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The Two Cultures & A Second Look: An Expanded Version of The Two Cultures and the Scientific Revolution

3.61  ·  Rating Details ·  522 Ratings  ·  49 Reviews
The notion that our society, its education system and its intellectual life, is characterised by a split between two cultures – the arts or humanities on one hand, and the sciences on the other – has a long history. But it was C. P. Snow's Rede lecture of 1959 that brought it to prominence and began a public debate that is still raging in the media today. This 50th anniver ...more
Paperback, 181 pages
Published July 30th 1993 by Cambridge University Press (first published 1959)
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Nick Black
Apr 08, 2008 Nick Black rated it really liked it
Another fine selection from Canto's outstanding line of Cambridge Publishing reprints, CP Snow's seminal essay is referenced widely enough -- and simply enough grokked -- that one might consider it, as Calvino wrote, with "Books Everyone Else Has Read and So It's As If You've Read Them, Too". It's short and absolutely worth your time, with an excellent critical essay introducing the polemic itself (noting especially the litotic third taxon of Snow's partitioning).
Sep 16, 2012 Laura rated it liked it
Let's say 3.5 stars.

Snow's general argument, that science people and humanities people should just all get along already, is near and dear to my heart. I went to a nerdy science high school, so half my classmates were practically born with a slide rule in their hand, and the other half were the children of doctors and lawyers who wanted their kids to go to the good public high school but who were not exactly thrilled about all the math they were being subjected to. (It was an interesting early l
Ray Cavanaugh
Oct 20, 2010 Ray Cavanaugh rated it it was amazing
I am surprised this work is not more a part of the liberal arts college curriculum; it’s clearly written, pretty short, and addresses a very interesting, relevant issue – the split between literary intellectuals and scientific intellectuals.

These two groups, each comprised of many very smart people, seem to exist largely in a state of mutual incomprehension (and sometimes mistrust, even scorn).

For so many scientists, their literary experience is limited to “a bit of Dickens.”

In the literary cu
Jan 06, 2010 Tracy rated it it was ok
While Snow did refer to his family background and class, it wasn't until Collini's introduction that I understood just how much the 'two cultures' were wrapped up in class issues. After understanding the historical background of the lecture, it is obvious that Snow was coming from a deeply personal place and did indeed view literary elites as 'the enemy,' not just of scientists, but of innovation.

While Snow refers to big, sometimes emotive ideas, i.e. world peace through closing the gap between
Mar 17, 2017 Peter added it
I feel like I was sold a false bill of goods.

This was supposed to be the essay that set out clearly the gulf between the sciences and the humanities. I’d been hearing about it for years. I’m pretty I sure I skimmed it once online: “Yep, the sciences… yes, literary… poor communication… dire consequences, ok…” I’d ordered a hard copy some time ago. I anticipated an explanation of oppositional modes of thought, of how these two cultures are so distant. Something that would define patterns or traje
dead letter office
Apr 17, 2008 dead letter office rated it it was ok
the author (who was some sort of a scientist and also some sort of a literary figure) examines what he sees to be the growing divide between the scientific community and the humanities. it's not that it's dated, because the divide is still there, but his approach to the problem seems (fifty years on) a little naive and maybe a bit alarmist.

it would be kind of nice if educated people took some kind of interest in science and mathematics, though. and nothing frustrates me more than scientists and
May 20, 2009 Eric_W marked it as to-read
Fascinating essay about the book by Peter Dizikes: who discusses whether a "third culture" (evolutionary biologists, psychologists and neurscientists) is "superseding literary artists in their ability to 'shape the thoughts of their generation.' "
Apr 26, 2009 Andrew rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir-ish
Delightful quick autobiographical read details Snow's mutually exclusive circles of literary and scientific friends. I notice much the same in my own life. I don't meet many mathematicians, scientists or technicians who are into poetry or literature generally.
Mar 12, 2016 Joan rated it liked it
The Two Cultures
C.P. Snow

I read this book a couple of decades ago, but recently realized I could only remember a bit of it. So I decided to read it again. Only The Rede Lecture (1963) has been read and reviewed; not the second part of the book writen in 1963: The two cultures, a second look.

I. The Rede Lecture (1959)

Under the catching concept that a divorce has happened between the arts and the sciences, Snow puts his finger on critical failures of UK's educational system of the time. He conten
Read is in college. Was shocked that our society was so fractured. (That's probably why I was assigned it.) Has informed my vision of America since.

