GENIUS IN THE SHADOWS by William Lanouette


A Biography of Leo Szilard, The Man Behind the Bomb
Email this review


 Undoubtedly the most eccentric of the group of unusual scientists involved in the Manhattan Project, Szilard (1898-1964) led a life sufficiently extraordinary to survive this conscientious, sometimes plodding treatment by a senior energy- policy analyst, aided by Szilard's younger brother. The sensitive and creative eldest child of a bourgeois Jewish family in Budapest, Szilard grew up obsessed with politics as well as with physics, and, as a young man, spent more time arguing in cafes for the creation of a ruling intellectual elite than he did planning his scientific career. While in Berlin, Szilard became a temporary favorite of Einstein's, collaborating with him on a design for an electromagnetic refrigerator pump, but Szilard's refusal to tie himself down to a job, his blatant drive to become independently wealthy by patenting his inventions, and the intensity with which he wrung his colleagues' brains dry before abruptly dropping them caused one colleague to comment that everyone wanted to spend several days in deep discussion with Szilard--but that no one wanted to hire him. With Hitler's rise to power, Szilard busied himself with arranging for the transport of fellow scientists to safety. As the first to realize the possibility of obtaining energy from nuclear chain reactions, he emigrated to the US, worked to obtain funding for nuclear research, and eventually collaborated on demonstrating (in Chicago) the first controlled nuclear reaction. Once atomic weaponry became a reality, Szilard was appalled at what he had accomplished. For the rest of his life, between productive forays into biophysics and international diplomacy, the creative scientist with an entrepreneurial mind lobbied, wrote, and spoke publicly in an attempt to end the nuclear arms race he had helped create. A surprisingly low-key biography of one of the century's most original scientific minds. An affectionate foreword by Jonas Salk is included. (Eight-page photo insert.)

Pub Date: Jan. 18th, 1993
ISBN: 0-684-19011-7
Page count: 640pp
Publisher: Scribner
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1992


NonfictionALMIGHTY by Dan Zak
by Dan Zak
NonfictionMAN OF THE HOUR by Jennet Conant
by Jennet Conant