Edward Teller

Edward Teller

Overview
Edward Teller was a Hungarian-American
Hungarian American
Hungarian Americans Hungarian are American citizens of Hungarian descent. The constant influx of Hungarian immigrants was marked by several waves of sharp increase.-History:...

 theoretical
Theoretical physics
Theoretical physics is a branch of physics which employs mathematical models and abstractions of physics to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena...

 physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

, known colloquially as "the father of the hydrogen bomb," even though he did not care for the title. Teller made numerous contributions to nuclear
Nuclear physics
Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies the building blocks and interactions of atomic nuclei. The most commonly known applications of nuclear physics are nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons technology, but the research has provided application in many fields, including those...

 and molecular physics
Molecular physics
Molecular physics is the study of the physical properties of molecules, the chemical bonds between atoms as well as the molecular dynamics. Its most important experimental techniques are the various types of spectroscopy...

, spectroscopy
Spectroscopy
Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy. Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, e.g., by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to comprise any interaction with radiative...

 (the Jahn–Teller and Renner–Teller effects), and surface
Surface
In mathematics, specifically in topology, a surface is a two-dimensional topological manifold. The most familiar examples are those that arise as the boundaries of solid objects in ordinary three-dimensional Euclidean space R3 — for example, the surface of a ball...

 physics. His extension of Fermi's theory of beta decay
Beta decay
In nuclear physics, beta decay is a type of radioactive decay in which a beta particle is emitted from an atom. There are two types of beta decay: beta minus and beta plus. In the case of beta decay that produces an electron emission, it is referred to as beta minus , while in the case of a...

 (in the form of the so-called Gamow–Teller transitions) provided an important stepping stone in the applications of this theory.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Edward Teller'
Start a new discussion about 'Edward Teller'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Recent Discussions
Quotations

There's no system foolproof enough to defeat a sufficiently great fool.

Quoted in "Nuclear Reactions", by Joel Davis in Omni (May 1988)

A fact is a simple statement that everyone believes. It is innocent, unless found guilty. A hypothesis is a novel suggestion that no one wants to believe. It is guilty, until found effective.

Conversations on the Dark Secrets of Physics (1991) by Edward Teller, Wendy Teller and Wilson Talley, Ch. 5, p. 69 footnote.

Two paradoxes are better than one; they may even suggest a solution.

Conversations on the Dark Secrets of Physics (1991) by Edward Teller, Wendy Teller and Wilson Talley, Ch. 9, p. 135 footnote.

My name is not Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb|Strangelove. I don't know about Strangelove. I'm not interested in Strangelove. What else can I say?... Look. Say it three times more, and I throw you out of this office.

Quoted in "Infamy and honor at the Atomic Café : Edward Teller has no regrets about his contentious career" by Gary Stix in Scientific American (October 1999), p. 42-43

When you fight for a desperate cause and have good reasons to fight, you usually win.

As quoted by Robert C. Martin in Software Development magazine (September 2005), p. 60
Encyclopedia
Edward Teller was a Hungarian-American
Hungarian American
Hungarian Americans Hungarian are American citizens of Hungarian descent. The constant influx of Hungarian immigrants was marked by several waves of sharp increase.-History:...

 theoretical
Theoretical physics
Theoretical physics is a branch of physics which employs mathematical models and abstractions of physics to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena...

 physicist
Physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

, known colloquially as "the father of the hydrogen bomb," even though he did not care for the title. Teller made numerous contributions to nuclear
Nuclear physics
Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies the building blocks and interactions of atomic nuclei. The most commonly known applications of nuclear physics are nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons technology, but the research has provided application in many fields, including those...

 and molecular physics
Molecular physics
Molecular physics is the study of the physical properties of molecules, the chemical bonds between atoms as well as the molecular dynamics. Its most important experimental techniques are the various types of spectroscopy...

, spectroscopy
Spectroscopy
Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy. Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, e.g., by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to comprise any interaction with radiative...

 (the Jahn–Teller and Renner–Teller effects), and surface
Surface
In mathematics, specifically in topology, a surface is a two-dimensional topological manifold. The most familiar examples are those that arise as the boundaries of solid objects in ordinary three-dimensional Euclidean space R3 — for example, the surface of a ball...

 physics. His extension of Fermi's theory of beta decay
Beta decay
In nuclear physics, beta decay is a type of radioactive decay in which a beta particle is emitted from an atom. There are two types of beta decay: beta minus and beta plus. In the case of beta decay that produces an electron emission, it is referred to as beta minus , while in the case of a...

