The Christ in Prophecy Journal

What Was the Greatest Event of the 20th Century? (Part 1 of 3)

There are a great variety of opinions in response to this question, due mainly to the fact that the 20th Century contained many stupendous events. When I Googled the question, I was presented with many lists. Some of the events that were mentioned on almost every list were the following:

  • World Wars I and II (1914-1918 and 1939-1945)
  • The Lindburgh transatlantic solo flight (1927)
  • The invention of television (1927)
  • The first antibiotic — Penicillin (1928)
  • The first computer (1936)
  • The first heart transplant (1967)
  • The first man on the moon (1969)
  • The invention of the Internet (1969)
  • The first test tube baby (1978)
  • The demolition of the Berlin Wall (1991)

I noticed that many, if not most, of the events that were identified as the most significant were dependent upon prior developments that were often more important. Consider, for example:

  • The Lindburgh transatlantic flight resulted from the Wright Brother’s invention of the airplane in 1903.
  • The first man on the moon was dependent on the development of rocket propulsion in 1926, the invention of the computer in 1936, the launching of the first satellite in 1957 and the first man in space in 1961.
  • The destruction of the Berlin Wall was due to a more important event — namely, the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
  • The many marvelous developments in the health sciences were dependent on biological discoveries that dated back to the 19th Century, like the development of the germ theory of disease in the 1860s.

The Most Important Event From the World’s Viewpoint

The event that was named on the Google lists more than any other as the most important event of the 20th Century was the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan in August of 1945. But this event was also dependent upon many theories, experiments and tests that preceded it. Here is a list of some of them:1

  • 400 BC — The Greek philosopher, Democritus (460-370 BC) postulated that the fundamental building block of all matter was what he called the “atom.”
  • 1803 — A British chemist, John Dalton (1766-1844), developed a more scientific definition of the atom, describing it as a small, hard sphere that is indivisible.
  • 1904 — J. J. Thomson (1856-1940), an English physicist, discovered the electron.
  • 1905 — Albert Einstein (1879-1955) proposed the formula, E=mc2, which indicated the power potential of converting a tiny amount of mass into enormous energy, something that could happen with the splitting of the atom if a sustained reaction could be attained.2
  • 1911 — Ernest Rutherford (1871-1937) of New Zealand theorized that the atom had a nucleus and that electrons orbit the nucleus. The result was what came to be known as the planetary model of the atom — a nucleus surrounded by orbiting electrons.3
  • 1917 — Rutherford split the atom at Manchester University in England and discovered the proton.
  • 1921 — Rutherford theorized the existence of neutrons in the nucleus of the atom.
  • 1932 — Rutherford’s student, James Chadwick, a British physicist, proved the nucleus of the atom contained neutrons clustered with protons.
  • 1936 — Erwin Schrodinger (1887-1961), an Austrian scientist, proved that electrons do not orbit the nucleus in set paths, but in waves.4
  • 1938 — Discovery of nuclear fission by Schrodinger and a German chemist, Otto Hahn (1879-1968).

A Seminal Event

This intriguing historical process of discovery culminated on December 2, 1942, at 3:25pm, when the first artificial nuclear reactor produced the first human-made, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. The scientist in charge was an Italian-American, Enrico Fermi (1901- 1954).5

This momentous event took place on a squash court located under the bleachers of Stagg Field — the University of Chicago’s abandoned football stadium. It was an incredible accomplishment which marked the advent of the Nuclear Age.

Nuclear Chain Reaction

This illustration depicts the scene on December 2, 1942, under the west stands of the University of Chicago’s abandoned Stagg Field, where scientist Enrico Fermi and his colleagues achieved the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction. (Chicago Historical Society).

One of the persons present, University of Chicago physicist, Samuel K. Allison (1900-1965), wrote at the time: “All of us knew that with the advent of the chain reaction, the world would never be the same again.”6 Secretary of War, Henry L. Stimson (1867-1950), called the chain reaction “the greatest achievement of organized science in history.”7

In the second part of this look at what the greatest event of the 20th Century was, we’ll explore the possibility that the event was the advent of the atomic bomb.


1) “The History of the Atom: Theories and Models” (; “The History of the Atom” ( Notes _condensed.pdf); and “History of Atomic Structure” ( of atomic structure).

2) “Einstein’s Equation” ( and Robert Lamb, “What does Einstein’s famous equation really mean?” ( vs myth/everyday myths/einstein formula.htm).

3) Wikipedia, “Ernest Rutherford” (

4) “The History of the Atom: Theories and Models” (, page 5.

5) Steve Koppes, “How the first chain reaction changed science” ( chain_reaction_changed_science), and Wikipedia, “Chicago Pile-1” ( 1).

6) Steve Koppes, page 1.

7) “Henry Stimson’s Letter to President Truman (1945)” ( content/beyond the textbook/25484?subpage=2), page 2.

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ABOUT AUTHOR View all posts Author Website

Dr. David Reagan

Dr. David Reagan is the Founder and Evangelist Emeritus of Lamb & Lion Ministries. He is a life-long Bible student, teacher, and preacher and he led over 45 pilgrimages to Israel. Dr. Reagan was the host of the radio then television program Christ in Prophecy for nearly 40 years.

5 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • Excellent article! For those who think that the LORD is no longer dealing with Israel please consider the following:

    At the end of the tenth chapter of Romans and the beginning of the eleventh chapter Paul states:

    “But to Israel He saith, All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people. I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid” (Ro.10:21; 11:1; KJV).

    In this passage when Paul speaks of Israel it is obvious that it is Israel which is made up of the physical descendants of Jacob which is in view: “All day long I have stretched forth my hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people.”

    Paul is quoting from the OT so his reference to “Israel” at Romans 10:21 must be the Israel which had its beginning in the OT. Here is the verse which he quoted:

    “I have stretched forth my hands all day to a disobedient and gainsaying people, to them that walked in a way that was not good, but after their sins. This is the people that provokes me continually in my presence; they offer sacrifices in gardens, and burn incense on bricks to devils, which exist not” (Isa.65:2-3; LXX).

    So when Paul asks, “Hath God cast away His people” the words “His people” are referring back to the people of whom he just wrote about, the Israel he describes as being “a disobedient and gainsaying people.”

    Therefore, when Paul asked, “Hath God cast away His people?” he was asking if the nation of Israel that had its beginning in the OT had been cast away.

    And what he says next makes it plain that God has not cast away the Israel of the OT:

    “God forbid.”

  • Absolutely correct, we are indeed Blessed, not only to be the witnesses of the ancient prophesized endtime event, but to be participants in it. Plagues, wars, natural disasters of every kind, morality, etc. have been on an exponential increase since Israel has been “reborn”. We all fit into one of the seven categorical churches of Revelation 2 & 3 or we are just only heathens, who do not know God. Six sevenths (6/7ths) of us are in for a very rough time of varying degrees; one seventh (1/7th) of us resembling Philadelphia will be found worthy to be snatched away,
    Bottom line is, one of the most important words in His Word to us is, Repent. I do believe that His time is near.
    His Blessings to all …

  • I think Israel becoming a state in 1948 was a definite sign that God is in total control and he is achieving his will on earth every day, especially for Israel. Amazing that alot of people don’t know the signs of Christ’s second coming.

    False teachers Deception, deceiving even the elect. 2 Peter 2:1. But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them.

    Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.

    In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

    1 Thessalonians 5:3. While people are saying “peace and safety”. destruction will come on them suddenly as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you brothers and sisters are not in darkness so that the day should surprise you like a thief.

    The Lord will return suddenly and unexpectedly.


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