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Biography: Leo Szilard Essay

1222 words - 5 pages

Leo Szilard, A name for nuclear energy, played a huge role in the early stages of atomic research.
Szilard was born in Budapest, Hungary in 1898 as Leo Spitz who’s family changed their name shortly after in 1900. Szilard the son of an engineer, being born into an honorable Jewish family, took on the pristine lifestyle himself. Attending public school as he grew up took an interest in physics by the age of thirteen. Upon turning eighteen in 1917 Szilard was drafted into the Hungarian army. Szilard being a highly educated civilian for his age was sent to officer’s training school in the army. Szilard though suffered from a severe case of asthma did not have to server active duty.
Following Szilard serving his country through World War 1, Szilard left for Berlin in 1919 to continue his education. “In Berlin, Szilard decided to indulge his intellect and study physics in an environment rich in the some of the greatest talent of his day, notably Max von Laue and Albert Einstein.” (Thomas, 2009) In 1922, with just a little more than two years of schooling, Szilard had earned his doctorates in Physics from The University of Berlin. Not long after finishing his studies Szilard then started postdoctoral work performing research at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Physics. Szilard focused his studies on nuclear physics alongside of the many pioneers of our early scientific voyage. Shortly after Szilard’s studies he became an instructor at the University of Berlin before fleeing Germany in 1933.
With World War 2 on its way and Hitler’s rise to power in German in 1933 Szilard was forced to flee Germany to escape Nazi persecution. Szilard resided in London from 1933 through 1938. Within this time Szilard had worked as a research physicist at the Clarendon Laboratory at Oxford University. Shortly after moving Szilard conceived the possibility of a nuclear chain reactor while waiting at a red light in London. “Szilard immediately set up a series of experiments, in collaboration with Enrico Fermi, to see if the theory was correct. He first attempted to create a chain reaction using beryllium and indium, but neither yielded the reaction he expected.” (Leo Szilard) In 1936 Szilard submitted his chain-reaction patent to the British Admiralty to ensure its secrecy. While continuing his research Szilard had made many trips to the United States to give lectures of his studies. In 1938 on one of his trips to the United States he decided to change his residency to New York due to the impending world war.
Upon moving to the United States in 1938 Szilard made some discoveries at Colombia University shortly after his move which proved to be substantial advanced in his nuclear research. Szilard demonstrated that a system composed of Uranium oxide and water neared the requirements for a self-sustaining nuclear chain reactor. With World War Two in its beginning stages, Szilard became obsessed with applications of his new discoveries to be used as weapons, and sought funding...

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