Leo Szilard Online

Leo Szilard, near Oxford, spring/summer 1936 Leo Szilard, near Oxford, spring/summer 1936. Photo copyright U.C. Regents; used by permission. Contact Special Collections and Archives, U.C. San Diego, for information on obtaining Szilard images.

Welcome to the world of physicist, molecular biologist, and “scientist of conscience” Leo Szilard (1898-1964).

Szilard conceived the nuclear chain reaction in 1933, and spent the rest of his life trying to protect the world from nuclear weapons.

Szilard’s other inventions included the linear accelerator, cyclotron, and electron microscope.

In his 1929 paper on Maxwell’s Demon, Szilard identified the unit or “bit” of information. The rise of the Information Age shows the importance of his long-unappreciated idea.

Szilard’s name can be pronounced in different ways. In Hungary, it is pronounced SEE-lahrd. English speakers usually pronounce it as ZIL-ahrd or zuh-LAHRD. His name is pronounced by several people who knew him in the videos below.

January 26, 2015. I’m pleased to announce the publication of an article that I think may be remembered as long as the story of the nuclear age is told... A Physicist’s Lost Love: Leo Szilard and Gerda Philipsborn

Einstein-Szilard patent ALSO STILL COOL:
“The Einstein-Szilard Refrigerators” by Gene Dannen in the January 1997 issue of Scientific American. Translations have been published in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Polish, Spanish, and perhaps other languages. For more information, see this page of further references and notes to the article.


* Leo Szilard - A Biographical Chronology.
* Leo Szilard the Inventor -- full text of a talk delivered at the Budapest Centenary.
* Photographs of Szilard’s boyhood house in Budapest.
* Remembering Leo Szilard - In RealAudio.
* Leo Szilard, Interview: “President Truman Did Not Understand.”
* Albert Einstein - F.B.I. interview.
* “Are We On The Road To War?” - The speech that launched the Council for a Livable World.
* Leo Szilard and Ernest O. Lawrence - 1935 photo.
* Aaron Novick 1919-2000 Aaron Novick, Leo Szilard’s long-time collaborator in molecular biology, died December 21, 2000 at the age of 81.
Leo Szilard petition, July 17, 1945

Atomic Bomb

* Atomic Bomb: Decision - A collection of documents on the decision to use the first atomic bombs, and Szilard’s attempts to prevent this — including his July 17, 1945 petition to President Truman. This is the most popular page on the Dannen.com website. It has received millions of visitors.
* Einstein’s letter to Roosevelt, August 2, 1939 - Images of the letter, and how it came to be written.


* Jacob Bronowski invokes his friend Szilard in the most famous scene in “The Ascent of Man” - From “My Father, The Bomb and Me” by Bronowski’s daughter Lisa Jardine. (7 minutes)
* The Many Worlds of Leo Szilard - Speakers Richard Garwin, Matthew Meselson, and William Lanouette discuss Szilard at the APS Forum on the History of Physics at the April 2014 meeting of the American Physical Society. (1 hour, 41 minutes)
* Leo Szilard: The Man Behind the Bomb - William Lanouette talks about Szilard at the UC San Diego library. (50 minutes)

New and Notable Publications

* On Alex Wellerstein’s Nuclear Secrecy Blog in 2015: || To demonstrate or not to demonstrate? || Were there alternatives to the atomic bombings? ||
* On Alex Wellerstein’s Nuclear Secrecy Blog in 2014: || Leo Szilard, war criminal? || Death dust, 1941 || Szilard's chain reaction, visionary or crank? || The Kyoto misconception ||
* William Lanouette’s 1992 Szilard biography Genius in the Shadows was re-issued in 2013 by Skyhorse Publishing.
* An enormous bibliography of works by and about Leo Szilard has been compiled by Nelson H.F. Beebe.
* P.D. Smith’s book Doomsday Men: The Real Dr Strangelove and the Dream of the Superweapon was published by Penguin in 2007.
* The Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century by Istvan Hargittai was published by Oxford University Press in 2006.
* Tibor Frank’s article Ever Ready To Go: The Multiple Exiles of Leo Szilard (PDF), one of the best studies of Szilard, was published in Physics in Perspective in 2005.
* Szilard as Inventor: Accelerators and More by Valentine Telegdi, in the October 2000 issue of Physics Today. See the response by Gene Dannen in the March 2001 issue.

Leo Szilard Centennial 1998

H.G. Wells: The World Set Free, 1914 (1st American edition) The 100th anniversary of Szilard’s birth was celebrated in 1998 in both Hungary and the U.S.A.. In February, a Centenary Conference was held in Budapest. One of the sessions convened in the Hungarian Parliament. This page of photographs of the Budapest events by Gene Dannen and William Lanouette includes information about the published conference volume. In addition, Hungary issued a Szilard postage stamp and telephone card. In April, a Szilard centennial session was held at a meeting of the American Physical Society.

External Links

Leo Szilard’s unpublished papers and correspondence are held by Special Collections and Archives, University of California, San Diego. The full Register of the Leo Szilard Papers is online. The entire collection is now being scanned and digitized. Beginning May 1, 2015, scans are being added to the online digital collection.

The Leo Szilard Lectureship Award, given yearly by the American Physical Society, honors “outstanding accomplishments by physicists in promoting the use of physics for the benefit of society.” It is sponsored by the A.P.S. Forum on Physics and Society.

Photos of Szilard also may be found on these pages:
This page of Einstein: Image and Impact at the AIP Center for History of Physics (Szilard with Einstein)
The Emilio Segre Visual Archives at the AIP Center for History of Physics has 26 pictures online.

Other sites with links to this page, or its subpages, include:

Council for a Livable World
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
The Nuclear Weapon Archive

American Institute of Physics, Center for History of Physics
Restricted Data: The Nuclear Secrecy Blog

Copyright © 1995-2015 Gene Dannen
Created: March 30, 1995 Last modified: August 9, 2015
URL: http://www.dannen.com/szilard.html
Gene Dannen / gene@dannen.com