Henry Adams

"The Dynamo and the Virgin" (from The Education of Henry Adams)

Adams gets into the element of technology. He talks about himself in 3rd person and considers his education to continue throughout his entire life, in contrast to those whose education never gets started.  If you have the opportunity, get an education, not just training.

The dynamo is a big wheel that produced and generated power. They were very impressive for the time. Still are.

This one was a forty-foot dynamo, which was enormous. The dynamo had taken over where the church left off. He recognizes that the dynamo was not science undoing mythology, but it was science as mythology. People were beginning to put their faith in science the way they once  put their faith in the church. They didnít understand this technology, but believed in it anyway.

Adams refers to a mystery of the time -- Radium, which "denied its God" or rather "denied the truths of his Science."  Isaac Newton's universe affirmed that matter could neither be created or destroyed, only changed.  Yet radium loses mass.  Where did it go?  The man who solved the mystery has become the face of the 20th century, his equasion the icon of the 20th cen.


We know what Einstein's equasion looks like, perhaps even that it explains how matter can change into energy and so "disappear."  But how many of us really understand it?  Like Adams, we accept it on faith.  It is like a religious belief.

Adams said you have to choose the myths you believe, whether itís the myth of the dynamo or the myth of the Virgin Mary.

Americans have never held to the sacred nature of reproduction, and by this time they did so less than ever.  For Adams, only Whitman comes close to tapping into this ancient theme.  Production of goods by economics and technology was the American focus.