Biographical article on C. P. Snow by Elizabeth Blood
Charles Percy Snow, Baron Snow, CBE, was born 15 October 1905 and died 1 July 1980. He attended Alderman Newton’s Grammar School in Leicester between 1917-22 and went on to study at the new University College in Leicester (opened 1921). Snow entered the College in 1925 to take Chemistry and Physics. The following year he concentrated on Chemistry, winning a prize and becoming President of the Students’ Union. He was the first research student under the newly appointed head of Chemistry, A C Menzies (“Sandy” Menzies).
Snow also exercised some of his literary aspirations in the first student publication at Leicester, which came to be known as The Luciad. According to a press cutting from the Leicester Mail, June 1930 in the University Archives, he worked (from Cambridge) with the President of the Leicester Students’ Union on something for The Luciad that was made into a radio play, accepted for broadcast by the BBC. Snow was the Editor of The Luciad in 1927-28, and also involved in the new student publication called The Wave, which began in January 1926. Snow was outspoken from the first, writing an open letter to the Bishop of Gloucester in The Luciad of December 1925, and offering cynical thoughts on teacher training and on local journalism in The Wave of November 1927.
Snow was very active in student life at Leicester, immersing himself in its societies. He played a lot of cricket, and performed with the Dramatic Society. He was fond of debate and prolific in writing for the student publications.
In the 1927-28 year he gained his MSc. In 1929 he earned the Keddy Fletcher-Warr scholarship to go onto further chemical research, which Menzies believed should be carried out at Cambridge where sophisticated spectroscopy equipment was available (see Tredell, N., C. P. Snow: The Dynamics of Hope. Palgrave Macmillan 2012, p.7).
Snow’s CBE was awarded in 1943. During the Second World War he was in charge of a department within the Ministry of Labour and National Service that determined how to allocate bursaries in science at universities.
His student record card (ULA/SR1/S/92) shows that the University College at Leicester took an ongoing interest in his career. He also appears in many of the Press Cuttings Books held by the University of Leicester Archives.
Snow is commemorated by a blue plaque opposite 40 Richmond Road, Leicester, where he was born.