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Is Albert Einstein responsible for the creation of the atomic bomb?

It’s certain that the atomic bomb is based on his theories; and, he participated in the writing of a letter directed to the president Franklin D. Roosevelt requesting the creation of an investigation program of the reactions in chain that accelerated the production of the atomic bomb. However, Einstein didn’t participate in the elaboration of this program.

Furthermore, he also wrote again to the president to try to persuade it of using the nuclear weapon.

Moreover, who is the real responsible for all damage caused by these bombs, scientists who designed it or people who used it?

8 Comments

  • Radioactive decay and the energy produced by it where known about before Einstein and Special Relativity. E=mc^2 does not make it possible to build a bomb, it only explains where the energy comes from.

    Einstein wrote to Roosevelt urging a bomb be built in response to similar work in Nazi Germany but he himself was a committed and vociferous pacifist. The bomb would have been built if Einstein had signed the letter or not.

  • I’m not a fan of Einstein but i will back him up on this:
    Einsteins work did help the scientists generate the first atomic bomb but he had no further involvement. the scientists started off living in Germany/Austria and feared that the Nazis were on the verge of discovering this weapon and enslaving earth. so they felt it necessary to get the USA (only nation seen trustworthy enough and with enough money) to develop one first. so the head physicist of the committee – his name escapes me – had to start with a letter, but why would a president listen to some lowly physicist he has never heard of. at this point Einstein was a household name so the committee head took a drafted letter to Einstein to use his name to gain the presidents support. first Einstein was not happy with the letter as it would give him too much involvement so it was redrafted to be toned down and Einstein signed it. it was one of his biggest regrets as it issued in the cold war, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and nearly tore apart the planet but he had almost nothing to do with it. and like most things, the extensive use of it was due to the negligent, reckless americans – as usual.

    edit – Leo Szilard, thats the guy i meant!

  • In 1905, Einstein published a paper title ‘On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies’, which we now call the Special Theory of Relativity. Towards the end of this paper, he considered the kinetic energy of an electron being accelerated towards the speed of light. As part of his argument, he derived the now famous equation: –

    E=mc²

    This equation directly connects matter and energy and implies that they are inter-convertible. This, discovery indicated that there is energy trapped within the atomic nucleus. In 1939, the German physicist and chemist Otto Hahn along with the Austrian physicist Lise Meitner discovered that neutron bombardment of uranium resulted in nuclear fission. It was the Hungarian-American physicist Leo Szilard, who had fled Nazi Germany in 1938, who first recognised that a fission chain reaction within a large mass of uranium could result in an enormous release of nuclear energy. Leo Szilard’s approach to Einstein, combined with the tide of war, and fear of the Nazis getting the bomb first, encouraged Einstein to write to Roosevelt to investigate nuclear possibilities.

    This letter, led to the Manhattan Project, which was directed by Robert J Oppenheimer, and the creation of the weapons that ended World War II. Einstein did not contribute to the development of the bomb program and virtually all of those involved, with the exception of Edward Teller, opposed further nuclear weapons development after the war.

    Who is responsible for the terrible damage inflicted by the bombs upon two Japanese cities? As Harry S. Truman, who made the fateful decision to drop the bombs, maintained ‘the buck stops here’. it was a political decision of necessity, made because the Americans would not have been able to take main land Japan without horrendous losses. It was a terrible thing to do but dropping those two weapons prevented perhaps a half-million American casualties’. Furthermore, the Soviet forces were massing on the Manchurian boarder in preparation for the USSR to enter the Pacific war and the Americans wanted to prevent Joe Stalin’s Soviet Union becoming involved.

  • “all damage caused by these bombs”
    I think you really ought to consider all the damage not done by using these bombs.
    We have lived through 60+ years without a major (world) war – yes I know we have had Korea, Vietnam etc. The knowledge that each of the world powers possesses a weapon that would destroy victor and vanquished alike has prevented a war that would kill and destroy huge numbers of people and cities .
    The people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki did not die in vain – I thank God for that!

  • The following may be useful to understand the historical intricacies of using the Bomb.

    In Truman’s autobiography, he says a specialized commission was assembled to study the matter and they decided a test explosion with Japanese observers would not be convincing. He also says that conventional war plans to invade Japan would cost an estimated 1 million American lives. He does not elaborate further.

    I can give you two other reality checks. The first drop almost failed, in a myriad ways, one of which was the bomb going wild, feared critical in mid flight. Imagine a fluke, with the Japanese watching, or the many reasons they would concoct to “explain” why the weapon was not being used in the battlefield. Also, in the last night, just before the transmission of the recording with the Emperor surrendering, a band of Japanese officers, tried to prevent the surrender with a military coup that fortunately failed, this after two successful drops.

    At the time nukes where simply new more powerful weapons, and with men dying with each day of war, they used it. Physicists knew a bit better and reportedly Niels Bohr, when he arrived at Los Alamos, asked “Is it big enough?” (meaning, to end all wars).

    You may also want to check the wiki entry for Leo Szilard, because his were the ideas necessary to turn the bomb feasible, he was the one to urge Einstein to write to FDR about the threat of Nazi Germany developing it, and finally when the time came, he opposed its practical use.

    So, the known alternatives were: 1) A demonstration in a deserted island. Could result in a fluke. Japanese would have to be shown ground zero and then watch the explosion 10 miles away. They would not fully comprehend the destruction in a an actual target, and find all sorts of “reasons” that would impede use in the battlefield. When was the last time a technological advantage in combat was infotainment for the enemy? 2) Conventional invasion. 1 million Americans dead. Multiply by at least five for wounded and handicapped in combat.

    Consider now the pro reasons. 1) Men were dying every day. Delaying victory by months, meant thousands of American casualties prevented. 2) Radiation sickness was not fully known or understood at the time. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks had a direct death toll inferior to an incendiary bombing of Tokyo some weeks before. 3) The Soviets were geting into the picture. After V-E they declared war on Japan and attacked in Manchuria. With no contribution to the Pacific campaign, a delay of a few months could make them establish a East-West Germany situation, dividing Japan and claiming spoils of war.

    Bottom line: Nukes did’t have the ill-repute they have today. A military decision was required. A military decision was taken.

    If you want to be critical of the US victory in the Pacific, there are two itches you can cling on to. The US had no qualms about bombing Japanese civilians (while in Europe we went after military and industrial targets); Japanese American citizens were confined to special camps. But then you have to mention the brutal ways of Rising Sun troops, from the Nanking massacre in 1938 to suicidal kamikaze, Korean comfort women, the dragnet of Europeans civilian prisoners from Manchuria to Singapore, etc…

    War is a b****.

  • The bomb would have been built no matter what. There were other countries working on it too.
    Einstein persuaded the president to work on it because he wanted america to have it before our enemies did. It was going to end the war in favor of whoever had it first, so he wanted it to be us.
    Plus he thought that the loss of life caused by ending the war with atomic bombs would be less than the loss of life from a full out invasion of japan, which was the other option.

  • it was his equation E=mc^2 that made the atomic bomb possible, and he did send a signed letter to FDR explaining the possibility of the bomb, but other than that, no…it was J. Robert Oppenheimer, Einstein was kept in the dark about the bomb because he was a foreigner and ‘could not be trusted’ by the US government. If you want to know who is responsible for possible nuclear wars, it is Stalin. He was the first one to proliferate nuclear power in his craze for power and stole the ideas from the US.

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