June 13, 2012
In 1939, four physicists wrote a letter to the president of the United States, alerting him to the possibility of nuclear weapons. The United States responded with the Manhattan Project. In short order, the new weapon produced by that project had made the United States the world’s first true superpower since Genghis Khan’s horsemen rode the plains of Central Asia seven hundred years before.
This true tale of American national greatness would be incomplete without a crucial fact: All four of the physicists who wrote that letter were born outside of the United States (three in Hungary, and one, Albert Einstein, in Germany). They were immigrants, as were many of the scientists who worked on the project itself. Born in countries where they faced persecution and limited opportunity, these brilliant individuals chose America as their home — not the Soviet Union, not Great Britain, not Japan, and certainly not Germany.
Had they made a different choice, the world today might be a very different place.