Leo Szilard was the physicist who first conceived of the nuclear chain reaction and patented the idea of a nuclear fission reactor.

He tried repeatedly, and failed, to leverage his scientific prestige to influence the development of nuclear weapons in the US.

Szilard thought the military and corporations such as DuPont had too much authority in managing the Manhattan Project.

He wanted civilian scientists, mainly himself and his friends, to have more authority.

The Manhattan Project operated under strict information-sharing restrictions and compartmentalization.

Szilard thought these restrictions hampered the open discussion necessary for scientific innovation.

First, Szilard tried to straightforwardly voice his concerns. He was ignored.

Then, he tried to leverage his rights to important nuclear patents. He was ignored. Finally, he threatened to leave the project unless his demands were met.

Rather than acquiesce, the government officials in charge of the Project simply mollified him with the offer of a substantial raise in pay.

No changes were made in how the project was run. The military put Szilard under surveillance after considering imprisoning him.

Szilard thought he deserved “rights” to his “inventions,” the way one has a right to private intellectual property in a civilian or peacetime situation.

In fact, he was working for the military on a classified government project: he had no rights.

Divergent thinking can be an essential quality for a research scientist or inventor in their respective cultures, but in the context of a military command structure, stepping out of line signals not ingenuity but disobedience and perhaps more serious disloyalty or treachery.

This thread is part of a series on Bismarck Analysis’ case study on the development of nuclear weapons. Check out the other threads here:


You can read the full case study here: https://www.bismarckanalysis.com/Nuclear_Weapons_Development_Case_Study.pdf

You can follow @SamoBurja.
Tip: mention @twtextapp on a Twitter thread with the keyword “unroll” to get a link to it.

Latest Threads Unrolled: