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The Two Cultures and The Scientific Revolution

(Canto Classics)

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  1,105 ratings  ·  114 reviews
This book is based on C. P. Snow's Rede lecture of 1959. The lecture consisted of the different views of the two cultures--science on one hand, and the arts or humanities on the other, and thus sparked a public debate that is still raging in the media today. This reissue has a new introduction by Stefan Collini, charting the history and context of the debate, its implicati ...more
Hardcover, 58 pages
Published 1959 by Cambridge University Press
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Manuel Antão
Sep 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1993
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Shakespeare vs Thermodynamics: "The Two Cultures" by C. P. Snow

(original review, 1993)

As a maths and physics graduate, I observe that most compilers of the best books of all-time lists are, self-evidently, not from my side of the cultural divide. They should at the very least, it seems to me, be required to read C. P. Snow's "The Two Cultures" and "The Scientific Revolution", not to mention Arthur Koestler's "The Sleepwalkers" (a maste
Apr 27, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting opinions on science and the cultures within science. Some of it still applies today, most of it is outdated. I was assigned to read the speech C.P. Snow gave in 1959 and decided to read the accompanying book. It was pretty hard to get through, but I did find some interesting parts. It's interesting to read for scientists, but mostly as a source of information about history. ...more
Nelson Zagalo
Portuguese extended-version:
This book was made from a talk by CP Snow, in 1959, that made lots of ripples throughout the academy, much of them against Snow, condemning him for contributing to augmenting the divide between science and humanities. I must confess how surprised I feel reading such condemnations, even more when by people like Stephen Jay Gould.

It's strange how even today people approach th
Dec 20, 2015 rated it liked it
I read this (the original, published in 1959) in college. It was assigned reading. The premise, that mankind was dividing into two separate and non-communicating communities of arts and science, didn't seem revolutionary then. The poles still exist today, but are even less evident among the many other polarizations in current culture: economic, religious, political and ethnic.

From the vantage point of fifty years of actual observation, the polarizations persist not because they are natural but b
Nick Black
Apr 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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). ...more
Sep 16, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Sean Higgins
This was a very interesting and provoking consideration of who needs who the most between the two cultures of the humanities people and the science people. Snow himself was a scientist-turned-novelist who believed in the power of, and need for technology to solve problems, and saw a lot of ignorance/pessimism from the English lit-elites. Snow gave the first lecture in 1959, so a number of his comments are dated, but the intro helps with context, and the whole book calls for educators to get the ...more
Aditya Raman
The word "tech-bro" gets thrown around a lot in the terminally-online community. In many ways, Snow was the original "tech-bro", waxing eloquent about the merits of science as a tool to solve all the problems of the world that the other culture, that of the "literary intellectual", had let fester for so long. While the term comes with the baggage of misogyny and subtle racism, which might not be entirely relevant in this context (1950's British academia was definitely a white boys' club, though, ...more
Jan 18, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
the following link will give you an excellent review and analysis on what C.P. Snow meant by "the two cultures":
it portrays the (global) educational gap between Sciences and Art, and how it affects us as individuals and society (by global CPS meant U.K., U.S., & U.S.S.R).
by "affects" i mean 60 years ago!. still, it's very informative and gives you some clues on why such a gap is still present.

at the end of the book the guy "translates" that gap into rich
Jun 06, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
C. P. Snow’s “The Two Cultures” is a short take on a long-standing debate in academia, the split between sciences and humanities departments. He writes ‘the intellectual life of the whole of western society is increasingly being split into two polar groups’, with intellectual life comprising practical life: the two polar groups are the literary intellectuals (he has some issue with how they began to term themselves intellectuals) and scientists, particularly physical scientists. This dichotomy s ...more
The main idea, that scholars who dwell in the humanities and those who specialise in scientific subjects are far from understanding each other, is both obvious and interesting. It's obvious because anyone who has heard, read or seen specialists talk about current issues can appreciate how different their conceptual foundations are. And it's interesting because most people don't seem to care or give it any importance. Snow talks (most of the time in circles, by the way) about the dangers of schol ...more
Mar 04, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was assigned reading for my Humanities MA over ten years ago. The premise is simple enough: there are two groups of people in the intellectual world - literary intellectuals and scientific intellectuals. These two cultures have their own languages and approaches to life and education, and they seem ignorant of one another, much to the ultimate peril of the world they share.

