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I was riding the bus between campuses on this bitterly cold January day, and my mind started wandering (as it often does), this time onto thoughts of this date – this year, that is, and this time exactly 100 years ago. …

1907 saw all the technologies that were to dominate the century in their infancy – electricity and electronics, oil and oil-derivative powered engines, aviation, nuclear physics – and such advances could be viewed with wonder and hope. The Titanic was yet to be built and sunk. Although there were and had been plenty of political disturbances, few could imagine the cataclysm that would begin in just seven years.

The arts were just beginning to display the radical and prophetically dissonant innovations of those such Picasso, Stravinsky and Schoenberg, but for many a half century or so of comparative European peace, swelling populations and improving living standards would lead you to believe that nothing but more of the same was in store.

I pictured myself transported back in time to those days, aware of all that was to follow. Looking at and walking among whole swathes of people destined for a short life and violent death and realised how lucky we are not to possess the gift of foresight or the ability to time travel. Imagine the anguish one would feel in such a situation, and how futile any efforts you would make to avert fate.

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