Alfred Russel Wallace : Alfred Wallace : A. R. Wallace :
Russel Wallace : Alfred Russell Wallace (sic)

 
 
Comment on Atomic Energy (S712ae: 1913 / 1945)

 
Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: A recollection of a conversation with James Marchant, later reported soon after the first atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945. So far I have been unable to trace where Marchant first made this reminiscence public. Recorded below are three places the recollection found its way into print, in various wordings. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S712AE.htm



--Sir Arthur Salter, in the House of Commons Official Report for 22 August 1945 ("United Nations Charter," vol. 413, cc659-755, on cc696-697):

. . . I think it will mean an international and predominantly foreign control in each country of the most important weapon of war which will run counter to every national prejudice and every national tradition. It will be immensely difficult, but it has to be done. It will be so difficult that I think many of us must have thought with sympathy of the words, quoted recently by Sir James Marchant, as spoken shortly before he died by that great scientist, Dr. Alfred Russell Wallace, who said, looking into the future: "If I should stumble upon the secret of releasing atomic energy, I would carry that secret with me to the grave." He would do that because, he said, man was not yet ready for it. . . .


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--Waldron Smithers, The Times (London) no. 50290: 5e (3 Nov. 1945):

The Atomic Bomb

To the Editor of the Times

    Sir,--In 1913 Sir James Marchant, in a talk which he had with Sir Russell Wallace, asked him this question: "What is wrong with the world?" Sir Russell Wallace replied: "It is that man's scientific discoveries have outstripped his moral development, and 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 with it."

    I leave your readers to judge how true that diagnosis of the cause of the world's sickness is to-day. Your obedient servant,

Waldron Smithers
House of Commons, Oct. 31


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--The Argus (Melbourne, Australia) no. 30928: 4c (15 Oct. 1945):

"What is Wrong with the World?"

    On the last birthday of the late Dr. Alfred Russel Wallace, who died in 1913, 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." -- (Sir James Marchant, social writer and worker).


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