Leó Szilárd

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Leó Szilárd (Hungarian: Szilárd Leó, February 11, 1898 – May 30, 1964) was a Jewish Hungarian physicist who conceived the nuclear chain reaction in 1933, patented the idea of a nuclear reactor with Enrico Fermi, and in late 1939 wrote the letter for Albert Einstein's signature that resulted in the Manhattan Project that built the atomic bomb.

He was born in Budapest in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and died in La Jolla, California.


Early life

Szilárd was born in Budapest, Hungary before World War I as the son of a civil engineer. From 1908–1916 he attended Reáliskola in his home town. He was enrolled as an engineering student at Budapest Technical University during 1916 but had to join the Austro-Hungarian Army during 1917 as officer-candidate where he was discharged honorably at the end of the war. During 1919 he resumed engineering studies at Budapest Technical University but soon decided to leave Hungary because of the rising antisemitism under the Horthy regime which caused the introduction of a numerus clausus for Jewish students at Hungary's universities. He continued engineering studies at Technische Hochschule (Institute of Technology) in Berlin-Charlottenburg. He soon changed to physics there and took physics classes from Einstein, Planck, and Max von Laue. His dissertation on thermodynamics Über die thermodynamischen Schwankungserscheinungen (On The Manifestation of Thermodynamic Fluctuations) during 1922 was praised by Einstein and awarded top honors. In 1923 he was awarded a doctorate in physics from Humboldt University of Berlin. He was appointed as assistant to von Laue at the University of Berlin's Institute for Theoretical Physics during 1924. During 1927 he finished his habilitation and became a Privatdozent (private lecturer) in physics at University of Berlin. During his time in Berlin he was working on numerous technical inventions For example, in 1928 he submitted a patent application for the linear accelerator and, in 1929, he applied for a patent for the cyclotron. During the 1926-1930 period, he worked with Einstein to develop a refrigerator, notable because it had no moving parts.[1] Szilard's 1929 paper, "Uber die Entropieverminderung in einem thermodynamischen System bei Eingriffen intelligenter Wesen" (On the reduction of entropy in a thermodynamic system by the interference of an intelligent being) Z. Physik 53, 840-856, introduced the thought experiment now called Szilard's engine and was important in the history of attempts to understand Maxwell's demon.

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