 (in the form of the so-called Gamow–Teller transitions) provided an important stepping stone in the applications of this theory. The Jahn–Teller effect and the BET theory
BET theory
BET theory aims to explain the physical adsorption of gas molecules on a solid surface and serves as the basis for an important analysis technique for the measurement of the specific surface area of a material...

 have retained their original formulation and are still mainstays in physics and chemistry. Teller also made contributions to Thomas–Fermi theory, the precursor of density functional theory
Density functional theory
Density functional theory is a quantum mechanical modelling method used in physics and chemistry to investigate the electronic structure of many-body systems, in particular atoms, molecules, and the condensed phases. With this theory, the properties of a many-electron system can be determined by...

, a standard modern tool in the quantum mechanical treatment of complex molecules. In 1953, along with Nicholas Metropolis
Nicholas Metropolis
Nicholas Constantine Metropolis was a Greek American physicist.-Work:Metropolis received his B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in physics at the University of Chicago...

 and Marshall Rosenbluth
Marshall Rosenbluth
Marshall Nicholas Rosenbluth was an American plasma physicist and member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1997 he was awarded the National Medal of Science for discoveries in controlled thermonuclear fusion, contributions to plasma physics and work in computational statistical mechanics. ...

, Teller co-authored a paper which is a standard starting point for the applications of the Monte Carlo method
Monte Carlo method
Monte Carlo methods are a class of computational algorithms that rely on repeated random sampling to compute their results. Monte Carlo methods are often used in computer simulations of physical and mathematical systems...

 to statistical mechanics
Statistical mechanics
Statistical mechanics or statistical thermodynamicsThe terms statistical mechanics and statistical thermodynamics are used interchangeably...

.

Teller emigrated to the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in the 1930s, and was an early member of the Manhattan Project
Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project was a research and development program, led by the United States with participation from the United Kingdom and Canada, that produced the first atomic bomb during World War II. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army...

 charged with developing the first atomic bombs. During this time he made a serious push to develop the first fusion
Nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or more atomic nuclei join together, or "fuse", to form a single heavier nucleus. This is usually accompanied by the release or absorption of large quantities of energy...

-based weapons as well, but these were deferred until after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. After his controversial testimony in the security clearance
Security clearance
A security clearance is a status granted to individuals allowing them access to classified information, i.e., state secrets, or to restricted areas after completion of a thorough background check. The term "security clearance" is also sometimes used in private organizations that have a formal...

 hearing of his former Los Alamos
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory is a United States Department of Energy national laboratory, managed and operated by Los Alamos National Security , located in Los Alamos, New Mexico...

 colleague J. Robert Oppenheimer, Teller was ostracized by much of the scientific community. He continued to find support from the U.S. government and military research establishment, particularly for his advocacy for nuclear energy
Nuclear power
Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity. Nuclear power plants provide about 6% of the world's energy and 13–14% of the world's electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for about 50% of nuclear generated electricity...

 development, a strong nuclear arsenal, and a vigorous nuclear testing
Nuclear testing
Nuclear weapons tests are experiments carried out to determine the effectiveness, yield and explosive capability of nuclear weapons. Throughout the twentieth century, most nations that have developed nuclear weapons have tested them...

 program. He was a co-founder of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory , just outside Livermore, California, is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center founded by the University of California in 1952...

 (LLNL), and was both its director and associate director for many years.

In his later years he became especially known for his advocacy of controversial technological solutions to both military and civilian problems, including a plan to excavate an artificial harbor in Alaska using thermonuclear explosives. He was a vigorous advocate of Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

's Strategic Defense Initiative
Strategic Defense Initiative
The Strategic Defense Initiative was proposed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983 to use ground and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic...

. Throughout his life, Teller was known both for his scientific ability and his difficult interpersonal relations and volatile personality, and is considered one of the inspirations for the character Dr. Strangelove in the 1964 movie of the same name.

Early life and education


Teller was born in Budapest
Budapest
Budapest is the capital of Hungary. As the largest city of Hungary, it is the country's principal political, cultural, commercial, industrial, and transportation centre. In 2011, Budapest had 1,733,685 inhabitants, down from its 1989 peak of 2,113,645 due to suburbanization. The Budapest Commuter...

, Hungary
Hungary
Hungary , officially the Republic of Hungary , is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It is situated in the Carpathian Basin and is bordered by Slovakia to the north, Ukraine and Romania to the east, Serbia and Croatia to the south, Slovenia to the southwest and Austria to the west. The...