Sadly, America seems even more disintegrated fifty years later and falling apart faster.
Jan 11, 2011 Mangoo rated it really liked it
Snow's Rede Lecture "The two cultures" today looks still interesting and to a good part prophetic. As he himself recognized in "A second look", he had most probably only the merit of pointing out the matter at the right time and eventually place (Cambridge). The matter is the division among intellectuals between humanism and science. This gap causes bad uncommunicability between the parties, with the former essentially advocating the title itself of intellectuals only for themselves while being ...more
Scott Smith
Aug 25, 2011 Scott Smith rated it liked it
For my science and lit class we started out with this text to illustrate the argument that science and the humanities exist on totally different planes from one another and are mutually incomprehensible and that society is suffering because of it. Snow says that as our society continues to educate people with increasing specialization the gap between the two cultures widens. Apparently in his time (1959) the literary or humanity culture is deemed the dominant one, and does not trust science or r ...more
Oct 07, 2011 Daniel rated it liked it
I grabbed this in the library thinking from the description that it would be about the cultural divide between scientists and non-scientists (Humanities) and the imperative need for better communication. As I read Snow's lecture and follow-up, however, I realized this isn't completely true.

That is one of his points, certainly, extending to a call for greater efforts in elementary science education. But his purpose and ultimate argument extends to basic class differences (in Britain of his day),
John Jr.
Though the details of this work tie it to rather specific issues and one particular country, C. P. Snow's 1959 Rede Lecture points to a broader concern: modern Westerners tend either to understand the sciences or to understand the humanities but not both. It's easy to ask whether that matters and not so easy to make the case that it does. In his lecture, Snow attempts it.

I won't give a recap; you can find a decent summary and critique here. I'll add only an interesting sidelight. Snow was himse
Jul 31, 2016 Colin rated it it was amazing
This is an old favorite. I'm not sure that I read A Second Look the first time I read this; much of it did not seem familiar. There are certainly parts of it that can be criticized. But this has profoundly impacted the way I think about the world since I first read it over 15 years ago.

One way in which this has been life-changing for me has less to do with the lecture itself, and more to do with my particular copy. When Snow compares being able to describe the Second Law of Thermodynamics to hav
Jun 15, 2015 Dawn rated it liked it
My book group made me read this.

Seriously--the message in CP Snow's Reede Lecture, given in 1959--and his retrospective on that lecture four years later, is eerily familiar. What he is urging seems to have fallen on deaf ears--perhaps moreso in the United States than in other cultures--maybe. Ultimately, I think he is arguing for scientists and literary intellectuals (roughly the "two cultures" he delineates) to begin communicating with one another to commence the work necessary to improve the
Dec 27, 2012 i! rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: science-wars
Although dated, I don't think the main underlying thesis, which is quite simple, is hurt.

In "A Second Look", Snow decries his own choice of title for his lecture: "Before I wrote the lecture I thought of calling it 'The Rich and the Poor', and I rather wish that I hadn't changed my mind" (79). Indeed, the lecture and critique/retrospective is more a lament of the guilt that has come to rest on applied scientists and industrial leaders. That there are still people starving to death in a world whe
Apr 14, 2014 Bob rated it really liked it
The premise of Snow's lecture is probably well known - immersed in their respective intellectual domains, scientists and literary people regard each with incomprehension and even slight disdain. This is probably as true as ever, though Snow is specifically making an argument about the British educational system and what it needs to do to adapt to the late 20th century.

Cut directly to the current American debate on "preparing students for 21st century jobs" and Snow's statistics on the rate of pr
Stefano Finazzo
May 19, 2013 Stefano Finazzo rated it really liked it
C.P. Snow está pensando principalmente na sociedade inglesa ao falar sobre "as duas culturas", e muitas das coisas a que ele se refere são realmente especificidades dessa sociedade em finais dos anos 50; mas a idéia de que o mundo acadêmico pode ser dividido, com boa aproximação, em duas culturas, uma literária e outra científica, que não se comunicam nem falam a mesma linguagem, se aplica ao Brasil. De forma muito mais perniciosa e intrusiva que na sociedade inglesa, na minha opinião.

