“Breeds There a Man…?” Isaac Asimov, 1951

“Breeds there a man…?,” Isaac Asimov, 1951 — (Wikipedia) “Elwood Ralson, a brilliant but psychologically disturbed physicist, becomes convinced that humanity is a kind of genetics experiment being run by an alien intelligence. His behaviour becomes more erratic and suicidal as his thoughts become more entrenched in this idea, and his health fails.

“He draws an analogy between human progress and the growth of bacteria that suggests that humanity has been bred in certain strains for various traits (i.e- artistic ability) and that such breeding is what produced the Athens of Pericles and the Renaissance. He further states that the experimenters use a penicillin ring, or killing boundary, that makes humans want to kill each other should their abilities grow too great, as mental increase leads to greater “infectivity,” and humanity is dangerous to the experimenters. The most recent strain began with the Industrial Revolution, and its development for over a century has made it extremely dangerous. Therefore, the theoretical experimenters intend to use the atomic bomb to incite industrialized nations to kill each other. He claims that the aliens are exerting pressure on his mind to kill himself before he can help produce a defence against atomic weapons, since such a defence would protect humanity against a planned extinction at the hands of the aliens.

“Under the care of a psychiatrist Dr. Blaustein, Ralson is able to safely provide piecemeal guidance to other scientists carrying out his research. Once the experiment is complete and the defence (a force field generator) is built and successfully tested, he commits suicide.”

Comments: Read in Author’s Choice, ed. Schmidt.  The introduction by Asimov comments on the trend in nuclear doom stories and Anglo-Saxon characters–versus his character’s “ethnic” Polish name, which he valued for its uniqueness but later discovered was a common Polish name.

Author: Wikipedia: “Isaac Asimov…(January 2, 1920 – April 6, 1992) was a Russian American author and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, best known for his works of science fiction and for his popular science books. Asimov was one of the most prolific writers of all time, having written or edited more than 500 books and an estimated 90,000 letters and postcards…Asimov is widely considered a master of hard science fiction and, along with Robert A. Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke, he was considered one of the ‘Big Three’ science fiction writers during his lifetime.”


About jennre

Lifelong sf fan, first-time blogger
This entry was posted in 1946-1959, agency/will/freedom, atomic bomb/Hiroshima, disease/plague, evolution, intelligence, invasion, paranoia/schitzophrenia, psych/mind/madness, suicide, the scientist. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to “Breeds There a Man…?” Isaac Asimov, 1951

  1. Pingback: Have You Read? | for Teaching Outside the Box

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