Science and technology in Britain

Since the first artificial splitting of atom at Cambridge, in 1932, by sir John Cockcroft and Dr. E. T. S. Walton, Britain’s nuclear scientists have made continuous progress in harnessing atomic energy. Today eight commercial nuclear power stations are supplying electricity for factories and homes and others are being built. Some of Britain’s top scientists are engaged in space research on projects such as upper atmosphere probes with British-built rockets at Woomera, Australia, and in work on satellite communications. Others are making vital discoveries in the laboratory into the very nature of life itself.

Britain is pre-eminent in radio astronomy and in many fields of electronics including miniaturization, one of the most important factors in the electronics revolution, and in radar for marine and aviation purposes. Much basic work was done in Britain on electronic computers. British advances in medicine include penicillin and other antibiotics, such as cephalosporins, heart-lung machines, a new anti-viral agent, Interferon, of great potential value and many other important developments in the treatment of disease.

British contributions to science include many great discoveries linked with famous names – Sir Isaac Newton (theory of gravitation), Robert Boyle (“the father of modern chemistry”), Michael Faraday (whose discoveries gave rise to the electrical industry) and Henry Cavendish (properties of hydrogen). In the present century – J.J. Thomson, Lord Rutherford and Sir James Chadwick (basic work on nuclear science), Gowland Hopkins (the existence of bitamins), Sir William Bragg (x-ray analysis), and many others. Medicine owes much to such pioneers as William Harvey (circulation of the blood), Edward Jenner (vaccination), Joseph Lister (antiseptics), Sir Ronald Ross (who proved the relation between malaria and mosquitoes).

Since 1945 there have been 27 British scientists who have received international recognition for their work by gaining Nobel awards. There are over 200 learned scientific societies in Britain. In ten years Britain has doubled her total number of qualified scientists.

The Arts in Britain

The arts in Britain are flourishing and present a varied and lively picture. London has become an international forum of arts, with major exhibitions of painting and sculpture and theatre, opera and ballet companies and orchestras drawing large audiences. Throughout Britain there are festivals and centres of artistic activity – among them the Edinburgh International Festival, the music festivals in Aldeburgh, Windsor and Cheltenham and opera at Glyndebourne.

The spread of musical interest in Britain owes much to the British Broadcasting Corporation with its daily program and its partial financing of the Promenade concerts at the Royal Albert Hall, London.

There are over 900 museums and art galleries in Britain and art exhibition are shown all over the country through the Arts Council, which distributes government grants for music, drama, painting and sculpture. Local authorities play an important part in encouraging the arts, supporting galleries, orchestras and art centres – an example is the ambitious Midlands Art Centre for young people in Birmingham.

British artists, writers, musicians and architects exert a powerful influence abroad. Notable figures include sculptors Henry Moore and Anthony Caro, painters Francis Bacon and Graham Sutherland and among young artists, Richard Smith, winner of a major international prize in 1967, Richard Hamilton, who painted the first “pop” picture, and Bridget Riley, internationally known artist whose work has also inspired fashion.

British music owes much to the composer Benjamin Britten, whose influence has produced a new school of British opera. In architecture the work of Sir Basil Spence (Coventry Cathedral, Sussex University) and the collective work of modern British architects in housing and town planning and outstanding.

Literature presents great diversity. Poetry has received fresh stimulus from regional movements including the Liverpool Poets, who write for public performance. Among novelists of worldwide reputation are William Golding and John Tolkien.


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