 (then Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary , more formally known as the Kingdoms and Lands Represented in the Imperial Council and the Lands of the Holy Hungarian Crown of Saint Stephen, was a constitutional monarchic union between the crowns of the Austrian Empire and the Kingdom of Hungary in...

) into a Jewish family. When he was very young, his grandfather told his mother not to be too unhappy that he was apparently an idiot, because he hadn't spoken by the age of three. A doctor suggested he might be mentally retarded. Teller had no interest in speaking because his father spoke Hungarian and very poor German, and his mother spoke German and very poor Hungarian. As a result, he decided that they didn't know what they were talking about. He became instead very interested in numbers, and would calculate in his head large numbers, such as the number of seconds in a year.

He left Hungary in 1926 (partly due to the numerus clausus
Numerus clausus
Numerus clausus is one of many methods used to limit the number of students who may study at a university. In many cases, the goal of the numerus clausus is simply to limit the number of students to the maximum feasible in some particularly sought-after areas of studies.However, in some cases,...

rule under Horthy
Miklós Horthy
Miklós Horthy de Nagybánya was the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary during the interwar years and throughout most of World War II, serving from 1 March 1920 to 15 October 1944. Horthy was styled "His Serene Highness the Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary" .Admiral Horthy was an officer of the...

's regime). The political climate and revolutions in Hungary during his youth instilled a lingering animosity for both Communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 and Fascism
Fascism
Fascism is a radical authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to rejuvenate their nation based on commitment to the national community as an organic entity, in which individuals are bound together in national identity by suprapersonal connections of ancestry, culture, and blood...

 in Teller. When he was a young student, his right foot was severed in a streetcar accident in Munich
Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

, requiring him to wear a prosthetic foot and leaving him with a life-long limp. Teller graduated in chemical engineering
Chemical engineering
Chemical engineering is the branch of engineering that deals with physical science , and life sciences with mathematics and economics, to the process of converting raw materials or chemicals into more useful or valuable forms...

 at the University of Karlsruhe and received his Ph.D. in physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 under Werner Heisenberg
Werner Heisenberg
Werner Karl Heisenberg was a German theoretical physicist who made foundational contributions to quantum mechanics and is best known for asserting the uncertainty principle of quantum theory...

 at the University of Leipzig
University of Leipzig
The University of Leipzig , located in Leipzig in the Free State of Saxony, Germany, is one of the oldest universities in the world and the second-oldest university in Germany...

. Teller's Ph.D. dissertation dealt with one of the first accurate quantum mechanical
Quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic...

 treatments of the hydrogen molecular ion
Hydrogen molecular ion
The hydrogen molecular ion, dihydrogen cation, or H2+, is the simplest molecular ion. It is composed of two positively-charged protons and one negatively-charged electron, and can be formed from ionization of a neutral hydrogen molecule...

. In 1930 he befriended Russian physicists George Gamow
George Gamow
George Gamow , born Georgiy Antonovich Gamov , was a Russian-born theoretical physicist and cosmologist. He discovered alpha decay via quantum tunneling and worked on radioactive decay of the atomic nucleus, star formation, stellar nucleosynthesis, Big Bang nucleosynthesis, cosmic microwave...

 and Lev Landau
Lev Landau
Lev Davidovich Landau was a prominent Soviet physicist who made fundamental contributions to many areas of theoretical physics...

. Teller's life-long friendship with a Czech physicist, George Placzek
George Placzek
Georg Placzek was a Czech physicist.Born in Brno, Moravia, Placzek studied physics in Prague and Vienna. He worked with Hans Bethe, Edward Teller, Rudolf Peierls, Werner Heisenberg, Victor Weisskopf, Enrico Fermi, Niels Bohr, Lev Landau, Edoardo Amaldi, Emilio Segrè, Leon van Hove and many other...

, was very important for Teller's scientific and philosophical development. It was Placzek who arranged a summer stay in Rome with Enrico Fermi
Enrico Fermi
Enrico Fermi was an Italian-born, naturalized American physicist particularly known for his work on the development of the first nuclear reactor, Chicago Pile-1, and for his contributions to the development of quantum theory, nuclear and particle physics, and statistical mechanics...

 for young Teller, thus orienting his scientific career in nuclear physics.

Teller spent two years at the University of Göttingen, and left in 1933 through the aid of the International Rescue Committee
International Rescue Committee
The International Rescue Committee is a leading nonsectarian, nongovernmental international relief and development organization based in the United States, with operations in over 40 countries...

