THE WORLD SET FREETHE WORLD SET FREE H.G. WELLS Published 1914 The World Set Free is a novel published in 1914 by H. G. Wells. It is not one of Wells' better-remembered works, but is noteworthy for its depiction of fictional "atomic bombs" which eerily prefigure the development of real nuclear weapons. A constant theme in Wells' work, such as his 1901 nonfiction book Anticipations, was the role of energy and technological advance as a determinant of human progress. The novel opens: "The history of mankind is the history of the attainment of external power. Man is the tool-using, fire-making animal." Scientists of the day were well aware that the slow natural radioactive decay of elements like radium continues for thousands of years, and that while the rate of energy release is negligible, the total amount released is huge. Wells used this as the basis for his story. In his fiction, As fate or coincidence would have it, in reality the physicist Leó Szilárd read the book in 1932, conceived of the idea of nuclear chain reaction in 1933, and filed for patents on it in 1934. Wells did have some knowledge of actual atomic physics, Rutherford and Soddy's discovery of the disintegration of uranium. Soddy in a book called Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt praises The World Set Free. Download eBook now (456KB).