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Leading scientists

Solly Zuckerman (KV 2/3030-3031) 1937-1958

The case of Solly Zuckerman was one which caused the Security Service considerable difficulty, as revealed in the first two personal files on him that are now released. He first came under serious attention in 1940 when concerns arose about the nature of the research work he was engaged in, given his openly avowed left-wing views. The file gives some detail of the work he was engaged in, it being his requirement of monkeys to experiment on during the war that first aroused suspicions. However, Zuckerman's personal acquaintances, including Lord Rothschild (e.g. at serial 21a), vouched for him and it was decided that the Service would not object to his involvement in secret work. There are many opinions as to his character in KV 2/3030, including that of the Lord President of the Council reported in 1949 at minute 53: 'He had formed the opinion that Zuckerman was more interested in his career than anything else.' Telephone and postal checks were mounted on Zuckerman's communications, and the output is on these files, but it contains little to support views that he might be a Communist. However, in 1949, a typewritten application to join the Communist Party in Zuckerman's name was intercepted. Submitting an open application in this way was thought to be so counter to Zuckerman's character, that it was assumed it must be a malicious false application. There is a pictorial comparative analysis of the application typewriting and a sample of Zuckerman's own typewriting at serial 50a, and an analysis of the possible explanations for the application at serial 52a.

Doubts about Zuckerman's reliability resurfaced in the 1950s (recorded on KV 2/3031) when the Americans queried his status with the Security Service. The Service re-examined the case, but decided that regardless of American concerns, there was no need to revise the assertion that he was not a security risk. Also on this file, a candidate emerges (serial 72a and following) as to who might have made the false application to join the Communist Party in Zuckerman's name - Professor Lancelot Hogben. The file includes a note of a drunken Hogben's intercepted phone call to Zuckerman where he made direct threats. Subsequent enquiries revealed flaws in Hogben's character that made it seem he might well have produced such a false application, and though no positive proof was uncovered, the Service was satisfied that he was the likely perpetrator.

Go to Discovery to view KV 2/3030

Go to Discovery to view KV 2/3031

Geoffrey Pyke (KV 2/3038-3040) 1914-1959

These files document the Security Service's view of the extraordinary career of Geoffrey Pyke, stereotypical Second World War British "boffin" and cousin of the popular scientist and broadcaster Magnus Pyke. KV 2/3038 covers his First World War exploits, covering 1914-1918. An undergraduate at Cambridge when the War broke out, Pyke managed to secure employment as a correspondent for the Daily Chronicle and travelled to Germany via Denmark with the purpose of reporting on conditions and opinion in Berlin. He lasted six days before being arrested, and was eventually interned. His escape from internment at Ruhleben, from where he travelled to Holland and back to Britain, aroused huge suspicion in Britain, as his tales of his exploits (which he retold in print and at public lectures) contained many inconsistencies. Pyke was closely watched by the authorities, as is revealed on this file, and his every move was analysed. For instance, his decision in 1916 to obtain a yacht and seek permission to sail it outside permitted areas from Falmouth was highly suspect, especially as he claimed to have no experience as a yachtsman. The Cornish Police searched his yacht and reported back to the Secret Intelligence Bureau (folio numbered 103496). However, by July of 1916 Major Drake of MI5 was writing that 'I do not think there are any grounds for serious suspicion against him, but he is a young man who is quite likely to do something foolish as he loves notoriety…'

Between the wars, as noted in KV 2/3039, Pyke maintained a lower profile - but by 1937, instead of being viewed as a possible German sympathiser, he was now seen as a suspected Communist. This was initially due to being honorary secretary of the Advisory Committee of the Voluntary Aid for Spain. Once again a close watch was maintained on Pyke's activities. As war loomed, Pyke recruited a team to conduct an opinion poll in Germany, (which included some pro-Nazi members, such as Augusta Watson whose file is also now released). Pyke strove to repeat the poll using nationals from neutral states after war was declared, but could not get official support. However, the file shows that, by finding favour with Mountbatten, Pyke secured work developing inventions for Combined Operations Headquarters, and came up with a number of innovative proposals (the best-known being the Weasel, a vehicle for transporting troops and loads across snow using screw turbines, and Project Habbakuk, his idea for an aircraft carrier made from artificially strengthened ice, known as pykrete). This file contains a photograph of Pyke (serial 17x).

Pyke committed suicide after the war, in February 1948 (as recorded in KV 2/3040). The Service showed renewed interest in his case when papers mentioning Pyke were discovered among the contents of Guy Burgess' home and office after his defection in 1951, and the details of what was found are on this file.

Sir Benjamin Lockspeiser (KV 2/3059-3061) 1918-1957

These three files now released on prominent scientific administrator Sir Ben Lockspeiser show how his pre-war career and interest in Communism led to the Security Service maintaining an interest in him through to the end of the 1950s. Lockspeiser fought at Gallipoli during the First World War and was invalided home, and by the time of the General Strike was working as a chemist at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) in Farnborough. KV 2/3059 records how he was one of a group of RAE employees to visit Russia on a vacation in 1932, and the file reports (minute 53) that Lockspeiser played "an important part in causing disaffection at the Aircraft Establishment during the General Strike…he has continued to engage in subversive activities since then." A watch was placed on Lockspeiser's correspondence as a result, and copies of intercepted letters are on this file. There was not however, enough evidence to recommend his dismissal from RAE. The views of the local constabulary on the RAE are noted also (serial 6): 'The local Police are inclined, I know, to think that the majority of employees in the RAE are out-and-out Bolsheviks…'

Lockspeiser's subsequent career shows how it was possible to overcome such an unpromising reputation. KV 2/3060 records his various wartime promotions, and he worked on a number of highly secret projects in the Admiralty. Roger Hollis noted in July 1947 (minute 152) that "Lockspeiser has, like many others, become less extreme with increasing age and promotion…" He was knighted in the 1946 New Year's Honours list. There is a summary of Lockspeiser's case to 1951 at serial 172a, and in minute 176 of November 1951, the suggestion is made that the Security Service should interview Lockspeiser for information about Communist employees at the RAE before the war. The record of this interview, during which Lockspeiser discusses his pre-war communist contacts at Farnborough freely, is at serial 204a in KV 2/3061. Conscious of his elevated position - Lockspeiser was by now Secretary at the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research - the initial approach to interview him was made by the highest available officer, the Director General.