“Is there to be no room for the Arts?”

“This is the age of science”, is the cry from ministries and other authorities, and it is true that science must play a large part in the lives of our future citizens. But do we truly want or need a nation of scientists where each person can claim that he or she has attained some…

Chapter IV – goodbye to wildlife?

In this heartfelt chapter of The Frightened Face of Nature, Maxwell Knight drops his guard and invites the reader to consider the unthinkable – “the virtual disappearance of nature”. “Does such a question as that heading this chapter stem from the neurotic imaginings of a fanatic,” he asks, “or is it one that can reasonably be…

Maxwell Knight sang praises of the amateur naturalist

Maxwell Knight played a significant part in a number of fields; herpetology was his particular love and he produced a number of scientific papers on this subject as well as adding to national and local records and, through his books and broadcasts, encouraging an appreciation of reptiles and amphibians amongst the British public. The filing cabinet contains letters…

Nature: friend or foe?

“Many people think that animals of all kinds can be neatly put into groups and labelled Friend, or Foe; or Harmless, or Harmful. Unfortunately, nature does not work like this, and there are very few creatures in this country that can be described as wholly beneficial or equally destructive…  This business of friends and foes…

Why didn’t Maxwell Knight publish The Frightened Face of Nature?

Maxwell Knight was aware of the furore and criticism from chemical companies and others when Rachel Carson published her book Silent Spring in 1962. Indeed, he credits her work in his unpublished manuscript. She wasn’t the only one in those years who drew attention to environmental problems and was criticised for not being “proper scientists”;…

M’s (Maxwell Knight) Spectre: The Frightened Face of Nature

During the 1960s Maxwell Knight – the real-life “M” – was working on a manuscript entitled The Frightened Face of Nature, snatching brief moments to record his thoughts on how man had treated nature so unfairly for the first fifty years of the twentieth century. The manuscript documented Knight’s greatest fears that, time was running out for nature and that its greatest threat was man’s destructive revolution and the reverse of evolution.

“By all means let man use his great powers to invent new devices; let him give of his best to see that all shall benefit from his genius in curing, healing, and housing those in want. But do not suggest that this can only be done by destroying what is fine to look at or listen to, whether in the arts or nature.

If human brains can find means of defying space, improving means of communication and bouncing pictures off satellites, surely he can also discover ways in which these things can be done without destruction – for destruction first is the cry of mad revolution and is the reverse of evolution.”

– Maxwell Knight

The manuscript was kept under lock and key and it remained a secret until 2015 when the (hitherto unpublished) manuscript was discovered inside M’s personal filing cabinet…

Copyright: see acknowledgements