The untold story of an enigmatic genius who changed warfare forever
In the World War II era, Geoffrey Pyke was described as one of the world's great minds -- to rank alongside Einstein. Pyke was an inventor, adventurer, polymath, and unlikely hero of both world wars. He earned a fortune on the stock market, founded an influential pre-school, wrote a bestseller, and came up with the idea for the US and Canadian Special Forces. In 1942, he convinced Winston Churchill to build an aircraft carrier out of reinforced ice.
Pyke escaped from a German WWI prison camp, devised an ingenious plan to help the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, and launched a private attempt to avert the outbreak of the Second World War by sending into Nazi Germany a group of pollsters disguised as golfers.
And he may have been a Russian spy.
In 2009, long after Pyke's death, MI5 released a mass of material suggesting that Pyke was in fact a senior official in the Soviet Comintern. In 1951, papers relating to Pyke were found in the flat of "Cambridge Spy" Guy Burgess after his defection to Moscow. MI5 had "watchers" follow Pyke through the bombed-out streets of London, his letters were opened, and listening devices picked up clues to his real identity. Convinced he was a Soviet agent codenamed Professor P, MI5 helped to bring his career to an end.
Henry Hemming is the first reporter to sift through this extraordinary new information and finally tell Pyke's astonishing story in full: his brilliance, his flaws, and his life of adventures, ideas, and secrets.
Geoffrey Pyke, described in his 1948 Times of London obituary as "one of the most original if unrecognized figures of the present century," always seemed to find himself in the right place at the right time, as Hemming (Abdulnasser Gharem) documents in this masterful biography. In July 1914, with Europe on the verge of war, Pyke talked his way into a position with Reuters as special correspondent in Copenhagen. He was soon captured by the Germans and sent to the Ruhleben concentration camp, from which he escaped, writing a bestselling book about the experience. That alone makes for a riveting read, but Pyke's story was far from over. Hemming details how Pyke also made lasting innovations in educational theory, criticized Nazi anti-Semitism, aided the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War, convinced Winston Churchill that an aircraft carrier made out of reinforced ice was a good idea, and was suspected of being a Soviet spy. Hemming's superlative text is nearly as nimble as Pyke's mind, and he reveals who this remarkable innovator really was. B&w photos.