Por fim, o
Anthony Faber
Sep 30, 2012 Anthony Faber rated it it was amazing
I'd heard about this for ages, but only got around to reading it now. The interesting thing is that what aI heard about it made is sound like it was just about academia, and didn't really (to my recollection) mention what I view is the important thing, which is his take on how to get the third world out of poverty. His view of industry as a cure is a bit rosy, but if we're going to get the poor parts of the world out of poverty, I don't see any other way. He actually suggested sending our scient ...more
Eric Chevlen
Oct 25, 2012 Eric Chevlen rated it liked it
The introduction to this book, by Stefan Collini, gives a useful perspective on British intellectual history, and helps frame the issues which Snow discussed. Snow's purpose in writing, it seems, was to urge a change in the education system so that humanists and scientists would communicate better. Toward what end? So that the material benefits of the scientific and industrial revolutions could be extended to the masses of humanity, the wretched of the earth. Snow's concern for hoi polloi is com ...more
This is well written (both the original Two Cultures, which was a lecture, and the Second Look a few years later). Both parts are composed of two pieces, one on scientific v. literary culture, and the other on industrial v. developing nations. Snow doesn't adequately explain why these two topics have anything to do with each other. He also holds an attitude toward developing nations that was probably quite progressive in 1959, but seems problematic now. He thinks industrial nations shouldn't be ...more
Dec 16, 2008 Augie rated it really liked it
The split and subsequent rancor between the humanities, on the one hand, and the sciences, on the other, was first made explicit by C.P. Snow in this Lede lecture delivered I believe in 1954. He generalizes a little too much in parts and could have delved deeper into just how the split is to be bridged. The afterword deals with the criticism that the lecture provoked which I could have done without.

The book would've gotten three stars had it not been for Colinni's Introduction in which he talks
Sep 16, 2013 Eun-kyeong rated it it was ok
This book will be useful for those who study education or scientific philosophy because it describes higher education systems of the U.K., the U.S., and some of European countries of that time (1950s). C.P. Snow argues that a cultural gap exists between literary intellectuals and natural scientists and the U.K's education system is one of factors that have accelerated broadening the gap. He emphasizes the importance of balancing knowledge in the Sciences and Humanities with being inclined to a n ...more
Jul 20, 2008 Gloria rated it liked it
Recommends it for: historians of science, cultural studies, etc.
Introduction to this edition is extremely worthwhile.

Otherwise, for me, a fascinating read in that most of my post-HS life, I had heard of this lecture, and of course of "the two cultures." To read it, and especially this edition's very long introduction which places the lecture in context and carries on from there), was enlightening. Snow's observations are perhaps, I think, less relevant to the specific divide (between literature and science) but still holds true due to the "silos" that exist
Aug 18, 2010 David rated it liked it
The most remarkable aspect of reading this book is how remarkable it once was. I don't really get it. I also happened to pick up Joseph Schumpeter's "Science and Ideology," a speech he gave to the American Economic Association in 1948, and that tells me a lot more about cultures, biases, and the progress of science and social science than I gained from reading Snow. Snow's predictions about communist countries overtaking the West and the developing world developing are almost caricatures of scie ...more
Feb 27, 2012 Önder rated it liked it
Snow criticized the intellectuals (by this he means people from social sciences I think) very much about their attitude against society and politics. For example he says many intellectuals such as Ezra Pound were Nazi admirer and those sorts of things less frequent in scientific world. Also he criticized intellectuals because almost all of them have no idea about science. He says he was shocked when he heard intellectual he talked had no idea about the second law of thermodynamics. In the same w ...more
Nov 20, 2012 linhtalinhtinh rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fic
Well, I can't possibly rate this book, for it is basically a historical document for me. It was written more than 50 years ago, half a century, when sciences and technologies have not reached their status as of today.

But the introduction is superb. It summarizes and analyzes critically, it discusses the changes after Snow delivered the old lecture, it points out its problems - things that no longer apply - but also talks about the implications to the modern time, for there are still lessons wort
Alexandre Guay
Un livre, certes très daté, mais qui a le mérite d'avoir eu dans les années 50 un énorme impact. Les arguments de Snow sur l'existence de deux cultures distinctes, l'une scientifique et l'autre littéraire, sont souvent simplistes, mais ils nous forcent tout de même à réfléchir sur la difficile co-habitation entre les humanités et les sciences naturelles. Si le fossé n'est plus aussi vaste que ce Snow prédendait qu'il était, il demeure une incompréhension de part et d'autre qui n'est pas sans con ...more
Feb 07, 2017 Jessica rated it really liked it
Still important.
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Charles Percy Snow, Baron Snow, Kt., CBE, was an English physical chemist and novelist who also served in several important positions in the British Civil Service and briefly in the UK government. He is best known for his series of novels known collectively as Strangers and Brothers, and for The Two Cultures, a 1959 lecture in which he laments the gulf between scientists and "literary intellectual ...more
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“Technology is a queer thing. It brings you gifts with one hand, and stabs you in the back with the other.” 11 likes
“Since the gap between the rich countries and the poor can be removed, it will be. If we are shortsighted, inept, incapable either of good-will or enlightened self-interest, then it may be removed to the accompaniment of war and starvation: but removed it will be. The questions are, how, and by whom.” 0 likes
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