Einstein was a German physicist, who sought asylum in the United States in 1932. Between 1939 and 1945, he wrote four letters to President Roosevelt informing him of the discovery that uranium element would be turned into a new and crucial source of energy in the near future (Lanouette & Silard, 2019). Because of this new finding, Einstein urged Franklin’s administration to be watchful and take quick action. The first letter was written on 2 august 1939, the second on 7th March 1940, the third on 25th April 1940, and the fourth on 25th March 1945
First, Einstein narrated to Roosevelt the progress of scientific prospects on the use of uranium elements. It would be possible to create a chain reaction from a large mass of the element, and this would generate a great amount of power and large quantities of other elements likened to radium (Lanouette & Silard, 2019). This idea marked a starting point for the possibility of constructing a new type of bomb that had a huge destruction capability. He wrote that “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.” (Lanouette & Silard, 2019). Einstein also informed President Roosevelt that the United States did not have enough uranium to venture into such a project and suggested places where huge deposits of uranium were.
Einstein noted to U.S.A’s president that following the situation at that time, it was important that he kept in contact with the physicists working on such a project in the States. In addition, he should appoint a trusted person to head the team that would work on developing uranium’s capability of becoming a superweapon. This individual was to keep government departments informed on the development of the project and give recommendations for the government actions, such as obtaining a constant supply of Uranium. The appointee would also speed up the experimental process of the project by sourcing funds through their contacts or cooperating with industries that have fully equipped laboratories.
In the first letter, he notified the president that Germany was already in the process of weaponizing uranium following the American scientific involvement with uranium, which they were redoing to perfect. He provided evidence that Germany had stopped the sale of uranium from the Czechoslovakia mines which they had taken over. This action meant that they could possibly have people spying on American works on uranium (Lanouette & Silard, 2019). Einstein supported this by saying that von Weizsäcker was attached to the Kaiser Wilhelm Institut in Berlin where some of the American work on uranium was being repeated.
He further stressed in his second letter that since the outbreak of war, the interest of Germans in uranium had grown noticeably. He had also learned that research on uranium was being carried out in great secrecy in Germany and that they had extended it to another institute of physics in collaboration with the institute of chemistry. The suspension of a former director through a leave of absence raised enough suspicion to make a conceivable conclusion about the actions of the German government.
Looking at the dates when the letters were written, the first- on 2nd August 1939, the second on 7th March 1940, the third- on 25th April 1940 and the fourth – on 25th March 1945, it is noticeable that there is greater urgency expressed by Einstein in the first, second and third letters. First, the dates of the letters are a little close to each other, which is the evidence that Einstein needed American works on uranium done fast. From the first letter, Einstein insisted on Roosevelt taking quick actions to obtain a solution to the problem of Germany delving into research on making uranium-based weapons. Albert said that if Germany succeeded before the United States, it is hard to imagine what they could have done to the world. (Lanouette & Silard, 2019). He wrote, “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.”
In the second letter, Einstein’s urgency is seen when he asked to be notified if the government would take any action on the information that Germany’s uranium research had progressed further. Interest in the element was greatly increased, and research was at a phase where they were proceeding with great secrecy. Einstein supported this with the German government taking over the concerned institute and having only a group of physicists and the director of the institute sent on leave.
In the third letter, urgency is visible when Einstein asked the government to improve the conditions for the work on uranium with great speeds and on a larger scale. He supported a suggestion made by Dr. Sachs, that it would cause more funds sourced for, and a board of trustees’ names for a non-profit organization provided. This would enable more activities on the research to be done within a short time. The fourth letter came in almost four years later and served as an inquiry on policies developed to guide the use of nuclear weapons; thus, there was no indication of urgency.
In conclusion, Einstein’s letters could be said to have served a greater purpose in saving the world. The end results of his concerns and involvement in the invention of the nuclear bomb that was used in Japan ended the Second World War. Moreover, the devastating results from the utilization of this weapon led to nations coming up with the development of nuclear policies combating the use of such weapons. This meant that future wars would be prevented as countries did not know the nuclear capabilities of other nations.
Lanouette, W., & Silard, B. (2019). Genius in the Shadows: A Biography of Leo Szilard, the man behind the bomb. University of Chicago Press.