Edward Teller

Edward Teller (original Hungarian name Teller Ede) (January 15, 1908 - September 9 2003) was an Hungarian-born American nuclear physicist of Jewish descent. He was known as the father of the hydrogen bomb in the United States.

Teller was born in Budapest, Austria-Hungary. He left Hungary in 1926 (partly due to the Numerus clausus rule under Horthy's regime) and received his higher education in Germany. He graduated in chemical engineering at Karlsruhe and received his Ph.D. in physics under Werner Heisenberg in 1930 at the University of Leipzig.

He spent two years at the University of Göttingen and left Germany in 1934 through the aid of the Jewish Rescue Committee. He went briefly to England and moved for a year to Copenhagen, where he worked under Niels Bohr.

In February 1934, he married *Mici* (Augusta Maria) Harkanyi, the sister of a longtime friend.

In 1935, Teller emigrated to the United States, serving as a Professor of Physics at the George Washington University until 1941, where he met George Gamow. Prior to 1939, and the announcement to the scientific community of the discovery of fission, Teller was engaged as a theoretical physicist working in the fields of quantum physics, molecular physics, and nuclear physics. In 1941, his interest turned to the use of nuclear energy, both fission and fusion.

In 1942, having worked with the Briggs committee, Teller joined the Manhattan Project at Columbia University and the University of Chicago with Enrico Fermi and Leo Szilard. He was part of the Theoretical Physics division at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, serving as an assistant director, during World War II and pushed hard for the additional development of nuclear weapons into a fusion based super bomb (hydrogen bomb) rather than using just the fission only atomic bomb. Because of his interest on the H-bomb, Teller refused to engage in the calculations of the implosion of the fission bomb. This caused tensions with other researchers, as additional scientists had to be employed to do that work. In 1946 Teller left Los Alamos to return to the University of Chicago.

Following the Soviet test detonation of an atomic device in 1949 he returned to Los Alamos in 1950 to join the hydrogen bomb program started by President Truman on Teller's initiative. During the same year Teller grew impatient about the progress of the program, insisting on involving more theoreticians and accusing his colleagues in lack of imagination. This worsened his relations with other researchers even more. When he and Stanislaw Ulam came up with a working H-bomb design, Teller was not chosen to head the project. He left Los Alamos and joined the newly established Lawrence Livermore branch of the University of California Radiation Laboratory in 1952. The differences between Teller and many of his colleagues were widened in 1954 when he spoke against Robert Oppenheimer at his security clearance hearings.

Teller was Director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (1958-1960) and then an Associate Director. He also served concurrently as a Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He was a tireless advocate of a strong nuclear program and argued for continued testing and development: when the "Star Wars" Strategic Defense Initiative was cancelled, Teller was one of its strongest supporters.

He also proposed many peaceful uses of nuclear technologies, including a project to carve out a harbor in Alaska by detonating a hydrogen bomb on the sea floor. While working for the Atomic Energy Commission in the late 1950s and 1960s, he proposed "Project Chariot", in which hydrogen bombs would be used to dig a harbor more than a mile long and half a mile wide to provide a deep-water harbor for coal fields near Point Hope. Various factors, including opposition from the Inupiat people living near Point Hope and the fact that the harbor would be ice-bound nine months of the year, doomed the project.

In 1975 he retired, and was named Director Emeritus of the Livermore Laboratory and was also appointed Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution.

In 1991 he was awarded one of the first Ig Nobel Prizes for Peace in recognition of his "lifelong efforts to change the meaning of peace as we know it".

Teller died in Stanford, California. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Nuclear Society. Among honors he received were the Albert Einstein Award, the Enrico Fermi Award and the National Medal of Science. He was awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush less than two months before his death.


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