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Leo Szilard
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Scientist
    (February 11, 1898-May 30, 1964)
    Born in Budapest, Hungary
    Nuclear physicist
    Conceived the nuclear chain reaction (1933)
    With Enrico Fermi held the patent for the nuclear reactor
    Wrote a letter to Franklin D. Roosevelt signed by Albert Einstein that resulted in the Manhattan Project to develop an atomic bomb
    Naturalized US citizen (1943)
    Founding member of the Council for a Livable World (1962)
    He was described by the New York Times as 'a Hungarian Mr. Spock... logical to the point of insanity.'
    If someone asked him to close the window because 'it's cold outside,' he would reply that closing the window would have no effect on the outside temperature.
    He almost fled Oxford after reading in The Times about a deadly cholera epidemic sweeping the area -- having failed to notice he was reading the paper's '100 Years Ago Today' column.
    He had a history of starting experiments he never finished, drafting scientific papers he never got around to publishing, and lobbying for academic posts that he turned down or abandoned.
    He was horrified at the destruction caused by atomic bombs, but dreamed up a cobalt bomb that could destroy all life on earth.
    He left Budapest for Berlin due to antisemitism, then left Germany when the Nazis came to power.
    After World War II, he successfully changed his field of study from nuclear physics to molecular biology.
    He intervened to convince Nikita Khrushchev to allow the installation of the direct 'hot line' between Washington and Moscow.
    When he was diagnosed with bladder cancer, he underwent cobalt therapy based on a regime he had designed (1960).
    He said, 'Science is progressing at such a rapid rate that when you make a prediction and think you are ahead of your time by 100 years, you may be ahead of your time by 10 at most.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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