SZILARD LEO (1898-1964). Physicien nucléaire américain, d’origine hongroise.

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SZILARD LEO (1898-1964). Physicien nucléaire américain, d’origine hongroise.
Signed letter, signed « Leo Szilard », New-York 25 January 1939, to Lewis L. STRAUSS ; 2 typed pages, date of letter boldly circled in red pencil with arrow, received stamp dated 26 January 1939 at top right corner of fi rst page (slight marginal browning and discoloration); in English.
Letter of historical importance: Szilard reports on a new development – nuclear fi ssion – the key discovery in opening the door to the creation of the atomic bomb. Leo Szilard is known for his pioneering work in nuclear physics, his participation in the Manhattan Project during World War II, and later in his fervent opposition to the nuclear arms race.
Lewis L. Strauss was a partner in the international banking fi rm Kuhn, Loeb and Company who played a pivotal role in shaping nuclear policy in the United States.
In 1935, Lisa Meitner, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman began work to sort out all of the substances into which the heaviest of natural elements transmuted under neutron bombardment. By early 1938, they had identifi ed no fewer than ten diff erent half-life activities. At the same time, Irene Curie began looking into uranium and came up with results which contradicted those of Hahn and Meitner. The debate raged on. Not long after, Hahn and Strassman succeeded in identifying no fewer than 16 diff erent radioactive substances with varying half-lives.
Szilard writes: “I feel I ought to let you know of a very sensational new development in nuclear physics; in a paper in the “Naturwissenschaften”, Hahn reports that he fi nds when bombing uranium with neutrons, the uranium breaking up into two halves giving elements of about half the atomic weight of uranium. This is entirely unexpected and exciting news for the average physicist. The Department of Physics at Princeton, where I have spent the last few days, was like a stirred-up ant heap…”
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