Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Einstein Letter

The History Channel's recent series The 10 Days that Unexpectedly Changed America had a segment called Einstein Letter. This dealt with Einstein letters to President Roosevelt that helped to inaugurate and then keep the Manhattan Project moving forward. I really enjoyed this particular segment and so thought it would be useful to provide some of the historical documents for this show.

Einstein First Letter in August of 1939 told President Roosevelt of the possibility of a nuclear bomb and that Germany might be also working toward this goal:
In the course of the last four months it has been made probable through the work of Joliet in France as well as Fermi and secularity in America--that it may be possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium, by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future.

This letter garnered a quick response from FDR, who replied in October that he had acted on Einstein suggestions:
I found this data of such import that I have convened a Board consisting of the head of the Bureau of Standards and a chosen representative of the Army and Navy to thoroughly investigate the possibilities of your suggestion regarding the element of uranium.

In March of 1945, Einstein wrote to FDR again, this time telling him that there were problems between the scientists and the government officials the President had appointed:
The terms of secrecy under which Dr. Szilard is working at present do not permit him to give me information about his work; however, I understand that he now is greatly concerned about the lack of adequate contact between scientists who are doing this work and those members of your Cabinet who are responsible for formulating policy.

Einstein's suggestions to FDR resulted in the creation of the atomic bomb, which President Truman dropped on Japan in August of 1945.

1 comment:

elektratig said...

For anyone interested in this topic, Richard Rhodes's The Making of the Atomic Bomb is first-rate. I was less impressed with his sequel, Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb, but it's still worth reading.