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Leo Szilard was the man who first realised that nuclear power could be used to build a bomb of terrifying proportions. Lisa Jardine considers what his story has to say about the responsibilities of science.

The figure of Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard loomed large in our house when I was a child. He was held up to me as an exemplary figure in science – a man who had made fundamental breakthroughs in nuclear physics, but whose acute sense of moral probity led him in the end to denounce the very advances he had helped make. Only later did I learn an alternative version of his story.

Almost exactly 80 years ago, in early October 1933, Szilard was in London, in transit from Nazi Germany, when an idea came to him that would lead directly to the ultimate weapon of war – the atomic bomb. [Read the full article]