pre-20th century doom and gloom

Previous to the 20th century, were there “end of the world” fears that were of a scientific nature? I’m thinking of stuff along the lines of Carson’s Silent Spring and nuclear holocausts – not concerns related to religion.

All that comes to my mind was the Bubonic plague, but were there serious concerns that it would kill everybody?

That’s an interesting question and I don’t have a factual answer off the top of my head, but I do believe that in the late 19th Century most of the Doomsday Scenario type stuff tended to involve Alien Invasions (The War Of The Worlds, for example), the world’s food supply running out, or things along that line.

Hopefully someone with a more thorough knowledge of the subject will be along shortly to provide a better (and more comprehensively researched) answer!

Not doomsday panics per se, but ISTR reading that there were 18th & 19th Century conspiracy theories, like the freemasons were out to take over the world, or the Catholic church was out to take over the world. When was the Protocols of the Elders of Zion written? I know the OP specified no religious concerns, but these weren’t specifically apocalypse panics.

In a way, yes, but the concerns were religious. I can’t think of any sources from the 1347-1353 outbreak who thought the plague itself would kill everyone, but a fair number of people were convinced that it signalled the coming of the Antichrist, a figure who was said to be accompanied by warfare and despair, until the messiah would return, iniating the Last Judgement and the “end of times.”

Yes, most definitely, the prime example being Thomas Malthus who predicted a population explosion of catastrophic proportions in his Essay on The Principle of Population of 1798.

Malthus was the first guy who came to mind for me, too, although for him there was a safety valve in the form of the New World, particularly America. He believed that catastrophe would be avoided in Britain if the excess population moved to where there was available land and resources.

Eschation or apocalypse. Now associated primarily with Christianity, but many other religious and mythological traditions have some folklore about the end of the world/universe/creation/whatever. See also Ragnarok and Kali for a non-Judeo Christian perspective. End-of-everything stories go back to the Sumerians, literally the oldest written stories around, and undoubtedly before writing.

1903, or thereabouts. The Protocols was a deliberate deception designed to whip up anti-Jewish/Zionist sentiment, though, not somebody’s actual theory. Of course, lots of people accepted it as evidence of a Jewish plot, but the publishers knew it was bogus.

It was essentially a Russian translation of a German novel which was then presented as “fact” - and the German novel was mostly a knockoff of an even earlier French novel about a sort of Satanist plot to depose Napoleon III and take control of France.*

*which may have been plagiarized from an even earlier French novel!

More abstractly, what I’m wondering is, how old is the fear that man will destroy himself?

What about early scientific theories about the Sun, which suggested that it had a very limited lifespan?

Probably no older than the A-bomb… or perhaps the 1920’s style “death ray”.

I couldn’t help it.

Where did H.G. Wells get his ideas for “The Time Machine”, which had a rather depressing view of the future of Mankind?

Quite modern and require an understanding of fusion, which Joe the 9th Century Peasant ain’t got.

I was thinking about the ones that predated nuclear fission and fusion, like it’s a big lump of coal or getting its energy from gravitational collapse.