Soddy, Frederick – Soddy's role as prophet - 06 The prospect of atomic weapons
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Frederick Soddy: The Scientist as Prophet – Professor Mansel Davies [May 1991]
The Interpretation of Radium (1908) provided the inspiration for a science-fiction novel by H. G. Wells, The World Set Free, published early in 1914. Wells acknowledged his debt to Soddy ... Wells portrayed Soddy's prophesy of the utilization of atomic energy in the future--in the novel this occurred in 1933—but he also portrayed its subsequent application to military purposes, resulting in a global atomic war... The prospect of atomic weapons was an awful possibility that Soddy himself came to consider in his addresses of that time.
We recall that Soddy spent the most productive decade of his life as lecturer in radioactivity in Glasgow, and left there to become Professor of Chemistry in Aberdeen in 1914. War work (mostly for the Admiralty) intervened almost to eliminate his own chosen research interests. It was at Aberdeen that he gave many addresses on the social responsibilities of scientists and on the misapplications of science.
Science and Life Aberdeen address
Written at a time when millions of young men are being killed in consequence of the destinies of scientific nations being in the hands of people of archaic outlook, no mock deference has been paid to conventional habits of thought.
Imagine if you can, what the present war would be like if such an explosive [releasing atomic energy] had actually been discovered ... Yet it is a discovery that conceivably might be made tomorrow ... for the use or destruction of the next generation, and which, it is pretty certain, will be made by science sooner or later.
[This foresight must be compared with Rutherford's remarks, twenty years later, decrying the possible release of atomic energy.]