Frederick Lindemann, 1st Viscount Cherwell

Frederick Lindemann, 1st Viscount Cherwell

Infobox Scientist
name = Frederick Alexander Lindemann
box_width =

image_width = 100px
caption =
birth_date = birth date|1886|4|5
father: Adolph Frederick Lindemann
mother: Olga Noble (American)
birth_place = Baden-Baden, Germany
death_date = death date and age|1957|7|3|1886|4|5
death_place =
residence =
citizenship =
nationality =
ethnicity =
field = physics
work_institutions = 1915-1919: Royal Aircraft Factory
1919-1940, 1945-tbd: Oxford University
19401940-1945: MD1
alma_mater =
doctoral_advisor = Walther Nernst, University of Berlin
doctoral_students = Reginald Victor Jones
known_for = dehousing paper
author_abbrev_bot =
author_abbrev_zoo =
influences =
influenced =
prizes =
footnotes = 1911: attended Solvay Conference
*1941 June 4: Raised to the peerage as Baron Cherwell
*1943: Appointed a Privy Counsellor (1943)
*1953: Companion of Honour (1953)
*1956: Created Viscount Cherwell

Frederick Alexander Lindemann, 1st Viscount Cherwell PC CH was an English physicist who was an influential scientific adviser to the British government, particularly Winston Churchill. He advocated the wartime carpet bombing of German cities, and was a strong doubter of the existence of the Nazi "V" weapons program.

Early life, family and personality

Frederick was the second of three sons of Adolphus Frederick Lindemann who had emigrated to Britain circa 1871 [] and become naturalised.Crowther (1965), "p."343] Frederick was born in Baden-Baden in Germany where his American mother, Olga Noble the widow of a wealthy banker, was taking "the cure". After schooling in Scotland and Darmstadt, he attended the University of Berlin and, as a physicist at the Sorbonne, he carried out research that confirmed theories first put forward by Albert Einstein, on specific heats at very low temperatures.cite web |last=Blake |first=R |year=2004 |url= |format=html ODNBsub |title=Lindemann, Frederick Alexander, Viscount Cherwell (1886–1957) |work=Oxford Dictionary of National Biography |publisher=Oxford University Press |accessdate= ]

Lindemann was a precise, austere, teetotal, vegetarian, non-smoker, though Churchill would sometimes induce him to take a glass of brandy. An excellent pianist and keen tennis player, he was later to compete at Wimbledon. []

World War I and Oxford University

At the outbreak of World War I, Lindemann was playing tennis in Germany and had to leave in haste to avoid internment. In 1915, he joined the staff of the Royal Aircraft Factory at Farnborough. He developed a mathematical theory of aircraft spin recovery, and to prove it, learned to fly, testing the theory on himself;cite journal
coauthors=William Farren
journal=Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society|volume =4
year=1958 |month= |publisher=Royal Society |location=London |language= |id= |doi = |pages=p54,56,63
title= Fredrick Alexander Lindemann, Viscount Cherwell
url =
] as of 2006, the methodClarifyme is still used. Prior to his development of this method spinning an aircraft was almost invariably fatal.

In 1919 Lindemann was appointed professor of experimental philosophy at Oxford University and director of the Clarendon Laboratory, largely on the recommendation of Henry Tizard who had been a colleague in Berlin. In 1919, Lindemann was one of the first people to suggest that in the Solar Wind particles of both polarities, protons as well as electrons, come from the Sun. [Lindemann, 1919] He was probably not aware that Kristian Birkeland had made the same prediction three years earlier in 1916.Fact|date=August 2007

Lindemann's opposed the UK General Strike of 1926 and mobilised the reluctant staff of the Clarendon to produce copies of Churchill's anti-strike newspaper, the "British Gazette". He was also alarmed and fearful of political developments in Germany.

In the 1930s, Lindemann advised Winston Churchill when the latter was not in Government and leading a campaign for rearmament. Lindemann also helped a number of German Jewish physicists, primarily at the University of Göttingen, emigrate to England to work in the Clarendon Laboratory. Several of these German physicists subsequently worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the atom bomb.Fact|date=August 2007

World War II

When Churchill became Prime Minister, he appointed him as the British government's leading scientific adviser, with David Bensusan-Butt as his private secretary,Fact|date=August 2007 and later to the ministerial post of Paymaster-General. He would hold this office again in Churchill's peacetime administration. At this point Lindemann was known to many simply as the Prof.

Lindemann established a special statistical branch within the government, constituted from subject specialists, and reporting directly to Churchill. This branch distilled thousands of sources of data into succinct charts and figures, so that the status of the nation's food supplies (for example) could be instantly evaluated. Lindemann's statistical branch often caused tensions between government departments, but because it allowed Churchill to make quick decisions based on accurate data which directly affected the war effort, its importance should not be underestimated.

