on April 27, 1997
Leo Szilard's life is traced from his early childhood in Budapest, Hungary through his student days in Berlin; and the development of the first atomic reactor and bomb. Dealing openly with Szilard's ambitions, obsessions, and fears the book delves into the intriguing details of his intensely adventurous life. For example, the very day in 1933 Adolf Hitler became Chancellor, Szilard caught the last train out of Germany; saving his worldly possessions and himself from the hands of the Nazis. Szilard's pluck is revealed when in England, not having access to a laboratory, he borrows equipment and performs perhaps the first nuclear physics chain reaction experiments in his hotel room! Throughout the details of his evolving atomic theories and practical inventions is woven his love life. Because of his genius, vision, and high human values, Szilard is always regarded with suspicion; especially by the American military bureaucracy. Indeed, General Grove who oversees the United States atomic bomb project has it in for Szilard; and even tries to get him deported as an undesireable alien. This is the story of the man who not only ushered in atomic power into the 20th Century but maintained his individuality while doing so. A somewhat sad love story is woven through the fascinating history of Szilard's atomic power. Many classic photographs of Szilard at important and personal events accompany the very well organized text. Although not a literary masterpiece, this book is a biographical masterpiece and should be read by scholars and romantics alike
on January 30, 2001
Anyone interested in Szilard, early 20th Century World History, the A-Bomb, or all of the above will find this book hard to put down. This biography is comprehensive, well-researched and properly kind to its subject. Dr. Szilard probably will never get enough credit for his genius and all his great ideas and achievements, but this book does him justice. He seems to come alive in this book, always several steps ahead of everyone else.
American culture's emphasis on individualism often ignores the more collaborative contributions such as Dr. Szilard's. An original, he both created and collaborated, and this book tells his story.
At times, I thought the author might have been over-stating some of Dr. Szilard's accompishments, but the story is otherwise well-done, and frankly, Dr. Szilard deserves a little promotion, so I didn't mind.