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"At its best, SF is the medium in which our miserable certainty that tomorrow will be different from today in ways we can't predict, can be transmuted to a sense of excitement and anticipation, occasionally evolving into awe."
- John Brunner

Atomic Energy  
  Splitting the atom to create a destructive force.  

This story is most often quoted as being the first reference to the idea of atomic energy and an atomic bomb. The first explicit use of the phrase "atomic bomb" was in the 1914 novel The World Set Free by H.G. Wells; see the article for atomic bomb.

...not wise to wreck incautiously even the atoms of a molecule...

...one grain of matter contains sufficient energy... to raise a hundred thousand tons nearly two miles...

"The agent I will employ has cost me all life to discover. It will release the vast stores of etheric energy locked up in the huge atomic warehouse of this planet I shall remedy the grand mistake only to a degree which it would be preposterous to call even microscopic; but when I have done what I can, I am blameless for the rest. In due season the whole blunder will be cured by the same means that I shall use, and all the hideous experiment will be over, and everlasting rest or quasirest will supersede the magnificent failure of material existence. This earth, at least, and, I am encouraged to hope, the whole solar system, will by my instrumentality be restored to the ether from which it never should have emerged. Once before, in the history of our system, an effort similar to mine was made, unhappily without success."

"I stand," he cried out in a strident voice, raising his arm aloft, "I may say, with one foot on sea and one on land, for I hold the elemental secret of them both. And I swear by the living god--Science incarnate--that the suffering of the centuries is over, that for this earth and all that it contains, from this night and for ever, Time, will be no more!"

A great cry rose from the people. "Give us another day--only another day!"

But Brande made answer: "It is now too late."

"Too late!" the people wailed.

"Yes, too late. I warned you long ago. Are you not yet ready? In two hours the disintegrating agent will enter on its work. No human power could stop it now. Not if every particle of the material I have compounded were separated and scattered to the winds. Before I set my foot upon this rock I applied the key which will release its inherent energy. I myself am powerless."

From The Crack of Doom, by Robert Cromie.
Published by Not known in 1895
Additional resources -

This novel bears a number of similarities to the works of writers like Blavatsky, writing about the etheric nature of the world and the universe.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Crack of Doom
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Cromie
  Tech news articles related to The Crack of Doom
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Cromie

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