Parallels with William Lanouette's Work





Editor: The following parallels were compiled by William Lanouette.

Comparison of Brian VanDeMark's Pandora's Keepers (PK) (Little, Brown, 2003) with William Lanouette's Genius in the Shadows: A Biography of Leo Szilard, The Man Behind the Bomb (GS) (Scribners 1992, University of Chicago Press 1994) and "The Odd Couple and the Bomb" (SA)
(Scientific American November 2000, 104-9).

...and drove through Harlem, across the new Triborough Bridge, and past the World's Fair grounds to Long Island. (PK 42)...the car sped through Harlem, across the new Triborough Bridge, and past the glittering World's Fair grounds. (GS xv)
...he was confronted by angry students at the university who shouted, "You can't study here. You're a Jew!" (PK 18)...on the main building's front steps they [Leo and Bela Szilard] were stopped by more than a dozen students. "You can't study here," one shouted. "You're Jews." (GS 49)
This close call so frightened Szilard that he kept two suitcases packed and close at hand wherever he lived for the rest of his life. (PK 19)This close call so frightened Szilard that anxiety about his personal safety endured for the rest of his life. From then on, he always kept two bags packed. (GS 116)
...one neutron would release two, which would each strike a nucleus to release four, and so on. In millionths of a second, billions of atoms would split. (PK 20)One neutron would release 2, which would each strike an atomic nucleus to release 4. These would each strike a nucleus, releasing 8, then 16, 32, 64, 128 and so on. In millionths of a second, billions of atoms would split, and as they tore apart, the energy that held them together would be released. (GS 134-5)
Suddenly the H.G. Wells novel he had read the year before took on grave new meaning. (PK 20)Suddenly the H.G. Wells novel he had read a year before had a grave new meaning. (GS 134)
They were the two physicists in the world best able to advance the research that would lead to the atomic bomb. (PK 24)In 1938, Fermi had chosen Columbia from among six American universities, so his fateful meeting with Szilard that January brought together the two scientists in the world best able to advance the research that would produce nuclear power and nuclear bombs. (GS 176)
Szilard had corresponded with Fermi about neutron experiments since 1936, so the two men had much to talk about when they met, by accident, in the hotel lobby one morning. (PK 24)Szilard had corresponded with Fermi since 1936, trying to interest him in experiments and control schemes for their nuclear patents, so the two physicists had much to talk about when they met, by accident, in the lobby of the King's Crown... (GS 175)
As a result, most Columbia physicists looked upon Szilard as an inconvenient visitor who poked around the department and showed up unannounced in the lab to pester and offer unwanted advice. (PK 25)...Szilard was just an unemployed visitor who poked around the department. There Szilard would appear unannounced in the laboratories, ask questions, make suggestions, then disappear.
(GS 176)
Szilard made intuitive leaps from Point A to Point D, whereas Fermi never moved from Point A to Point B until he knew all he could about A - and had reasonable assurances about B. (PK 32)Bernard T. Feld, who became Szilard's research assistant at Columbia, characterized their differences this way: "Fermi would not go from point A to point B until he knew all that he could about A and had reasonable assurances about B. Szilard would jump from point A to point D, then wonder why you were wasting your time with B and C." (GS 181-2 based on a Feld interview)
Allegedly based on "highly reliable" sources, the report was riddled with errors. (PK 49)Although said to be based on "highly reliable sources," the report is wrong on several points.
(GS 223)
Compton also cited Szilard's early efforts to keep scientific secrets from Germany, his research on the chain reaction, and his vocal advocacy of the bomb program. (PK 81)To Groves, Compton cited Szilard's early efforts to keep scientific secrets from Germany, his research in nuclear physics, his advancement of the U.S. program... (GS 242)
December 2, 1942, dawned brutally cold. The temperature was ten degrees and a strong, raw wind rattled the Windy City. (PK 103)Cold weather hung on that night, and by dawn on December 2 the temperature was 10 degrees Fahrenheit. A strong, raw wind rattled the city. (GS 243)
For more than two years he had collaborated with Fermi on the pile, and now he had witnessed their vision come true. To Szilard, who had feared this moment for years - and had secretly hoped that it would never come - Fermi's calm reaction was unnerving. (PK 106)And to Szilard who had feared this moment for more than nine years - and had hoped all that time that it would not occur - his colleagues' exuberance must have seemed unnerving...He had restrained his ego and energies for more than two years while collaborating with Fermi to design and build the first reactor. And now Szilard had witnessed his vision come true. (GS 245)