. He went briefly to England, and moved for a year to Copenhagen
Copenhagen
Copenhagen is the capital and largest city of Denmark, with an urban population of 1,199,224 and a metropolitan population of 1,930,260 . With the completion of the transnational Øresund Bridge in 2000, Copenhagen has become the centre of the increasingly integrating Øresund Region...

, where he worked under Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr
Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in...

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

In 1935, thanks to George Gamow's incentive, Teller was invited to the United States to become a Professor
Professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

 of Physics at George Washington University
George Washington University
The George Washington University is a private, coeducational comprehensive university located in Washington, D.C. in the United States...

 (GWU), where he worked with Gamow until 1941. Prior to the discovery of fission
Nuclear fission
In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts , often producing free neutrons and photons , and releasing a tremendous amount of energy...

 in 1939, Teller was engaged as a theoretical physicist, working in the fields of quantum, molecular
Molecular physics
Molecular physics is the study of the physical properties of molecules, the chemical bonds between atoms as well as the molecular dynamics. Its most important experimental techniques are the various types of spectroscopy...

, and nuclear physics
Nuclear physics
Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies the building blocks and interactions of atomic nuclei. The most commonly known applications of nuclear physics are nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons technology, but the research has provided application in many fields, including those...

. In 1941, after becoming a naturalized citizen of the United States, his interest turned to the use of nuclear energy, both fusion
Nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or more atomic nuclei join together, or "fuse", to form a single heavier nucleus. This is usually accompanied by the release or absorption of large quantities of energy...

 and fission.


At GWU, Teller predicted the Jahn–Teller effect (1937), which distorts molecules in certain situations; this affects the chemical reaction
Chemical reaction
A chemical reaction is a process that leads to the transformation of one set of chemical substances to another. Chemical reactions can be either spontaneous, requiring no input of energy, or non-spontaneous, typically following the input of some type of energy, such as heat, light or electricity...

s of metals, and in particular the coloration of certain metallic dyes. Teller and Hermann Arthur Jahn analyzed it as a piece of purely mathematical physics. In collaboration with Brunauer and Emmet, Teller also made an important contribution to surface physics and chemistry
Surface science
Surface science is the study of physical and chemical phenomena that occur at the interface of two phases, including solid–liquid interfaces, solid–gas interfaces, solid–vacuum interfaces, and liquid-gas interfaces. It includes the fields of surface chemistry and surface physics. Some related...

: the so-called Brunauer–Emmett–Teller (BET) isotherm
BET theory
BET theory aims to explain the physical adsorption of gas molecules on a solid surface and serves as the basis for an important analysis technique for the measurement of the specific surface area of a material...

.

When World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 began, Teller wanted to contribute to the war effort. On the advice of the well-known Caltech aerodynamicist and fellow Hungarian émigré
Émigré
Émigré is a French term that literally refers to a person who has "migrated out", but often carries a connotation of politico-social self-exile....

 Theodore von Kármán
Theodore von Karman
Theodore von Kármán was a Hungarian-American mathematician, aerospace engineer and physicist who was active primarily in the fields of aeronautics and astronautics. He is responsible for many key advances in aerodynamics, notably his work on supersonic and hypersonic airflow characterization...

, Teller collaborated with his friend Hans Bethe
Hans Bethe
Hans Albrecht Bethe was a German-American nuclear physicist, and Nobel laureate in physics for his work on the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis. A versatile theoretical physicist, Bethe also made important contributions to quantum electrodynamics, nuclear physics, solid-state physics and...

 in developing a theory of shock-wave propagation. In later years, their explanation of the behavior of the gas behind such a wave proved valuable to scientists who were studying missile
Missile
Though a missile may be any thrown or launched object, it colloquially almost always refers to a self-propelled guided weapon system.-Etymology:The word missile comes from the Latin verb mittere, meaning "to send"...

 re-entry.

Manhattan Project


In 1942, Teller was invited to be part of Robert Oppenheimer
Robert Oppenheimer
Julius Robert Oppenheimer was an American theoretical physicist and professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley. Along with Enrico Fermi, he is often called the "father of the atomic bomb" for his role in the Manhattan Project, the World War II project that developed the first...

's summer planning seminar at the University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

 for the origins of the Manhattan Project
Manhattan Project
The Manhattan Project was a research and development program, led by the United States with participation from the United Kingdom and Canada, that produced the first atomic bomb during World War II. From 1942 to 1946, the project was under the direction of Major General Leslie Groves of the US Army...