In 1940, Lindemann joined experimental department MD1. He worked on hollow charge weapons, the Sticky bomb and other innovative weapons. General Ismay, who supervised MD1, recalled:

:"Churchill used to say that the Prof’s brain was a beautiful piece of mechanism, and the Prof did not dissent from that judgement. He seemed to have a poor opinion of the intellect of everyone with the exception of Lord Birkenhead, Mr Churchill and Professor Lindemann; and he had a special contempt for the bureaucrat and all his ways. The Ministry of Supply and the Ordnance Board were two of his pet aversions, and he derived a great deal of pleasure from forestalling them with new inventions. In his appointment as Personal Assistant to the Prime Minister no field of activity was closed to him. He was as obstinate as a mule, and unwilling to admit that there was any problem under the sun which he was not qualified to solve. He would write a memorandum on high strategy one day, and a thesis on egg production on the next. He seemed to try to give the impression of wanting to quarrel with everybody, and of preferring everyone’s room to their company; but once he had accepted a man as a friend, he never failed him, and there are many of his war-time colleagues who will ever remember him with deep personal affection. He hated Hitler and all his works, and his contribution to Hitler’s downfall in all sorts of odd ways was considerable." [Ismay, 1960, p173]

He has been described as having "an almost pathological hatred for Nazi Germany, and an almost medieval desire for revenge was a part of his character". [Wheeler-Bennett, J.W. & Nicholls, A., 1972, p.179]

trategic Bombing

Following the Air Ministry Area bombing directive on February 12, 1942, Lindemann presented the dehousing paper to Churchill on March 30, 1942, which advocated area bombardment of German cities to break the spirit of the people. [cite web | url= |format=html |accessdate=2008-06-19 |title=Blitzed by guidebook | publisher=BBC News | year=2002 ] Lindemann also played a key part in the battle of the beams, providing insight on how the Germans were using radio navigation to increase the precision of their bombing campaigns.

Lindemann also repeatedly made arguments against V-2 rocket evidence, such as inaccurately claiming "to put a four-thousand horsepower turbine in a twenty-inch space is lunacy: it couldn't be done, Mr. Lubbock" and that at the end of the war, the committee would find that the rocket was "a mare's nest ".

cite book |last=Irving|first=David|authorlink=David Irving|title=The Mare's Nest|year=1964|publisher=William Kimber and Co|location=London|pages=p159
NOTE: MacRae's 1971 p170 absolute claim that "Prof certainly never suggested that nothing need be done about the V weapons; on the contrary he was always urging us to try to think up some brilliant counter measure against it which we were unable to do." differs with the official records (meeting minutes, etc.) that indicate otherwise.] p159 A pivotal exchange where Churchill rebuffed Lindemann occurred at the Cabinet Defence Committee (Operations) on Jun 29, 1943 and which was dramatized in the film Operation Crossbow.


Lindemann enthusiastically supported the controversial Morgenthau Plan, which Churchill subsequently endorsed on September 15, 1944. [cite web |last=Irving |first=David |authorling=David Irving | url= |format=html |accessdate=2008-06-19 |title=Introduction |work=The Morgenthau Plan |publisher=Focal Point |year=1986 ]

Following his 1945 return to Clarendon Laboratory, Lindemann createdClarifyme the Atomic Energy Authority.

externalimage|align=right|,+Lord Reference List]

References and Notes

* cite book
title=Statesmen of Science
author=Crowther, J. G.
publisher=Cresset Press

*cite book
title=The Professor and the Prime Minister: The Official Life of Professor F. A. Lindemann Viscount Cherwell
author= Furneaux-Smith, F., Earl of Birkenhead
authorlink = Frederick Smith, 2nd Earl of Birkenhead
publisher=Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company

* cite book
author=Harrod, R. F.
title=The Prof: A Personal Memoir of Lord Cherwell

*cite book
last = Ismay
first = General Lord
authorlink = Hastings Ismay, 1st Baron Ismay
title = The Memoirs of Lord Ismay
publisher = Heinemann
series =
year = 1960
isbn =

*Lindemann (1919) "On the Solar Wind", "Philosophical Magazine", Series 6, Vol. 38, No. 228, December, 674.
*cite book
author = Stuart MacRae
authorlink=Stuart MacRae (inventor)
title = Winston Churchill's Toyshop
publisher = Roundwood Press
year = 1971
id= SBN 900093-22-6

* cite book
title=Science and Government
author=C.P. Snow
author link = Charles Percy Snow

*cite book
author=Wheeler-Bennett, J.W. & Nicholls, A.
title=The Semblance of Peace
id=ISBN 0-333-04302-2

*cite book
title=Churchill and the Prof
author=Wilson, Thomas
id=ISBN 0-304-34615-2

*cite book
title=Prof: The Life and Times of Frederick Lindemann
author=Fort, A.
id=ISBN 0-7126-4007-X

*Obituary: "The Times", July 4, 5, 8 1957;
*Obituary:"Nature" 180, 579-581.

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