Szilard predicted that America faced a stark choice: strike an agreement with the Russians or compete with them in an atomic arms race after the war. (PK 140)...Szilard warned Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt that the choice facing U.S. strategists was starkly simple: Strike an arms control agreement with the Russians or be forced to beat them in a nuclear arms race. (GS 260)
Once seated in Byrnes's living room, Szilard handed the secretary of state designate a copy of the memo he had prepared for Roosevelt shortly before the president's death. Even before Byrnes could finish reading the memo, Szilard began lecturing him about the danger of using the bomb against Japan as a way to impress Russia. (PK 148)
...and once seated in the dark living room, Szilard handed him Einstein's letter to Roosevelt and his own memorandum. Byrnes glanced at the letter and studied the memo, but before he could finish reading, Szilard began a forceful lecture about the dangers of Russia's becoming an atomic power if the United States demonstrated the A-bomb's power and used it against Japan. (GS 265)
Groves delayed sending the package to Secretary Stimson's office until August first - after Truman had left Washington for the Potsdam Conference and a telex from Tinian Island in the western Pacific had assured him that the atomic bomb was ready for combat use against Japan. (PK 165)Groves held the petition until August 1, when a telex from Tinian Island in the Pacific assured him that the A-bomb was ready for use. (GS 274)
He asked Hutchins if the Met Lab staff might wear black mourning bands on their arms. Hutchins suggested that Szilard find some less dramatic way for them to demonstrate their grief. (PK 186)He asked if the Met Lab staff might wear black mourning bands on their arms, but Hutchins thought the gesture "a little Hungarian" and suggested Szilard find some less dramatic way for the scientists to demonstrate their grief. (GS 277)
Dropping the bomb on Hiroshima was a tragic mistake, Szilard thought; dropping the bomb on Nagasaki was an atrocity. (PK 188)"Dropping the bomb on Hiroshima was a tragic mistake," Szilard quoted his colleague Samuel K. Allison as saying. "Dropping the bomb on Nagasaki was an atrocity." (GS 277)
He immediately asked the chaplain of the University of Chicago to include a special prayer for the Japanese casualties of the two devastated cities in any memorial service commemorating the end of the war. He offered to transmit the prayer to the Japanese survivors personally. (PK 188)On Saturday, August 11, Szilard asked a University of Chicago chaplain to hold a special prayer service for the dead of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and offered to transmit the prayer to the Japanese survivors. (GS 277)
This put Szilard in the position of opposing someone he liked but disagreed with (Teller), while supporting someone he agreed with but personally disliked (Oppenheimer). (PK 278)This put Szilard on the spot: opposing someone he liked but disagreed with while supporting someone he agreed with but disliked. (GS 352)
One minute he could be silly and winsome, the next, sullen and withdrawn. (PK 300)One minute he was silly and winsome, the next, sullen and withdrawn. (GS 340)
His satire did not go over well in a serious and self-important city like Washington... (PK 305)...Szilard had begun to realize his limits both as a humorist and as an "outsider" in Washington - a serious and self-important city that squanders laughter and lives by cliches. (GS 446)
In a moody and rambling talk he confessed that he had failed to control the weapon he had helped create. (PK 306)In a moody and rambling talk he confessed that he had failed to control the weapon he helped create. (GS 456)
He had decided to settle down for the first time in his hectic life because, as he said, LaJolla's sunny climate and ocean surf offered a "foretaste of paradise." (PK 309)...he had decided to live in LaJolla because at his age it offered "a foretaste of paradise."
(GS 466)
Each man was a refugee from European fascism, and each possessed essential pieces of the atomic puzzle. (PK 24-5)Each man was a refugee from European fascism, and each possessed essential pieces to the puzzle that would ultimately release the energy of the atom. (SA 105)
Szilard, by contrast, was an unemployed "guest scholar" with no classes or lab of his own...
(PK 25)
An unemployed "guest scholar" with no classes or lab of his own, the bachelor Szilard rarely taught, published infrequently and dabbled in economics and biology. (SA 105)
A late sleeper, he often appeared at Columbia only in time for lunch, after which he would drop in on colleagues, posing questions and suggesting experiments. (PK 25)A late sleeper, he often appeared at Columbia only in time for lunch, after which he would drop in on colleagues, posing insightful questions and suggesting experiments they should try.
(SA 106)
Szilard preferred brainstorming to manual labor, whereas Fermi expected everyone to roll up his sleeves. (PK 31-2)Szilard shunned manual labor in favor of brainstorming, but Fermi expected all his team members to participate in hands-on experiments. (SA 106)

 


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