Author of the theory of relativity. Best known to the general public for the formula E=MC2 which has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation".
Reading your sweet note, I felt the many bitter sentiments fading away which have heretofore been indissolubly linked with thoughts of Europe. After six long years of absence, the desire is strong to set foot again on the familiar soil. But I am like an old lady with such a fussy train on her robe that she dare not rise again once she has successfully managed to seat herself.
Except for the newspapers and the countless letters, I would hardly be aware that I live in a time when human inadequacy and cruelty are achieving frightful proportions. Perhaps, someday, solitude will come to be properly recognized and appreciated as the teacher of personality. The Orientals have long known this. The individual who has experienced solitude will not easily become a victim of mass suggestion.
Our age has produced many ingenious minds whose inventions might make our lives much easier. Already, we cross the oceans by the power of machines and avail ourselves of mechanical power which may eventually relieve mankind of all physical drudgery. We have learned to fly, and we communicate with ease from one end of the world to the other by means of electromagnetic waves. See more
Yet, the production and distribution of goods are completely unorganized. Everyone lives under the shadow of the fear of being eliminated from gainful employment and suffering dire want. Furthermore, there is the spectacle of people living in different countries sporadically killing one another, which is another reason why all those who give any thought to the future live in terror and anguish. All this is due to the fact that the intelligence and character of the masses are incomparably lower than the intelligence and character of the few who produce real values for society.
May posterity be in a position to read this statement with a sense of proud and justified superiority.
Some recent work by E.FermiEnrico Fermi, Italian physicist and L. SzilardLeo Szilard, German physicist, which has been communicated to me in manuscript, leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the immediate future. Certain aspects of the situation which has arisen seem to call for watchfulness and, if necessary, quick action on the part of the Administration. I believe therefore that it is my duty to bring to your attention the following facts and recommendations:
In the course of the last four months it has been made probable – through the work of Joliot in France as well as Fermi and Szilard in America – that it may become possible to set up a nuclear chain reaction in a large mass of uranium by which vast amounts of power and large quantities of new radium-like elements would be generated. Now it appears almost certain that this could be achieved in the immediate future. See more
This new phenomenon would also lead to the construction of bombs, and it is conceivable – though much less certain – that extremely powerful bombs of a new type may thus be constructed. A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory. However, such bombs might very well prove to be too heavy for transportation by air.