The Way Back: Wells’ Wishes

Unlocking the vault of UT history

Do you have any opinion as to the duration of the current war? If England looses [sic], is America doomed? If a highway was built across Alaska … into Russia, would it be an asset to world peace? These were just a few of the questions that Longhorns plied H.G. Wells with during his visit to campus in November 1940.

The famed British author was brought to Austin by UT professor Walter Webb and the Texas State Historical Association to give a talk titled, “One World: The Immediate Future of Mankind.” Speaking at Gregory Gym, Wells called for “some idea, some plans for armistice where there can be established a lasting peace in the world.” Webb permitted students to ask questions after the talk, so long as they were in written form.

Those questions, which now reside at the Briscoe Center for American History, reflect the anxiety of the age—just a year before America entered World War II. However, Wells finished his visit on an optimistic note. Webb and the students took Wells up to the top of the Tower, which had only opened three years earlier. Gazing out across campus, Wells remarked, “You have a wonderful bit of equipment here for intellectual advancement. Now go ahead and use it.”


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