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Topic: EINSTEIN'S LETTERS TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT

Months after nuclear fission was discovered, Leo Szilard, a Hungarian physicist, saw the potential to make atomic weapons. Szilard feared that this technology would be discovered by Hitler's Nazi Germany. This fear led him to contact the most famous scientist in the world, his friend Albert Einstein. The result was a letter dated August 2, 1939 from Albert Einstein to President Roosevelt urging the United States to begin studying nuclear fission and beat Nazi Germany to the atomic bomb.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Einstein’s Wrap Up

Pierce Hawking, The Founding Father

We hope you’ve enjoyed our segment on Albert Einstein’s Letters to President Roosevelt.  As always, we encourage your questions and comments.

Sources:

Hitler’s Scientists: Science, War, and the Devil’s Pact by John Cornwell
The Making of the Atomic Bomb by Richard Rhodes
Einstein in America by Jamie Sayen
Einstein’s Big Idea by PBS
Chemical Elements
http://hypertextbook.com/eworld/einstein.shtml

By: Pierce Hawking, The Founding Father
Topic: EINSTEIN'S LETTERS TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT
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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

From Einstein to Manhattan

Dean Dillopolis, People Historian

From being a patent clerk to a world famous scientist, Albert Einstein lived an amazing life.  Just amazing.  After his full life he admitted that signing the letter to President Roosevelt was his biggest regret.  Otto Nathan, Einstein’s close friend, said that signing the letter was “the most tragic experience in his life.” However, Einstein was still a realist.  He knew that the push for atomic weapons had more to do with Hitler and the Nazis than anything else.  In truth, even after Einstein’s letters, the United States did not push very hard to discover atomic weapons.  Remember, nobody thought it would be possible to produce them during the war.  However, this changed after British scientists discovered that weapons could be produced during the war.  This report is what really pushed the Manhattan Project into motion.  While Einstein’s letter got the ball rolling, so to speak, it didn’t start running until later.


By: Dean Dillopolis, People Historian
Topic: EINSTEIN'S LETTERS TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT
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Monday, February 12, 2007

Einstein’s Second Letter

Rhonda Rodentilly, Document Historian

Both Briggs and Sachs were discouraged with the speed at which things were happening around nuclear research.  They wanted to get Roosevelt more concerned.  Light a little fire under him, so to speak.  So Sachs went back to Einstein.  The result is a second letter.  This letter is addressed to Sachs, but is meant to get Roosevelt in gear.  Here is the letter:

March 7, 1940

I wish to draw your attention to the development which has taken place since the conference that was arranged through your good offices in October last year between scientists engaged in this work and governmental representatives.

Last year, when I realized that results of national importance might arise out of research on uranium, I thought it my duty to inform the administration of this possibility. You will perhaps remember that in the letter which I addressed to the President I also mentioned the fact that C. F. von Weizsäcker, son of the German Undersecretary of State, was collaborating with a group of chemists working upon uranium at one of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes - namely, the Institute of Chemistry.

Since the outbreak of the war, interest in uranium has intensified in Germany. I have now learned that research there is carried out in great secrecy and that it has been extended to another of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institutes, the Institute of Physics. The latter has been taken over by the government and a group of physicists, under the leadership of C. F. von Weizsäcker, who is now working there on uranium in collaboration with the Institute of Chemistry. The former director was sent away on leave of absence, apparently for the duration of the war.

Should you think it advisable to relay this information to the President, please consider yourself free to do so. Will you be kind enough to let me know if you are taking action in this direction?

Dr. Szilard has shown me the manuscript which he is sending to the Physics Review in which he describes in detail a method of setting up a chain reaction in uranium. The papers will appear in print unless they are held up, and the question arises whether something ought to be done to withhold publication.

I have discussed with professor Wigner of Princeton University the situation in the light of the information available. Dr. Szilard will let you have a memorandum informing you of the progress made since October last year so that you will be able to take such action as you think in the circumstances advisable. You will see that the line he has pursued is different and apparently more promising than the line pursued by M. Joliot in France, about whose work you may have seen reports in the papers.


By: Rhonda Rodentilly, Document Historian
Topic: EINSTEIN'S LETTERS TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT
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Friday, February 09, 2007

Lyman James Briggs

Phineas Pollyphus, Political Historian

After the meeting with Sachs, President Roosevelt got in touch with Lyman James Briggs.  At that point, Briggs was the director of the National Bureau of Standards, but Roosevelt wanted him to move on to study the possibility of nuclear weapons.  The Briggs Advisory Committee was born with Briggs, Szilard, and Edward Teller.  They met on October 21, 1939 and were budgeted $6,000.  On November 1 of that year they wrote a letter to Roosevelt asking for a study into nuclear physics and to bring together all of the work being done at the universities.  Everything seemed to be moving slowly, especially according to Szilard.  They went back to Einstein for another letter.  Back to Einstein.