, the Allied
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 effort to develop the first nuclear weapon
Nuclear weapon
A nuclear weapon is an explosive device that derives its destructive force from nuclear reactions, either fission or a combination of fission and fusion. Both reactions release vast quantities of energy from relatively small amounts of matter. The first fission bomb test released the same amount...

s. A few weeks earlier, Teller had been meeting with his friend and colleague Enrico Fermi
Enrico Fermi
Enrico Fermi was an Italian-born, naturalized American physicist particularly known for his work on the development of the first nuclear reactor, Chicago Pile-1, and for his contributions to the development of quantum theory, nuclear and particle physics, and statistical mechanics...

 about the prospects of atomic warfare
Nuclear warfare
Nuclear warfare, or atomic warfare, is a military conflict or political strategy in which nuclear weaponry is detonated on an opponent. Compared to conventional warfare, nuclear warfare can be vastly more destructive in range and extent of damage...

, and Fermi had nonchalantly suggested that perhaps a weapon based on nuclear fission
Nuclear fission
In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction in which the nucleus of an atom splits into smaller parts , often producing free neutrons and photons , and releasing a tremendous amount of energy...

 could be used to set off an even larger nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or more atomic nuclei join together, or "fuse", to form a single heavier nucleus. This is usually accompanied by the release or absorption of large quantities of energy...

 reaction. Even though he initially explained to Fermi why he thought the idea would not work, Teller was fascinated by the possibility and was quickly bored with the idea of "just" an atomic bomb (even though this was not yet anywhere near completion). At the Berkeley session, Teller diverted discussion from the fission weapon to the possibility of a fusion weapon—what he called the "Super" (an early version of what was later known as a hydrogen bomb).

On December 6, 1941, the United States had begun development of the atomic bomb, under the supervision of Arthur Compton
Arthur Compton
Arthur Holly Compton was an American physicist and Nobel laureate in physics for his discovery of the Compton effect. He served as Chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis from 1945 to 1953.-Early years:...

, chairman of the University of Chicago
University of Chicago
The University of Chicago is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois, USA. It was founded by the American Baptist Education Society with a donation from oil magnate and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller and incorporated in 1890...

 physics department, who coordinated uranium
Uranium
Uranium is a silvery-white metallic chemical element in the actinide series of the periodic table, with atomic number 92. It is assigned the chemical symbol U. A uranium atom has 92 protons and 92 electrons, of which 6 are valence electrons...

 research with Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

, Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

, University of Chicago, and University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

. Eventually Compton transferred the Columbia and Princeton scientists to the Metallurgical Laboratory
Metallurgical Laboratory
The Metallurgical Laboratory or "Met Lab" at the University of Chicago was part of the World War II–era Manhattan Project, created by the United States to develop an atomic bomb...

 at Chicago, and Enrico Fermi moved in at the end of April 1942 and the construction of Chicago Pile 1 began. Teller was left behind at first, but then called to Chicago two months later. In early 1943, the Los Alamos laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory is a United States Department of Energy national laboratory, managed and operated by Los Alamos National Security , located in Los Alamos, New Mexico...

 was built to design an atomic bomb under the supervision of Oppenheimer in Los Alamos, New Mexico
Los Alamos, New Mexico
Los Alamos is a townsite and census-designated place in Los Alamos County, New Mexico, United States, built upon four mesas of the Pajarito Plateau and the adjoining White Rock Canyon. The population of the CDP was 12,019 at the 2010 Census. The townsite or "the hill" is one part of town while...

. Teller moved there in April 1943.


Teller became part of the Theoretical Physics division at the then-secret Los Alamos laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos National Laboratory is a United States Department of Energy national laboratory, managed and operated by Los Alamos National Security , located in Los Alamos, New Mexico...

 during the war, and continued to push his ideas for a fusion weapon even though it had been put on a low priority during the war (as the creation of a fission weapon was proving to be difficult enough by itself). Because of his interest in the H-bomb, and his frustration at having been passed over for director of the theoretical division (the job was instead given to Hans Bethe
Hans Bethe
Hans Albrecht Bethe was a German-American nuclear physicist, and Nobel laureate in physics for his work on the theory of stellar nucleosynthesis. A versatile theoretical physicist, Bethe also made important contributions to quantum electrodynamics, nuclear physics, solid-state physics and...

