Sir Ben Lockspeiser became Chief Government Scientist (air) by 1946. Helped develop in-flight de-icing of aircraft wings.
Lockspeiser was educated at the Grocers’ Company’s School, Hackney, and Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge. He served as a private with the Royal Army Medical Corps at Gallipoli during the First World War. Lockspeiser became a chemist at the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough.
During the Second World War he was promoted and worked on secret projects for the Admiralty.
He was also at the Ministry of Aircraft Production, and supplied the spotlight altimeter method for the Dambusters raid. He became Deputy-Director.
He was knighted in the 1946 New Year’s Honours list. By the 1950s he was Secretary at the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research
Quote about the establishment of CERN. “Scientific research lives and flourishes in an atmosphere of freedom – freedom to doubt, freedom to enquire and freedom to discover. These are the conditions under which this new laboratory has been established.”
Reference to an Automatic Computing Engine project is referenced in memos dated from 1950 at the Alan Turing Archive.
Much is mentioned about his cancellation of the Miles M.52 Supersonic Jet project when he was Director of Scientific Research.
His pre-war interest in Communism made him the object of monitoring by the British secret service.
These three files now released on prominent scientific administrator Sir Ben Lockspeiser show how his pre-war career and interest in Communism led to the Security Service maintaining an interest in him through to the end of the 1950s. Lockspeiser fought at Gallipoli during the First World War and was invalided home, and by the time of the General Strike was working as a chemist at the Royal Aircraft Establishment (RAE) in Farnborough. KV 2/3059 records how he was one of a group of RAE employees to visit Russia on a vacation in 1932, and the file reports (minute 53) that Lockspeiser played “an important part in causing disaffection at the Aircraft Establishment during the General Strike…he has continued to engage in subversive activities since then.” A watch was placed on Lockspeiser’s correspondence as a result, and copies of intercepted letters are on this file. There was not however, enough evidence to recommend his dismissal from RAE. The views of the local constabulary on the RAE are noted also (serial 6): “The local Police are inclined, I know, to think that the majority of employees in the RAE are out-and-out Bolsheviks…”
Lockspeiser’s subsequent career shows how it was possible to overcome such an unpromising reputation. KV 2/3060 records his various wartime promotions, and he worked on a number of highly secret projects in the Admiralty. Roger Hollis noted in July 1947 (minute 152) that “Lockspeiser has, like many others, become less extreme with increasing age and promotion…” He was knighted in the 1946 New Year’s Honours list. There is a summary of Lockspeiser’s case to 1951 at serial 172a, and in minute 176 of November 1951, the suggestion is made that the Security Service should interview Lockspeiser for information about Communist employees at the RAE before the war. The record of this interview, during which Lockspeiser discusses his pre-war communist contacts at Farnborough freely, is at serial 204a in KV 2/3061. Conscious of his elevated position – Lockspeiser was by now Secretary at the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research – the initial approach to interview him was made by the highest available officer, the Director General. www.mi5.gov.uk
Born: March 9, 1891
Died: October 18, 1990