By: Phineas Pollyphus, Political Historian
Topic: EINSTEIN'S LETTERS TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT
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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Fulton and Napoleon

Phineas Pollyphus, Political Historian

Einstein and Szilard first had the notion to send the letter to the Belgian government.  Einstein had connections with the Belgian government.  They were also going to send a letter to the United States State Department, letting them know that they were writing the Belgian government.  However, things changed once Szilard spoke with Alexander Sachs.  Things changed direction after that.  Sachs was an economist with connections to the White House.  He presented the letter to Roosevelt weeks and weeks after it was written, on October 11, 1939.  Remember that Einstein wrote the letter on August 2, 1939.  That is the date he put on it.


By: Phineas Pollyphus, Political Historian
Topic: EINSTEIN'S LETTERS TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT
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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Dean Dillopolis, People Historian

President Franklin D. Roosevelt is one of the few presidents consistently rated among the best.  He is usually placed up at the top of the list with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  Though some may disagree with his politics, there is no denying the impact Roosevelt had on America.

He was born in 1882 in Hyde Park, NY.  He was elected President of the United States in 1932, during the Great Depression.  It was the first of his four terms as president.  That is amazing.  His focus was mostly on domestic issues, due to the depression.  His programs were called the New Deal and were aimed at helping agriculture, banking, business, and the unemployed.

At the start of the war in Europe, President Roosevelt wanted to keep the United States neutral.  However, as we saw in his State of the Union speech, he was not blind to what was happening in Europe.  While staying neutral the United States started to get onto a war footing.  In 1940 Roosevelt began the process to get aid to Great Britain.  When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, the United States officially entered World War II.


By: Dean Dillopolis, People Historian
Topic: EINSTEIN'S LETTERS TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT
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Monday, February 05, 2007

Einstein’s First Letter

Rhonda Rodentilly, Document Historian

The text to Einstein’s first letter to President Roosevelt is below.  There is not that much for me to comment on.  The letter is pretty straightforward.  It explains the discovery of chain reactions and how this could be used for weapons.  Then it outlines some steps that the United States could take to stay connected to scientists working on chain reactions.  The most interesting part of the letter is the end, where it is emphasized that Germany has stopped the sale of uranium out of Czechoslovakia.


By: Rhonda Rodentilly, Document Historian
Topic: EINSTEIN'S LETTERS TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT
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Friday, February 02, 2007

The Chain Reaction

Dorothy Duckinsie, Invention / Things Historian

Let’s talk a bit about a nuclear chain reaction.  This is what makes the atomic explosion possible.  First we need to start with the nuclear reaction.  To put it simply, it is when two nuclear particles collide and create two different particles.  When a nuclear reaction occurs is can release energy.  We know energy is released because mass is lost.  I can hear your brain clicking.  Yes, you’ve got it.  We can calculate the energy by using Einstein’s formula: E=MC2.  (2 means squared) A nuclear reaction that causes other nuclear reactions results in the nuclear chain reaction.  Whew, that’s a lot of “nuclear” and a lot of “reactions.” As the chain goes, the number of nuclear reactions increases exponentially.  Or, by a lot!  So just think about the energy released in a chain reaction.  Other than the atom bomb, scientists have worked to control nuclear chain reactions for energy purposes.  This is how we get nuclear energy.

By: Dorothy Duckinsie, Invention / Things Historian
Topic: EINSTEIN'S LETTERS TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT
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Monday, January 29, 2007

Peconic

Barley Hugg, Location Historian

One of Einstein’s great loves, other than physics, was sailing.  That is why he spent his summers on the water.  If you look at the return address on his letter to President Roosevelt, you will see an address in the town of Peconic on Long Island.  Just in case you don’t know, Long Island is part of New York and extends like a finger into the Atlantic Ocean.  Very nice place if you like the ocean, fossils, boating, and a hockey dynasty from the late 1970’s.

Peconic is a small town, with a population of a bit over 1,200 people.  Located by the water, it is no surprise that Peconic is an expensive place to live.  Wineries have become a big part of that area of the country.  As you would expect, there is a ton of fishing in the area.  Don’t mind that… just my stomach growling.  Not me growling, I promise.  Too bad it’s the middle of winter, no fishing yet.

By: Barley Hugg, Location Historian
Topic: EINSTEIN'S LETTERS TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT
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Friday, January 26, 2007

Leo Szilard

Dean Dillopolis, People Historian

Leo Szilard was born on February 11, 1898 in Budapest.  Budapest is in Hungary, in case you didn’t know.  His major contributions to physics are both the nuclear chain reaction and his help on the Manhattan Project.  The Manhattan Project was the name given to the United States development on the atom bomb.  He studied physics under Einstein and together they developed a refrigerator with no moving parts.

Szilard conceived the idea of the nuclear chain reaction while waiting at a traffic light in London.  Later at Columbia in New York, he and Enrico Fermi accomplished a chain reaction using uranium.  The door to nuclear weaponry was open.  “We turned the switch, saw the flashes, watched for ten minutes, then switched everything off and went home. That night I knew the world was headed for sorrow.” At the same time German scientists were trying to produce a chain reaction.  They used graphite, but it didn’t work due to the boron in the graphite.  Szilard had graphite produced without boron.


