Leo Szilard was born in Hungary with a passion to save the world. His father was a civil engineer, and his mother a loving caring women. He went to school at “his gymnasium” the University of Budapest’s Minta. He graduated from there in 1916 with the “Etvs Prize. ” (A National Prize in Mathematics) Physics was always his passion, but there was no career in physics in Hungary. It is also said that despite his prize Szilard thought his skills in mathematics could not compete with his colleagues, so Szilard turned to electrical engineering and stayed there until he was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Army.
After the army, in 1919, Szilard decided to leave Hungary. Still an electrical engineer, he went to the Technische Hochschule in Berlin. Also, in Berlin were acclaimed scientists such as Albert Einstein and Max von Laue. The scientific opportunities in Berlin were to tempting, and Szilard left the technology institute for the University of Berlin where all the famous scientists were. Szilard went to Max von Laue and asked for a thesis topic, this is what physicists do when they want a doctorate. Laue gave him a very difficult problem in relative theory which Szilard worked on for the next six months.
Christmas time came and he decided to take a break and just think on his own. During this time he came up with was how to solve a baffling inconsistency in thermodynamics. He brought this to Albert Einstein, who liked the solution. Szilard wrote a paper on the problem and was given his degree. Szilard starting working with Einstein on several inventions including a refrigerator system. Also Szilard started something called “Der Bund,” in English it means the band. This was a small group of around 30 to 40 elite scientists who bound together to for a small class.
This group was not meant to be a political group, but a representation of Berlin’s finest scientists. Szilard got interested in nuclear physics sometime in the 1920’s. This new field had the potential to create massive amounts of energy from the nucleus. But he did no more than think about nuclear physics until 1932 when the possible existence of a neutron was announced. A neutron would have no electrical charge and therefore would be able to penetrate through the nucleus’s electrical barrier. This opened many possibilities in nuclear physics. Soon after this Szilard discovered one a H. G.
Well’s books called The World Set Free which predicted a second world was in which all the major cities of the world would be destroyed by atomic bombs (Bombs based on the liberation of atomic energy on a large scale). Szilard said that though this book effected him, he regarded it as pure fiction. This book probably rose questions and possibilities in his head. Szilard met with a man named Otto Mandl in 1932 where Mandl described his theory about how to save mankind. He said that mankind would have to launch an enterprise aimed at leaving earth. Szilard concluded that for this to occur, atomic energy would be necessary.
So he went into experimental work in nuclear physics in a way due to his passion to save the world. Hitler rose to power and Szilard was forced to fled to England where he helped other refugees to find jobs in England, China, America, India, and Palestine. He kept a low profile until he read in The Times an article that put The World Set Free and nuclear physics in general to shame. This got Szilard thinking about atomic energy again and he came up with an idea. It was the Chain Reaction. Which element, if placed in a chemically unstable substance, that when split by one neutron would omit two neutrons, you would have a nuclear reaction.