Snow advocates for greater scientific literacy, and stands on the side of industrialists and the scientifically literat
Jan 06, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1959 Rede lecture, Snow points that the intellectual life is split into "two cultures", science and humanities. Although he mentions scientists not understanding literature enough, he mostly blames literary scholars for not comprehending science. According to Snow, one of the reasons of the division is early specialization during education.

Snow also argues that the gap between rich and poor countries can be eliminated with the help of science and he thinks wealthy countries must act to fix it
dead letter office
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
Nov 20, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Prof. Mohamed  Shareef
The culture of science and the culture of humanities cannot be united because they belong to two entirely different rivers. So there is a growing misunderstanding between the people of these two cultures. This book can be better understood if it is read after reading the novels 'The Masters' and 'The Affair' written by C.P.Snow. If you don't have that much time, you can also go for the dramatized versions of them which are shorter. ...more
May 20, 2009 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
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.' " ...more
Apr 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Zhijing Jin
Jul 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The author Snow argues that, in the British system, there is a severe imbalance of the number of talents in humanities and natural science. He proved this by asking intellectuals "do you know what is mass and acceleration?", which is equivalent to "can you read?" in humanities. Only 1 out of 10 provides a positive answer. This experiments shows that the scientific illiteracy is 90% among intellectuals. He then argues that this imbalanced expertise of humanities and natural science is detrimental ...more
It was quite interesting to read this, after having heard the phrase "The Two Cultures" and hearing paraphrases of the lecture for years. The 50th year anniversary edition has an introduction by Stefan Collini at least half as long as the original lecture plus the second look. I would definitely recommend this as it fills in the context around Snow and the conditions of the lecture and its spread.

For the lecture itself, I was surprised at how short it was and how the focus was not just on the (
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
Paulo Glez Ogando
Snow delivered 7 May 1959 a lecture at Cambridge: "The Two cultures and the scientific revolution", and immediately after a book was printed. The book I am talking about here is a second and expanded version, "The Two Cultures: A Second Look".

The book has an introduction by Stefan Collini, almost the same lenght than Snow's text. He tells a pre-history of the debate for a whole perspective, Snow's own life, the developement of the idea of the "two cultures", reactions and controversies after the
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poli-sci, philosophy
Five stars because this is a classic example of a common argument: as knowledge and knowledge production has become more and more specialized, there is an unbridgeable gulf between the arts and humanities on one side and the sciences on the other. The book is basically an attack on any epistemological position other than positivism. The author's test of whether an intellectual can rightly call him/herself an intellectual is whether they can explain the second law of thermodynamics is frankly con ...more
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
Dennis Robbins
C.P. Snow’s famous lecture makes more sense when paired with his later writing “A Second Look” from 1963. Yet, the most confusing aspects of the original Rede Lecture is the conflation and the interchangeable use of ideas about science, industry and technology. The “two cultures” is not so much humanities vs. science but the academic literary intellectuals vs. a techno-industrial-science research elite. While I can accept that this might have been a tension in post-war Britain the great question ...more
Aidan Lowrie
An interesting look at the problems in Britain's education system that have lead to two (or arguably three) distinct schools of thought.

I found the discussion of the differences in education across the world (in the 1950's at least) to be particularly fascinating, as the way in which people are educated was something I'd ignorantly considered to be uniform across the planet.

My favourite aspect of the lecture came near the end, when Snow spoke of the divide between the rich and poor across the
Sharad Pandian
Nov 08, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: culture-critique
A brief book 50 years old, lamenting the split of intellectuals into non-interacting groups of those who are inclined to the scientific and those who are inclined to the literary. Little has changed, and his ambitious dream that the developed Western world channel capital and resources into the less developed world to even out the benefits of the engineering revolution has not come to pass, nor does it seem likely to. In many ways it is outdated, because with the growth of massive corporations i ...more
This is a rejection of romanticism before modernism, celebrating scientific progress. He seems a bit more intersectional in his disciplines at the end of the book, but comes off as a STEM lord because to him, it's just the most logical solution. I would argue that there are far more types of people than what he considers the two cultures: Literary scholars and scientists, and he's very clearly biased in some of his thoughts (scientists don't see race....LOL). But there is a persistent population ...more
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