By: Dean Dillopolis, People Historian
Topic: EINSTEIN'S LETTERS TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT
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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Prelude to War

Alistair Flush, Military Historian

Gather around and pay attention.  There’s too much of the “yakkity-yak” going on.  By the time Einstein signed Szilard’s letter, WWII had not yet “officially” started.  I say, “officially” because Hitler was putting all his pieces in place by that time, but war hadn’t erupted yet.

After WWI, the Treaty of Versailles stripped Germany of land and limited her military.  By August 1939, Hitler had changed all of that.  In 1935 he starts to rearm Germany, creating an army of 36 divisions and an air force, called the Luftwaffe.  In 1938 Hitler orders the occupation of Austria and completes the Munich Agreement, allowing Germany to occupy part of Czechoslovakia.  British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain also signs the Munich Agreement, prompting his statement “Peace in our time.” Despite Chamberlain’s observation, Europe was on the brink of war.


By: Alistair Flush, Military Historian
Topic: EINSTEIN'S LETTERS TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT
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Monday, January 22, 2007

Fission

Dorothy Duckinsie, Invention / Things Historian

Einstein discovered the famous relationship between mass and energy in 1905; it took until the early 1930’s for progress to be made on the nuclear scale.  It was not until the atom was split, that scientists realized the amount of energy that could be released.  In 1932 Enrico Fermi, an Italian physicist, bombarded the atom and produced nuclear fission.  However, he did not recognize that he split the atom.  Frederic Joliot-Curie, from France, also unknowingly produced fission in 1932.  It was not until two German scientists, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman, realized that they produced barium by bombarding heavy uranium with neutrons.  Whoa.

Let’s get a bit scientific.  Uranium on the Periodic Table of Elements, or U, is number 92 and has the atomic mass of 238.02891 amu.  Barium, or Ba, is number 56 and has the atomic mass of 137.327 amu, a little over half the mass of Uranium.  Calculating the mass led the scientists to figure that they had discovered fission.


By: Dorothy Duckinsie, Invention / Things Historian
Topic: EINSTEIN'S LETTERS TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT
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Friday, January 19, 2007

Leaving Germany

Phineas Pollyphus, Political Historian

On March 23, 1933 the German Reichstag passed the Enabling Act, giving all power to Hitler, a little over a week later he began his war against Jewish people.  He set up a 3-day boycott of Jewish businesses.  Three whole days.  The boycott was Hitler’s response to anti-Nazi boycotts outside of the country.  On April 7, Hitler passed the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service, allowing the firing of any civil servant, teachers and judges as an example, who was not of Aryan descent or did not agree with the Nazi Party. 

In the first year of Nazi control, 37,000 German Jews fled the country.  Einstein, who was visiting the United States at the time, renounced his German citizenship.  Renounced it completely.  Other scientists left Germany as well.  Germany attempted to denounce Einstein’s work, calling it “Jewish physics.” This was just another step along the way to both World War II and the development of the atom bomb.  One more step.


By: Phineas Pollyphus, Political Historian
Topic: EINSTEIN'S LETTERS TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT
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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

E=MC2 (the 2 means Squared!)

Dorothy Duckinsie, Invention / Things Historian

Editor Note: The number “2” after “C” means “squared.” Thanks.

Most everyone knows who Albert Einstein is.  Most everyone can recognize him by a picture.  I know Dean will go into Einstein a bit later in this topic, but for now, I wanted to do a short piece about what made Einstein famous.  Why?  Well, two reasons: I haven’t posted in a long, long time, and without his fame the letter to Roosevelt may never have come about.  Okay, E=MC2, the formula that made Einstein famous.  Ultra cool.

I’ll do my best to keep this simple.  Trust me, this is not very simple and it’s easy to have all these equations bog down your brain.  Pretty soon all you want to do it log off and play solitaire.  So, let’s keep it simple.  E stands for Energy, M stands for Mass, and C2 is the Speed of Light in a Vacuum.  Okay, it’s already probably confusing.  “Speed of light in a vacuum?” Just hang with me for a bit.  Einstein figured out that matter can be turned into energy and energy can be turned into matter.  So Einstein is saying that energy and mass are pretty much the same thing.  Wild.  To put it simply, a beam of light and a pencil are two forms of the same thing, according to Einstein’s theory.  Einstein discovered that all energy is moving at the speed of light, that is why you have to multiply the mass to the speed of light squared to get the energy.  Einstein’s theory measures energy when mass is at rest.  Now I’m confused.  Look at everything in front of you, on your desk.  It all contains energy.  Your pencil may contain enough energy to power the city you live in.

I will continue to bring you little tidbits on Einstein’s theories during this month’s topic.


By: Dorothy Duckinsie, Invention / Things Historian
Topic: EINSTEIN'S LETTERS TO PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT
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