), Teller refused to engage in the calculations for the implosion mechanism of the fission bomb. This caused tensions with other researchers, as additional scientists had to be employed to do that work—including Klaus Fuchs
Klaus Fuchs
Klaus Emil Julius Fuchs was a German theoretical physicist and atomic spy who in 1950 was convicted of supplying information from the American, British and Canadian atomic bomb research to the USSR during and shortly after World War II...

, who was later revealed to be a Soviet spy
Espionage
Espionage or spying involves an individual obtaining information that is considered secret or confidential without the permission of the holder of the information. Espionage is inherently clandestine, lest the legitimate holder of the information change plans or take other countermeasures once it...

. Apparently, Teller managed to also irk his neighbors by playing the piano late in the night. However, Teller made valuable contributions to bomb research, especially in the elucidation of the implosion mechanism.

In 1946, Teller participated in a conference in which the properties of thermonuclear fuels such as deuterium
Deuterium
Deuterium, also called heavy hydrogen, is one of two stable isotopes of hydrogen. It has a natural abundance in Earth's oceans of about one atom in of hydrogen . Deuterium accounts for approximately 0.0156% of all naturally occurring hydrogen in Earth's oceans, while the most common isotope ...

 and the possible design of a hydrogen bomb were discussed. It was concluded that Teller's assessment of a hydrogen bomb had been too favourable, and that both the quantity of deuterium needed, as well as the radiation losses during deuterium burning
Deuterium burning
Deuterium burning is a nuclear fusion reaction that occurs in stars and some substellar objects, in which a deuterium nucleus and a proton combine to form a helium-3 nucleus...

, would shed doubt on its workability. Addition of expensive tritium
Tritium
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. The nucleus of tritium contains one proton and two neutrons, whereas the nucleus of protium contains one proton and no neutrons...

 to the thermonuclear mixture would likely lower its ignition temperature, but even so, nobody knew at that time how much tritium would be needed, and whether even tritium addition would encourage heat propagation. At the end of the conference, in spite of opposition by some members such as Robert Serber
Robert Serber
Robert Serber was an American physicist who participated in the Manhattan Project. He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; he was the eldest son of David Serber and Rose Frankel. He married Charlotte Leof in 1933. Rose Serber died in 1922; David married Charlotte's cousin Frances Leof in...

, Teller submitted an unduly optimistic report in which he said that a hydrogen bomb was feasible, and that further work should be encouraged on its development. Fuchs had also participated in this conference, and transmitted this information to Moscow. The model of Teller's "classical Super" was so uncertain that Oppenheimer would later say that he wished the Russians were building their own hydrogen bomb based on that design, so that it would almost certainly retard their progress on it.

In 1946, Teller left Los Alamos to return to the University of Chicago as a professor and close associate of Enrico Fermi and Maria Mayer.
He was now known as the father of the hydrogen bomb.

Hydrogen bomb


Following the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

's first test detonation of an atomic bomb in 1949, President Truman announced a crash development program for a hydrogen bomb. Teller returned to Los Alamos in 1950 to work on the project. He insisted on involving more theorists, since he knew that Klaus Fuchs
Klaus Fuchs
Klaus Emil Julius Fuchs was a German theoretical physicist and atomic spy who in 1950 was convicted of supplying information from the American, British and Canadian atomic bomb research to the USSR during and shortly after World War II...

 could provide the Soviets with valuable ideas; it was Fuchs who invented compression by means of radiation implosion back in 1946. However many of Teller's prominent colleagues, like Bethe and Oppenheimer, were sure that the project of the H-bomb was technically infeasible and politically undesirable. None of the available designs were yet workable. However Soviet scientists who had worked on their own hydrogen bomb have claimed that they developed it independently.

In 1950, calculations by the Polish mathematician Stanisław Ulam and his collaborator Cornelius Everett, along with confirmations by Fermi, had shown that not only was Teller's earlier estimate of the quantity of tritium
Tritium
Tritium is a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. The nucleus of tritium contains one proton and two neutrons, whereas the nucleus of protium contains one proton and no neutrons...

 needed for the H-bomb a low one, but that even with higher amounts of tritium, the energy loss in the fusion process would be too great to enable the fusion reaction to propagate. However, in 1951, in the joint report by Ulam and Teller of March 1951, “Hydrodynamic Lenses and Radiation Mirrors”, an innovative idea emerged, and it was developed into the first workable design for a megaton-range H-bomb. The exact contribution provided respectively from Ulam and Teller to what became known as the Teller–Ulam design is not definitively known in the public domain, and the exact contributions of each and how the final idea was arrived upon has been a point of dispute in both public and classified discussions since the early 1950s.

