I'm looking for a story I read in the 90s (probably written much earlier) about a man who is part of some sort of scientific group that discovers a way to build a doomsday weapon capable of cutting the planet in half. All it requires is a coil of wire and some commonly available chemicals.

The man discusses the matter with his wife, and they decide that

no one can be trusted with such dangerous information, so at their next meeting he murders everyone in the group by leaving a drop of acid to slowly burn into a cylinder full of nerve gas.

In the end,

his wife poisons him because she believes that not even her husband can be trusted not to someday use his knowledge to destroy the Earth.

  • A more modern twist would be to have the group form a secret cabal within the scientific community, keeping an eye out for anyone who gets too close to rediscovering the weapon.
    – Beta
    Feb 13, 2015 at 7:23
  • 3
    There's a short story, "Committee of the Whole" by Frank Herbert that has a remarkably similar beginning - they discover a laser tool, that can cut the planet in half, is very simple, made from materials that cannot be controlled. The difference is this character goes the opposite way from yours - gives all the information away in a live broadcast. He believes a planet-destroying war is less likely if everyone is forced to learn restraint when everyone can defend themselves. It's interesting, that one chooses hope and the story ends in hope, while one chooses despair and is betrayed.
    – Megha
    Jan 14, 2016 at 19:23

2 Answers 2


S. Fowler Wright, "Obviously Suicide". I should put the description here, but it's probably faster to simply read the story.

  • thanks for sharing the link, didnt know it was available online, I read it from a collection of short stories. +1 Feb 13, 2015 at 6:01
  • 2
    Unless you're sure the page you linked to is going to be maintained forever, it would be good to add some description or quotation to your answer.
    – user14111
    Feb 13, 2015 at 7:45

What you are looking for is a short story by Sydney Fowler Wright, Obviously Suicide, first published in 1951.

As the story goes, a group of 30 scientists (known only as Grade A Men) discover a possibility to have your very own home made doomsday device, and one of them (Dr. Grafton discussed it with his wife Maude). On the next meeting of the team they could not come to a consensus about what to do, even going as far as--

One of them even suggested that they should make a public announcement of their discovery, so that they might become a Council of Thirty controlling a world that would crouch around them in fear.

Then, Dr.(not-so-noble) Grafton had an idea to kill all his fellow men and make it look like an accident, which he again discusses with his wife and also puts to action successfully. But later, the misses has an epiphany--

She looked again at a sleeping child. Then she did what the occasion required. In the scientific surroundings where they lived poison was not hard to procure. She gave it to him in his morning coffee. It was a clear case of suicide

All for the sake of greater good.Thus, it is a "Justifiable Murder" but made to look like an "Obvious Suicide" to prevent a "Tragic Genocide"...

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.