It is said that during the last year of the First World War Ernest Rutherford, already famous for his work on atomic research, failed to attend a meeting of the British committee of experts appointed to advise on new systems of defense against enemy submarines. When he was censured for his absence, the vigorous New Zealander retorted without embarrassment:
“Talk softly, please. I have been engaged in experiments which suggest that the atom can be artificially disintegrated. If it is true, it is of far greater importance than a war.”
In June 1919, while the attempt was being made in Versailles and other suburbs of Paris to draft peace treaties designed to put an end to the four bloody years of war, Rutherford, published in the Philosophical Magazine certain studies of his experiments. They showed conclusively that the had succeeded in making an ancient dream of mankind come true. By bombarding the element of Nitrogen with tiny alpha particles he had transformed it at various times into oxygen and hydrogen.
The “transmutation of matter” for which the alchemists had searched so long was now a fact. But those precursors of modern science, who took the wole world for thier province, considered not only the material but also the moral consequences of such an undertaking. “Deny the powerful and their warriors entry to your workshops,” they warned the coming generations of research wrokers. “For such people misues the holy mysteries in the service of power”.
Page 3, Brigher Than A Thousand Suns.