20 February: Paul Broda, ‘Scientist Spies: My parents Engelbert Broda and Alan Nunn May’

The distinct voices of those who passed atom secrets to the Russians in the War have rarely been heard.  My father and my stepfather were two of these. I shall introduce them and my mother, and how their lives were shaped by Communism, Fascism, the War and the creation of The Bomb. As I described in my book Scientist Spies: a memoir of my three parents and the Atom Bomb (2011) they gave secrets out of conviction and for no reward. It places in their historical context the dilemmas of political belief versus obedience and of action versus passivity. I shall also describe their later lives and how from early childhood my own life has been shaped by my family life and influences.

Paul Broda was born in 1939 in London, the only child of Hilde and Engelbert Broda, and Alan Nunn May became his stepfather in 1953. He was at King’s College Cambridge (Biochemistry, 1961), Medical Research Council, London (PhD in bacterial genetics), Berkeley and Edinburgh University (1968). In 1980 he went to UMIST in Manchester to set up Applied Molecular Biology. His initial research was on bacterial genetics and evolution (Plasmids, 1979). At UMIST he studied lignocellulose breakdown by fungi. In 1995 he retired to Scotland. He has been a Trustee of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Honorary Secretary of the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics.

The book Scientist Spies is available from PostScript Books: https://www.psbooks.co.uk/Scientist-Spies

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