In an interview with Scientific American
Scientific American
Scientific American is a popular science magazine. It is notable for its long history of presenting science monthly to an educated but not necessarily scientific public, through its careful attention to the clarity of its text as well as the quality of its specially commissioned color graphics...

from 1999, Teller told the reporter:
"I contributed; Ulam did not. I'm sorry I had to answer it in this abrupt way. Ulam was rightly dissatisfied with an old approach. He came to me with a part of an idea which I already had worked out and difficulty getting people to listen to. He was willing to sign a paper. When it then came to defending that paper and really putting work into it, he refused. He said, 'I don't believe in it.'"


The issue is controversial. Bethe considered Teller's contribution to the invention of the H-bomb a true innovation as early as 1952, and referred to his work as a "stroke of genius" in 1954. In both cases, however, Bethe emphasized Teller's role as a way of stressing that the development of the H-bomb could not have been hastened by additional support or funding, and Teller greatly disagreed with Bethe's assessment. Other scientists (antagonistic to Teller, such as J. Carson Mark
J. Carson Mark
J. Carson Mark was a Canadian-born American mathematician known especially for his work on developing nuclear weapons for the United States at Los Alamos National Laboratory.-Biography:...

) have claimed that Teller would have never gotten any closer without the assistance of Ulam and others. Ulam himself claimed that Teller only produced a "more generalized" version of Ulam's original design.

The breakthrough—the details of which are still classified—was apparently the separation of the fission and fusion components of the weapons, and to use the radiation
Radiation
In physics, radiation is a process in which energetic particles or energetic waves travel through a medium or space. There are two distinct types of radiation; ionizing and non-ionizing...

 produced by the fission bomb to first compress the fusion fuel before igniting it. Ulam's idea seems to have been to use mechanical shock from the primary to encourage fusion in the secondary, while Teller quickly realized that radiation from the primary would do the job much earlier and more efficiently. Some members of the laboratory (J. Carson Mark in particular) later expressed that the idea to use the radiation would have eventually occurred to anyone working on the physical processes involved, and that the obvious reason why Teller thought of radiation right away was because he was already working on the "Greenhouse
Operation Greenhouse
Operation Greenhouse was the fifth American nuclear test series, the second conducted in 1951 and the first to test principles that would lead to developing thermonuclear weapons . Conducted at the new Pacific Proving Ground, all of the devices were mounted in large steel towers, to simulate air...

" tests for the spring of 1951, in which the effect of the energy from a fission bomb on a mixture of deuterium and tritium was going to be investigated.

Whatever the actual components of the so-called Teller–Ulam design and the respective contributions of those who worked on it, after it was proposed it was immediately seen by the scientists working on the project as the answer which had been so long sought. Those who previously had doubted whether a fission-fusion bomb would be feasible at all were converted into believing that it was only a matter of time before both the USA and the USSR had developed multi-megaton
TNT equivalent
TNT equivalent is a method of quantifying the energy released in explosions. The ton of TNT is a unit of energy equal to 4.184 gigajoules, which is approximately the amount of energy released in the detonation of one ton of TNT...

 weapons. Even Oppenheimer, who was originally opposed to the project, called the idea "technically sweet."

Though he had helped to come up with the design and had been a long-time proponent of the concept, Teller was not chosen to head the development project (his reputation of a thorny personality likely played a role in this). In 1952 he left Los Alamos and joined the newly established Livermore
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory , just outside Livermore, California, is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center founded by the University of California in 1952...

 branch of the University of California Radiation Laboratory
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory , is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory conducting unclassified scientific research. It is located on the grounds of the University of California, Berkeley, in the Berkeley Hills above the central campus...

, which had been created largely through his urging. After the detonation of "Ivy Mike
Ivy Mike
Ivy Mike was the codename given to the first United States test of a thermonuclear weapon, in which a major part of the explosive yield came from nuclear fusion. It was detonated on November 1, 1952 by the United States at on Enewetak, an atoll in the Pacific Ocean, as part of Operation Ivy...

", the first thermonuclear weapon to utilize the Teller–Ulam configuration, on November 1, 1952, Teller became known in the press as the "father of the hydrogen bomb." Teller himself refrained from attending the test—he claimed not to feel welcome at the Pacific Proving Grounds
Pacific Proving Grounds
The Pacific Proving Grounds was the name used to describe a number of sites in the Marshall Islands and a few other sites in the Pacific Ocean, used by the United States to conduct nuclear testing at various times between 1946 and 1962...

