Reading: Oh Pure and Radiant Heart

By the beginning of the twenty-first century the men who had been central to the design and construction of the atom bomb a half century earlier were dead. The bombs they had conceived remained, of course; the bombs in their various silos, trucks and trains, their submarines and aircraft, had been dispersed over the globe like seeds, and lay quietly waiting to bloom.

But the scientists had lived thoughtful lives, weighing their responsibilities gravely. They were not warlike men. Mindful of the moral dimensions of their work, they were inclined for obvious reasons to value reason over instinct. They were duly troubled by the implications of the first great weapon of mass destruction. They had built the first device under the shadow of Hitler, and they dedicated it to him. But finally they were driven by something far simpler than fear or anger.

They worked because they wanted to see; they worked because they worshipped the structure deep within the universe, what was sweetly unknown and could only with great perseverance be drawn into the light. As others might feel tenderness for a child or a home, so they cherished and nurtured their science.

It was love that led them to the bomb.

— Lydia Millet, "Oh Pure and Radiant Heart"

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