AUTHORLanouette, William
TITLEThe Odd Couple and the Bomb
PERIODICAL TITLEScientific American
DATE PUBLISHED2000
VOLUME NUMBER283
ISSUE NUMBER5
PAGE NUMBERS104-109
ISSN0036-8733
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This article details the relationship, sometimes turbulent, between nuclear physicists Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard and their efforts to create the first controlled nuclear chain reaction. The author discusses the scientists’ pre-World War II work, including Szilard’s 1933 realization of the possibility of chain reactions and Fermi’s work in Rome on neutron bombardment of the atomic nucleus. He also describes the beginning of their collaboration in 1939 after the discovery of fission, their work with a graphite moderator, the building of an atomic pile, and their successful chain reaction. In addition, the article covers Szilard’s fear of a German nuclear project and his letter written with Albert Einstein spurring the United States government into atomic research, as well as Einstein’s vouching for both men to the FBI, and Szilard and Fermi’s post-war relationship.


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