Comments by Readers
about A Physicist’s Lost Love

A supplement to the article “A Physicist’s Lost Love: Leo Szilard and Gerda Philipsborn,” by Gene Dannen. Copyright © 2015-2019 Gene Dannen.
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Updated January 6, 2019.

Selected comments, in reverse alphabetical order:

First I read it in pieces and then after listening to the... song that you have imbedded in it, I decided to read the whole thing again in one go. It was a superb experience and I congratulate you for having put your “heart” into this creation of yours. It is indeed a labor of love. You have taken great pains for accuracy, authenticity and emotional ethos in writing this over a number of years. It will be a valuable reference for all those interested in the history of Jamia and history of nuclear physics and the two great souls about whom this... is written.
— M. Zahid
Professor of Physics, Emeritus
Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

Szilard actually wanted to come to India to follow his secret love Gerda, a German girl who went in an orphanage to care for children... He wanted to follow her — he was madly in love with her — from Berlin, but somehow the Indian university he applied to rejected his application. He was one of the best in the world, you know, but they preferred to hire some Indian... The story of his secret love was uncovered by a physicist [note: Gene Dannen] only a few years ago.
— Cédric Villani
Mathematician, Fields Medal 2010
Sorbonne Université, Paris
quoted in Mridula Chari “Meet the ‘Lady Gaga’ of the maths world, Cédric Villani,” in online magazine, August 22, 2016.

That is fine piece of work. Thank you.
— Anthony Veitch @tonyveitchuk, via Twitter

Thanks for the amazing story about Gerda Philipsborn. I had read Robert Jungk’s book fifty years ago as a boy, and since then, Leo Szilard was my hero similar to my father (actually similar in many views). I came to the story Physicist’s Lost Love by chance, being for the first time in my life in hospital with all the tubes and wires, where the tablet with internet was the main connection to the world. As I read the story, it helped me overcome an unpleasant time. Actually I very appreciate the great work you did for history and people. I am neither a historian nor an expert on literature, but I like the story. While reading, I was shocked, how close the fates of the people were about the fates of my own family... Once again, thank you for the beautiful work...
— Vladimir Stoje
Czech Republic

It’s really great: I enjoyed it immensely! This does indeed cast new light on an unknown aspect of Szilard’s life... I particularly liked the way you showed the dilemma he faced: “On the one hand was atomic energy and on the other was Gerda Philipsborn.” ... Fascinating! It gives a whole new angle on Szilard’s personal life, but the information on Gerda’s life and works is also remarkable and touching in itself.
— P.D. Smith
Author, Doomsday Men: The Real Dr Strangelove and the Dream of the Superweapon

V impressive work by @GeneDannen L. Szilard & his “Immortal Beloved,” a physicist’s long opera of love.
— JF Ptak @ptak, via Twitter

I’ve had a chance to read it and it’s beautifully done. The documentation of your research is amazing. And I’m sure your references will help Judith. Thanks so much!
— Thomas D. Philipsborn
Chairman, The Philipsborn Company

Lovely! Thx for letting me know about it.
— Jennifer Ouellette @JenLucPiquant, via Twitter

It is a beautifully told story and the result of superb research. A new chapter in Szilard’s biography, to be sure.
— Mary Jo Nye
Horning Prof. in the Humanities, Prof. of History, Emerita
Sarton Medal 2006, Pais Prize 2017
Oregon State University, Corvallis

I have read your article and found it most fascinating. You must have spent an enormous amount of work to investigate it. Yet very much worth it to those interested in Szilard and the crucial roles he played in science and politics to read and learn about Gerda Philipsborn as well as the role she played in Szilard’s life. The end of your story is surprising and funny.
— Markus Noll
Institute of Molecular Life Sciences
University of Zürich, Switzerland

