and the existence of its "V" weapons programme.

Lindemann was the second of three sons of Adolphus Frederick Lindemann, who had emigrated to the United Kingdom circa 1871 and become naturalised. Frederick was born in Baden-Baden in Germany where his American mother Olga Noble, the widow of a wealthy banker, was taking "the cure".

After schooling in Scotland and Darmstadt, he attended the University of Berlin. He did research in physics at the Sorbonne that confirmed theories, first put forward by Albert Einstein, on specific heats at very low temperatures. For this and other scientific work, Lindemann was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1920.

In 1911 he was invited to the Solvay Conference on "Radiation and the Quanta" where he was the youngest attendee.

At the outbreak of World War I, Lindemann was playing tennis in Germany and had to leave in haste to avoid internment. In 1915, he joined the staff of the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough. He developed a mathematical theory of aircraft spin recovery, and later learned to fly so that he could test his ideas himself. Prior to Lindemann's work, a spinning aircraft was almost invariably unrecoverable and the result to the pilot fatal.

In 1919 Lindemann was appointed professor of experimental philosophy at the University of Oxford and director of the Clarendon Laboratory, largely on the recommendation of Henry Tizard who had been a colleague in Berlin. In 1919, Lindemann was one of the first people to suggest that in the solar wind particles of both polarities, protons as well as electrons, come from the Sun. He was probably not aware that Kristian Birkeland had made the same prediction three years earlier in 1916.

The Clarendon Laboratory had no research staff and no mains electricity. Lindemann turned it around forming a great laboratory, one of the foremost physics departments in Britain.

1921 through the Duke of Westminster he met Winston Churchill, the beginning of a lifelong friendship.

Early 1930s he became concerned at the inadequacy of British air defence.

1934 both independently and through Churchill, he pressed for the creation of a high-level committee to consider the problem of aur defence urgently. The Air Ministry had already decided to set up such a committee under Henry Tizard's chairmanship

1935 In response to Churchill and Lindemann's pressure, the government agreed to set up the air defence research sub-committee of the committee of imperial defence. Churchill also insisted that Lindemann should be put on the Tizard committee.

A year later the Tizard committee broke up in protest at Lindemann's tactics. It was promptly reconstituted in October, but without Lindemann.

1939 Became personal assistant to Churchill at the Admiralty and head of his statistical section. He continued the same work when Churchill became prime minister in May 1940.

His staff of economists produced charts and graphs for Churchill so that he could visualize changes in such areas as weapon production, food imports, and shipping losses. Also Lindemann's team critically scrutinised departmental statistics, showing that the German front-line strength in bombers in 1940 was grossly exaggerated, and that British night bombing was less than one-third as accurate as the Air Ministry claimed. As a result navigational aids were improved.

1941 Became a peer, Baron Cherwell of Oxford.

1942 he became paymaster-general

Active supporter of experiments in new weapons. Successfully pressed for counter-measures against the German radio beams used to guide bombers. Strongly backed microwave radar, including development of H2S.

1943 Became a privy councillor.

1945 Returned to Oxford

1951 he reluctantly joined Churchill's cabinet, again as paymaster-general, but returned to Oxford in 1953

1957 Died in Oxford


1957 Obituary [1]

VISCOUNT CHERWELL, whose death occurred at Oxford on Wednesday, July 3, will long be remembered by his outstanding services to this country during the second world war as scientific adviser to the Prime Minister, Sir Winston Churchill. He was for many years Professor of Experimental Philosophy in the University of Oxford, and for the greater part of that time was well known as Professor F. A. Lindemann.

Frederick Alexander Lindemann was born at Baden-Baden in April 1886. His father was an engineer who subsequently settled in this country and became a British citizen.

F. A. Lindemann was the younger son; he was educated at Darmstadt and at Berlin University where he studied under Rubens, Planck and Nernst, gaining a Ph.D. degree in 1910. One of his special studies was concerned with the physical significance of the quantum theory, and after leaving Berlin University, Lindemann went to Paris to continue his research and experimental work along this and other lines. By the time of the first world war Lindemann's work had already secured a place of importance.

He was appointed director of the Royal Air Force physical laboratory at Farnborough, and contributed much, both in the laboratory and as an experimental pilot, to the successful development of the military aircraft produced by this country in the 1914-18 war.

Early in 1919, F. A. Lin~emann was invited to take the chair of expenmental philosophy at Oxford University, and associated with it was a Fellowship of Wadham College. In the following year he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. During these inter-war years, Lindemann took a large part 1n the bulldmg and equipping of the new Clarendon Laboratory. The laboratory, it may be recalled, was completed in 1939.

When Sir Winston took office as Prime Minister in 1940, Professor Lindemann became his personal assistant. Shortly afterwards he was raised to the peerage, taking the title of Baron Cherwell of Oxford, and in 1942 was appointed Paymaster-General with Cabinet rank. He retained that office until the end of the war, and was again appointed to it when Sir Winston became Prime Minister for the second time. Lord Cherwell was untiring in his efforts to emphasise to the Government and to the country the importance of scientific research.

His speeches in the House of Lords were not frequent, but they were always forthright. In a debate in July 1943, for example, Lord Cherwell made it plain that the importance of fostering pure fundamental research could never be over-rated. That was a fact, he said, which had been more widely recognised abroad than in this country. Many great firms abroad, Lord Cherwell continued, maintained magnificent research laboratories in which men of the greatest distinction were proud to work. In this country, he then observed, we had "not yet quite reached that level of enlightenment." There can be little doubt that such utterances have proved valuable to the extension of research facilities in the post war years.

Lord Cherwell was appointed to the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority in 1954. Two years later, be retired from his chair at Oxford, having then reached the age of seventy. He was made a Companion of Honour in 1953 and a Viscount last year.


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