Project (2020)

The Cambridge Cockpit and the Paradoxes of Fatigue

I am researching and writing a book which has the provisional title of The Cambridge Cockpit. The aim is to analyze the work of the Psychological Laboratory of the University of Cambridge and the closely-linked, Medical Research Council Applied Psychology Unit. I do not aim to produce a general history but focus on their close connection with the military authorities. The central episode will be the work done by Cambridge psychologists on pilot fatigue during WWII. Leading Cambridge psychologists, such as F.C. Bartlett and Kenneth Craik, worked on this problem in close collaboration with the influential Flying Personnel Research Committee. The committee contained representatives of the government and military. Their experiments involved taking the cockpit of a real aircraft into the laboratory to use as a flight simulator to test RAF pilots.

This theme permits me to explore in detail the interactions of scientists with their social and political milieu. Although the focus will be on Cambridge, I aim to include two, comparative chapters. One of these will deal with the treatment of pilot fatigue by psychologists in Germany, while the other will look at psychologists in the United States. Did the same problem evoke the same response in the three, different national settings? Was the same scientific understanding of fatigue arrived at in the three cases?