Blind to the beauties of science

Geoffrey Wheatcroft ("The rise of the philistines", 4 December) is right to deplore the lack of cultivation of our politicians. However, we must not forget that great damage has been done to the nation's development in the past by the scientific and technological illiteracy of those reared exclusively on the classics and arts. The voices of rare and honourable exceptions such as Prince Albert and Winston Churchill have fallen, largely, on deaf ears.

One throwaway line of Wheatcroft's, "You don't need to like music to understand particle physics . . .", makes me wonder whether he realises that the qualities of a great novel, or even a poem or other work of art, can be found in the work of scientists. If this were better appreciated, the unnecessary and damaging gulf between science and the arts need not exist. Two artists who did understand it were Rudyard Kipling and (on the evidence of at least one of his poems) Hugh MacDiarmid.

John Riddell
South Brent, Devon

This article first appeared in the 11 December 1998 issue of the New Statesman, Plato rules, OK?