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Albert Einstein did nothing to actually contribute to the scientific work that went into the making of the atomic bomb. However, he was nonetheless important in its creation. Einstein was already famous by the late 1930s. Therefore, when other physicists felt that it was important to alert President Roosevelt to the danger that Germany might make an atomic bomb, they decided to get Einstein to help them because his name would carry more weight. Einstein agreed, and helped find a way to get the message to Roosevelt. Since Einstein signed the letter to Roosevelt and was instrumental in getting it to him, Einstein is seen as having made a major contribution to getting the bomb made.
Einsteins letters to Roosevelt
Einsteins letters to Roosevelt
Albert Einstein (1879–1955) was a German-born pacifist (one who opposes war) and physicist (a scientist specializing in the interaction between matter and energy) who had been persecuted by the Nazis in Germany because he was Jewish. (Nazis were members of the National Socialist Workers' Party who rose to power in the German government and implemented anti-Jewish policies.) These three factors influenced Einstein's decision to urge the United States to develop an atomic bomb. He was visiting England in 1933 when the Nazis confiscated his property in Berlin, Germany, and stripped him of his German citizenship. This was common procedure under the rule of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler (1889–1945), who eventually persecuted and killed more than 6,000,000 Jews during World War II (1939–45). Einstein escaped this fate by moving to the United States, where he accepted a position at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.
In 1939 Einstein wrote a letter to U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882–1945) requesting that the United States initiate a government project to develop the atomic bomb. Einstein believed that the Nazis were already working on the bomb and feared that Hitler would use the weapon in his program of mass destruction. The United States responded by starting the Manhattan Project at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Hanford, Washington. There scientists collected plutonium and uranium, radioactive metallic elements, for experiments with splitting atoms in a sufficient quantity to produce a bomb. The first of these bombs was developed in a laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and cost the government roughly $2,000,000. One was tested on July 16, 1945, in Alamogordo, New Mexico, and within a month the United States had dropped atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima (August 6) and Nagasaki (August 9) in Japan, forcing the Japanese to surrender and effectively ending World War II.
Although Einstein was responsible for the development of one of the most destructive weapons known to humanity, he remained a pacifist. He used his influence to campaign for a strict system of world law that would prevent nuclear destruction and general abuses of the atomic bomb. Einstein also was offered the position of president of the state of Israel in 1952, just four years after it had been formed as a national refuge for Jews. He declined the offer, however, and continued his work in New Jersey until his death.
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