Francis William Aston Quotes

Should the research worker of the future discover some means of releasing this [atomic] energy in a form which could be employed, the human race will have at its command powers beyond the dream of scientific fiction, but the remotest possibility must always be considered that the energy once liberated will be completely uncontrollable and by its intense violence detonate all neighboring substances. In this event, the whole of the hydrogen on earth might be transformed at once and the success of the experiment published at large to the universe as a new star.

When the atomic bomb was first tested at Los Alamos, some of the scientists were concerned that Aston’s warning might come to pass. The result was that they conducted a series of calculations to preclude the possibility. Oppenheimer, Fermi, Bohr, Teller, Alverez, Feynman and dozens of others calculated that given the parameters that they were testing, there was no danger. None the less, in their memoirs most admit that in the back of their head, there was lingering this possibility that was first raised by this quotation from another great scientist.
Francis William Aston
Francis William Aston
  • Born: September 1, 1877
  • Died: November 20, 1945
  • Nationality: English
  • Profession: Scientist

Francis William Aston FRS was an English chemist and physicist who won the 1922 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery, by means of his mass spectrograph, of isotopes, in a large number of non-radioactive elements, and for his enunciation of the whole number rule. He was a fellow of the Royal Society and Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge.