These creators did not measure the destructive power of their inventions and spawned the deadliest weapons in the world
Inventing something unique and changing the course of human history must be one of the most satisfying feelings that can exist. It is a matter of imagining the complacency of those who were behind such brilliant creations as the wheel, concrete, the steam engine or the internet.
However, not all inventions are exclusively for the benefit of the world; there are some that, to tell the truth, have left a tragic and macabre balance. And some of the geniuses behind those fearsome finds have ended up haunted by their consciences.
Here we tell you the stories of four of them that, many times without measuring the destructive power of their creations, ended up spawning some of the most lethal weapons in history.
- Robert Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb”:
There was no other scientist more closely linked to the creation and use of atomic bombs during World War II than Robert Oppenheimer. The American theoretical physicist was the director of the Manhattan Project, which managed to develop the first atomic bomb in history.
It was detonated in the New Mexico desert – in an operation called “Trinity” – on July 16, 1945, less than a month before the bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in Japan, where it is estimated that they died between 150,000 and 250,000 people.
Oppenheimer, a complex and charismatic figure, had devoted himself to studying the energetic processes of subatomic particles, including electrons, positrons, and cosmic rays.
But the warlike conflict that was lived in those years in the world made his professional life take another course. Thus, after Albert Einstein sent a letter to the then president of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, warning him of the danger that threatened all of humanity if the Nazis became the first to make an atomic bomb, the idea of creating a weapon nuclear power at the government level in the United States became a priority.
And who led that process was, precisely, Oppenheimer. He quickly began to search for a process for the separation of uranium-235 from natural uranium and to determine the critical mass necessary to make such a bomb. Among other things, he was instructed to establish and manage a laboratory to carry out this task. And, in 1943, he chose the Los Alamos Plateau in New Mexico.
“Oppenheimer held a position of immense responsibility and was pushed to the limit,” explains nuclear weapons historian Alex Wellerstein.
“He was involved in key decisions about the design of the atomic bombs, and he was personally involved in the decisions about how these bombs would be used; he urged that they be used against cities and he was on the committee that made decisions about where exactly the bombs would be dropped, ”he adds.
- Arthur Galston and Agent Orange:
The American plant biologist and physiologist Arthur Galston never thought he was creating something that could be used as a weapon: Agent Orange. His area of study focused on plant hormones and the effects of light on plant development. .
That’s where he was when he experimented with a plant growth regulator called triiodobenzoic acid (TIBA). The scientist discovered that this component could stimulate the flowering of soybeans and make them grow faster.
However, he also warned that if applied excessively, the compound would cause the plant to lose its leaves. But Galston’s findings were not limited to the plant world alone.
In the context of the Vietnam War – which took place between 1955 and 1975 – other scientists used them to create Agent Orange, a powerful herbicide that aimed to eliminate forests and crops that could be exploited by the Vietcong guerrillas.
Thus, from 1962 to 1970, US troops released approximately 20 million gallons of the herbicide to destroy crops and expose the positions and routes of movement of their enemies. Later, the plant biologist would say: “I used to think that one could avoid getting involved in the antisocial consequences of science simply by not working on any project that could have evil or destructive ends. I have learned that things are not so simple and that almost any scientific finding can be perverted or deformed under social pressure ”.
- Mikhail Kalashnikov, creator of the AK-47 rifle:
He was the designer of one of the most recognized weapons on the planet: the AK-47 semi-automatic rifle. In 1947, the Russian Mikhail Kalashnikov created this simple, resistant and reliable rifle that became the weapon of rigor of the Soviet and Russian armies, as well as dozens of other countries.
The AK-47 was also a symbol of revolution around the world; was in action on the battlefields of Angola, Vietnam, Algeria and Afghanistan. He was also a companion of rebel armies in Latin America, such as the FARC and ELN in Colombia. Although throughout his life Mikhail Kalashnikov expressed little remorse for his deadly invention – “I sleep soundly,” he once said – he confessed shortly before his death that he had “excruciating spiritual pain.”
- Alfred Nobel and dynamite:
In December 1896, two young Swedish engineers had the surprise of a lifetime when they opened the will of their admired Alfred Nobel, who left them in charge of using most of their fortune to create an entity to celebrate the breakthrough. of humanity. Following the teacher’s instructions, Ragnar Sohlman and Rudolf Lilljequist gave birth to the Nobel Foundation, which established annual awards for merit in physics, chemistry, medicine and physiology, literature, and world peace; to which in 1969 the economy was added.
This last wish of Nobel is not random and has a compelling reason behind it. It is said that, in the twilight of his days, he was tormented by the idea of death and destruction that the application of his inventions had generated. And that is why he decided to bequeath a large part of his fortune to the creation of the foundation. Decades earlier, the Swedish chemist, engineer, writer and inventor had created dynamite.
Born into a family of engineers, Nobel worked with his father in the manufacture of explosives. But in 1864 he lived a tragic experience that marked his life, when his younger brother and four other people were killed in a nitroglycerin explosion.