My deep thanks to you and everyone who contributed so much for this beautiful dedication to love and life. It may have taken a long time to come to fruition, but I guess that makes it all the more sweet. It is always an amazement to me to see that the world is such a small place, with ties that connect us all, tenuous as they may be, surviving through space and time. I shall be forwarding the link to your article to friends and family. The world needs to know such history more than ever before.
— Asad Niazi
Asst. Professor of Physics
Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi

A great read!
— Joseph Martin @RandomJetship, tweeting for @APSHistory, via Twitter

I have followed this page with great interest. Gene Dannen’s deeply insightful and engaging writing on Gerda Philipsborn is exemplary. Even though his primary research interest is Leo Szilard and science, Dannen’s attention to Szilard’s love interest Gerda Philipsborn’s life and family history is a case of meticulous research and writing. This is also a wonderful example of using micro history of an individual and family to write about Global history. There is much to learn from this post about historian’s craft. I have found it deeply insightful for my own research work on Gerda’s educational work at Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi within global history of knowledge formation. Gene has been extremely generous and kind in sharing his research material and knowledge with the wider audience. For this valuable contribution, many researchers like me remain thankful to him.
— Razak Khan
Research Fellow
Centre for Modern Indian Studies (CeMIS)
Universität Göttingen

...a heartbreaking tale of physics, war and love lost. “A Physicist’s Lost Love: Leo Szilard and Gerda Philipsborn” is a lovely article written by Gene Dannen...
— Hamish Johnston,

Wonderful piece! Szilard remains underappreciated, so it’s a great public service in my opinion.
— Ash Jogalekar @curiouswavefn, via Twitter

Excellent piece!
— Lisa Jardine (1944-2015)
University College London
@ProfLisaJardine, via Twitter

Fascinating stuff. Southampton Row is just around the corner from the @newscientist office. We walk past those lights every day!
— Rowan Hooper @rowhoop, via Twitter

— Ian Glendinning @psybertron, via Twitter

This is an amazing, beautiful story.
— Anna Foote @BeehiveMom, via Twitter

Unexpectedly poignant.
— Jack El-Hai @Jack_ElHai, via Twitter

It’s a wonderful rich piece, great digging and storytelling.
— David Dobbs @David_Dobbs via Twitter

Profound, gripping story of #physicist Szilard’s life, relationships. Great read thank U.
— Karen C. @KarenC39355472, via Twitter

Have just re-read “Lost Love,” and it’s sobering to think that much of the personal detail of this wonderful story would have been lost in time, most likely, if not for your years of dedicated work.
— Bernice Brooks
Assistant to Gerry Brent
Sydney, Australia

For details on Gerda’s life and especially on her relationship with Leo Szilard, please see Gene Dannen’s essential article, “A Physicist’s Lost Love: Leo Szilard and Gerda Philipsborn,” The article is the fruit of many years of relentless researching and is impeccably documented.
— Judith Berlowitz
From the Family Store to the House of Lords: The Jewish Philip(p)sborn Family of Bentschen/Zbaszyn and their Descendants, 2nd Edition

“Forgotten no longer,” indeed! She almost returns to life in Gene Dannen’s impeccably-researched story of her life at Jamia and her influence on the renowned physicist.
— Berju
Online comment to Jamia Journal editorial by Khalid Jaleel, “Here Lies Gerda Philipsborn, Buried and Forgotten.”

Leo Szilard, the physicist who conceived the nuclear chain reaction, kept a small photo of a lost love. The amazing story of Gerda Philipsborn.
— Leo Baeck Institute, New York City, shared via Facebook

I’ve long admired Szilard. What a monumental task you accomplished in tracing these remarkable people — Leo and Gerda. Thank you.
— Suzanne Asher @sashduck, via Twitter

Amazing: Gerda Philipsborn’s (d. 1943) life from Jüdische Volksheim to Jamia Millia Islamia (& a nuclear lovestory)
— Manan Ahmed @sepoy, via Twitter
Asst. Professor of History
Columbia University, New York City