On the evening of November 12, 1950, a party was in full swing in John Desmond Bernal's flat in Torrington Square, London. A companionable jumble of British, French and Soviet intellectuals were packed into the eminent physicist's small rooms, and the wine was flowing freely.
It was the age of the Cold War, and all of the party attendees were planning to attend a peace congress in Sheffield the next day, which was going ahead despite government opposition to its communist connections. At one point, Bernal turned to one of his guests in the crowded flat and asked him if he'd like to scribble something on the living room wall. This wasn't as reckless an idea as it might sound, as the guest in question was Pablo Picasso.JD Bernal is remembered mostly as a pioneering X-ray crystallographer and a scientist whose brilliance inspired many in the early days of molecular...

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