John Desmond Bernal

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Bernal, John Desmond


Born May 10, 1901, in Nenagh. English physicist and public figure. Member of the Royal Society of London (1937).

Bernal graduated from Cambridge University in 1922. Between 1923 and 1927 he worked at the Davy Faraday Laboratory in London. He was at Cambridge University from 1927 to 1937. From 1937 he was a professor at London University. He worked in the area of antiaircraft defense between 1939 and 1942 and from 1942 to 1945 was a scientific adviser to the joint operations staff.

Bernal’s main scientific work is in the area of crystallography. He has investigated the structures of graphite, metals, water, styrenes, hormones, vitamins, proteins, viruses, and building materials, especially cements. In 1933 he presented the so-called Bernal model of ice, which made it possible to explain the behavior of water in all compounds. He is also the author of works on the theory of the liquid state. He wrote works on the role and place of science in the life of society, dealing with the philosophical significance of science and the interrelations of science, technology, and social conditions, and on the influence of science on social development from the standpoint of dialectical materialism; he showed the distinctive features of the development of science under capitalism and socialism. His book The Social Function of Science (1938) initiated a new area of knowledge—science studies. He is an active fighter for peace and has been the executive president of the Presidium of the World Council of Peace (1959–65), vice-chairman of the World Federation of Scientific Workers, and president of the International Union of Crystallography (1963–66). He is a foreign member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1958) and of many other scientific academies throughout the world. In 1953 he won the International Lenin Prize for Strengthening Peace Between Nations.


Engels and Science. London, 1935.
The Social Function of Science. London, 1938.
The Origin of Life. London, 1967.
In Russian translation:
“Znachenie strukturnogo analiza kristallov ν sovremennoi nauke.” Uspekhi khimii, 1950, vol. 19, no. 4.
“Rol’ vody ν kristallicheskikh veshchestvakh.” Uspekhi khimii, 1956, vol. 25, no. 5.
Nauka ν istorii obshchestva. Moscow, 1956.
Mir bez voiny. Moscow, 1960.
[Articles] in the collection Nauka o nauke. Moscow, 1966. (Translated from English.)
Vozniknovenie zhizni. Moscow, 1969.


Rozhanskii, I. D. “Dzh. Bernal (K 50-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia).” Uspekhi fizicheskikh nauk, 1951, vol. 45, issue 2. (Contains a bibliography of Bernal’s works.)
Snow, C. P. “Dzhon Desmond Bernal.” In the collection Nauka o nauke. Moscow, 1966.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
John Bernal, attending veterinarian at Southwest National Primate Research Center, said: "The animal care team held two of the three baboons to the tree line, while members of the animal capture team followed one baboon along the street and used verbal and hand signaling commands to corral the baboon to the tree line for its safety and efficient capture... Our team was ensuring the baboon was not hurt by traffic on Military Drive."
The work of John Bernal, a pioneer in the study of the relationship between science and society (Bernal, 1997), suggests that beyond these paradigm shifts we must reflect on the role of science at a specific historical moment, whose research question it seeks to answer and how this impacts the everyday practice of the knowledge obtained.
She had already made a significant contribution to science in London and Paris before she went to King's, and she made a third contribution (arguably her finest) with John Bernal at Birkbeck College.