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Comment on Atomic Energy (S712ae: 1913 / 1945)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A recollection of a conversation with James Marchant, later reported right after the first atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945. Printed on page 4 of the 9 August 1945 issue of The Daily Telegraph and Morning Post (London).  Widely reprinted, in various wordings. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S712AE.htm

From Sir James Marchant

To the Editor of The Daily Telegraph

    Sir,--On the last birthday of the late Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace, I asked him the following question: "From the vantage ground of 91 years and as the co-discoverer with Charles Darwin of the theory of natural selection, what is wrong with the world?" He instantly answered: "That man's scientific discoveries have outstripped his moral development."

    As I left his couch he added: "If I could stumble upon the way to release and control atomic energy I would die with the secret. Man at his present stage of moral character ought not to be entrusted with any more power; he will only destroy himself by it."

    And now, under the desperate pressure of world war to control the violence of wicked men, the successful release of atomic energy is announced to a world in which the moral improvement demanded by Dr. Wallace has not been made.

    This revelation, says Mr. Churchill, long mercifully withheld from man, should arouse the most solemn reflections in the mind and conscience of every human being capable of comprehension. How is man's moral character to be sufficiently improved within measurable time to save him from destroying himself? Yours faithfully,

James Marchant.

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