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…to Adams the dynamo became a symbol of infinity. As he grew accustomed to the great gallery of machines, he began to feel the forty-foot dynamos as a moral force, much as the early Christians felt the Cross. The planet itself seemed less impressive, in its old-fashioned, deliberate, annual or daily revolution, than this huge wheel, revolving within ­arm’s-length at some vertiginous speed, and barely murmuring — scarcely humming an audible warning to stand a ­hair’s-breadth further for respect of power — while it would not wake the baby lying close against its frame. Before the end, one began to pray to it; inherited instinct taught the natural expression of man before silent and infinite force. Among the thousand symbols of ultimate energy, the dynamo was not so human as some, but it was the most expressive. 

— Henry Adams, “The Dynamo and the Virgin (1900),” The Education of Henry Adams.


Henry Adams (1838-1918) was an American writer and descendant of the famous Adams political dynasty. His father was Charles F. Adams 91807-1886), ambassador to England during the Civil War; his grandfather was John Quincy Adams and his great grandfather John Adams.
The Education of Henry Adams was published posthumously although it exemplified ­Adams’ undying quest for unity in what he saw as the essentially entropic 20th ­century.

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