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Szilárd petition


Szilárd petition

Leó Szilárd.

The Szilárd petition, drafted by scientist Leó Szilárd, was signed by 70 scientists working on the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and the Metallurgical Laboratory in Chicago, Illinois. It was circulated in July 1945 and asked President Harry S. Truman to consider an observed demonstration of the power of the atomic bomb first, before using it against people. However, the petition never made it through the chain of command to President Truman. It also was not declassified and made public until 1961.

Later, in 1946, Szilárd jointly with Albert Einstein, created the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists that counted among its board, Linus Pauling (Nobel Peace Prize in 1962).


  • Petition excerpt 1
  • Reaction 2
  • Signatories 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Petition excerpt

[W]e, the undersigned, respectfully petition: first, that you exercise your power as Commander-in-Chief, to rule that the United States shall not resort to the use of atomic bombs in this war unless the terms which will be imposed upon Japan have been made public in detail and Japan knowing these terms has refused to surrender; second, that in such an event the question whether or not to use atomic bombs be decided by you in the light of the considerations presented in this petition as well as all the other moral responsibilities which are involved.[1]


In the spring of 1945, Leó Szilárd took the petition to the man who was soon to be named Secretary of State, James F. Byrnes, hoping to find someone who would pass on to President Truman the message from scientists that the bomb should not be used on a civilian population in Japan, and that after the war it should be put under international control in order to avoid a post-war arms race. Byrnes was not sympathetic to the idea at all. Szilárd regretted that such a man was so influential in politics, and he appeared to also be despondent at having become a physicist because in his career he had contributed to the creation of the bomb. After the meeting with Byrnes, he is quoted as having said, "How much better off the world might be had I been born in America and become influential in American politics, and had Byrnes been born in Hungary and studied physics."[2] In reaction to the petition, General Leslie Groves, the director of the Manhattan Project, sought evidence of unlawful behavior against Szilárd.[3] Most of the signers lost their jobs in weapons work.


The 70 signers at the Manhattan Project's Metallurgical Laboratory in Chicago, in alphabetical order, with their positions, were:[1]

  1. David S. Anthony, Associate Chemist
  2. Larned B. Asprey, Junior Chemist, S.E.D.
  3. Walter Bartky, Assistant Director
  4. Austin M. Brues, Director, Biology Division
  5. Mary Burke, Research Assistant
  6. Albert Cahn, Jr., Junior Physicist
  7. George R. Carlson, Research Assistant-Physics
  8. Kenneth Stewart Cole, Principal Bio-Physicist
  9. Ethaline Hartge Cortelyou, Junior Chemist
  10. John Crawford, Physicist
  11. Mary M. Dailey, Research Assistant
  12. Miriam Posner Finkel, Associate Biologist
  13. Frank G. Foote, Metallurgist
  14. Horace Owen France, Associate Biologist
  15. Mark S. Fred, Research Associate-Chemistry
  16. Sherman Fried, Chemist
  17. Francis Lee Friedman, Physicist
  18. Melvin S. Friedman, Associate Chemist
  19. Mildred C. Ginsberg, Computer
  20. Norman Goldstein, Junior Physicist
  21. Sheffield Gordon, Associate Chemist
  22. Walter J. Grundhauser, Research Assistant
  23. Charles W. Hagen, Research Assistant
  24. David B. Hall, Position Not Identified
  25. David L. Hill, Associate Physicist, Argonne
  26. John Perry Howe, Jr., Associate Division Director, Chemistry
  27. Earl K. Hyde, Associate Chemist
  28. Jasper B. Jeffries, Junior Physicist, Junior Chemist
  29. William Karush, Associate Physicist
  30. Truman P. Kohman, Chemist-Research
  31. Herbert E. Kubitschek, Junior Physicist
  32. Alexander Langsdorf, Jr., Research Associate
  33. Ralph E. Lapp, Assistant To Division Director
  34. Lawrence B. Magnusson, Junior Chemist
  35. Robert Joseph Maurer, Physicist
  36. Norman Frederick Modine, Research Assistant
  37. George S. Monk, Physicist
  38. Robert James Moon, Physicist
  39. Marietta Catherine Moore, Technician
  40. Robert Sanderson Mulliken, Coordinator Of Information
  41. J. J. Nickson, [Medical Doctor, Biology Division]
  42. William Penrod Norris, Associate Biochemist
  43. Paul Radell O'connor, Junior Chemist
  44. Leo Arthur Ohlinger, Senior Engineer
  45. Alfred Pfanstiehl, Junior Physicist
  46. Robert Leroy Platzman, Chemist
  47. C. Ladd Prosser, Biologist
  48. Robert Lamburn Purbrick, Junior Physicist
  49. Wilfred Rall, Research Assistant-Physics
  50. Margaret H. Rand, Research Assistant, Health Section
  51. William Rubinson, Chemist
  52. B. Roswell Russell, Position Not Identified
  53. George Alan Sacher, Associate Biologist
  54. Francis R. Shonka, Physicist
  55. Eric L. Simmons, Associate Biologist, Health Group
  56. John A. Simpson, Jr., Physicist
  57. Ellis P. Steinberg, Junior Chemist
  58. D. C. Stewart, S/Sgt S.E.D.
  59. George Svihla, Position Not Identified [Health Group]
  60. Marguerite N. Swift, Associate Physiologist, Health Group
  61. Leo Szilard, Chief Physicist
  62. Ralph E. Telford, Position Not Identified
  63. Joseph D. Teresi, Associate Chemist
  64. Albert Wattenberg, Physicist
  65. Katherine Way, Research Assistant
  66. Edgar Francis Westrum, Jr., Chemist
  67. Eugene Paul Wigner, Physicist
  68. Ernest J. Wilkins, Jr., Associate Physicist
  69. Hoylande Young, Senior Chemist
  70. William Houlder Zachariasen, Consultant

See also


  1. ^ a b "A Petition to the President of the United States". Atomic Bomb: Decision, section of Leo Szilard Online. 
  2. ^ Goodman, Roger (director) (1995). Hiroshima: Why the Bomb Was Dropped. ABC News. 00:28:00~00:31:00.
  3. ^ "Groves Seeks Evidence Against Szilard, July 4, 1945". Atomic Bomb: Decision, section of Leo Szilard Online. 

External links

  • Full text of the petition.
  • "The Scientists' Petition:" A Forgotten Wartime Protest
  • Howard Gest, "The July 1945 Szilard Petition on the Atomic Bomb: Memoir by a signer in Oak Ridge"
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