—and instead saw its results on a seismograph in the basement of a hall in Berkeley.

There was an opinion that by analyzing the fallout from this test, the Soviets (led in their H-bomb work by Andrei Sakharov
Andrei Sakharov
Andrei Dmitrievich Sakharov was a Soviet nuclear physicist, dissident and human rights activist. He earned renown as the designer of the Soviet Union's Third Idea, a codename for Soviet development of thermonuclear weapons. Sakharov was an advocate of civil liberties and civil reforms in the...

) could have deciphered the new American design. However, this was later denied by the Soviet bomb researchers. Because of official secrecy, little information about the bomb's development was released by the government, and press reports often attributed the entire weapon's design and development to Teller and his new Livermore Laboratory (when it was actually developed by Los Alamos).

Many of Teller's colleagues were irritated that he seemed to enjoy taking full credit for something he had only a part in, and in response, with encouragement from Enrico Fermi, Teller authored an article titled "The Work of Many People," which appeared in Science magazine in February 1955, emphasizing that he was not alone in the weapon's development. He would later write in his memoirs that he had told a "white lie" in the 1955 article in order to "soothe ruffled feelings", and claimed full credit for the invention.

Teller was known for getting engrossed in projects which were theoretically interesting but practically unfeasible (the classic "Super" was one such project.) About his work on the hydrogen bomb, Bethe said:
"Nobody will blame Teller because the calculations of 1946 were wrong, especially because adequate computing machines were not available at Los Alamos. But he was blamed at Los Alamos for leading the laboratory, and indeed the whole country, into an adventurous programme on the basis of calculations, which he himself must have known to have been very incomplete."


During the Manhattan Project, Teller also advocated the development of a bomb using uranium hydride
Uranium
Uranium is a silvery-white metallic chemical element in the actinide series of the periodic table, with atomic number 92. It is assigned the chemical symbol U. A uranium atom has 92 protons and 92 electrons, of which 6 are valence electrons...

, which many of his fellow theorists said would be unlikely to work. At Livermore, Teller continued work on the hydride
Hydride
In chemistry, a hydride is the anion of hydrogen, H−, or, more commonly, a compound in which one or more hydrogen centres have nucleophilic, reducing, or basic properties. In compounds that are regarded as hydrides, hydrogen is bonded to a more electropositive element or group...

 bomb, and the result was a dud. Ulam once wrote to a colleague about an idea he had shared with Teller: "Edward is full of enthusiasm about these possibilities; this is perhaps an indication they will not work." Fermi once said that Teller was the only monomania
Monomania
In 19th century psychiatry, monomania is a single pathological preoccupation in an otherwise sound mind. Emotional monomania is that in which the patient is obsessed with only one emotion or several related to it; intellectual monomania is that which is related to only one kind of delirious idea...

c he knew who had several mania
Mania
Mania, the presence of which is a criterion for certain psychiatric diagnoses, is a state of abnormally elevated or irritable mood, arousal, and/ or energy levels. In a sense, it is the opposite of depression...

s.

Carey Sublette of Nuclear Weapon Archive argues that Ulam came up with the radiation implosion compression design of thermonuclear weapons, but that on the other hand Teller has gotten little credit for being the first to propose fusion boosting in 1945, which is essential for miniaturization and reliability and is used in all of today's nuclear weapons.

Oppenheimer controversy


Teller became controversial in 1954 when he testified against J. Robert Oppenheimer, a former head of Los Alamos and an advisor to the Atomic Energy Commission
United States Atomic Energy Commission
The United States Atomic Energy Commission was an agency of the United States government established after World War II by Congress to foster and control the peace time development of atomic science and technology. President Harry S...

, at Oppenheimer's security clearance hearing
Oppenheimer security hearing
The Oppenheimer security hearing was a 1954 inquiry by the United States Atomic Energy Commission into the background, actions and associations of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the American scientist who had headed the Manhattan Project that developed the atomic bomb for the United States during World War...

. Teller had clashed with Oppenheimer many times at Los Alamos over issues relating both to fission and fusion research, and during Oppenheimer's trial he was the only member of the scientific community to label Oppenheimer a security risk.

Asked at the hearing by AEC attorney Roger Robb whether he was planning "to suggest that Dr. Oppenheimer is disloyal to the United States," Teller replied that:
I do not want to suggest anything of the kind. I know Oppenheimer as an intellectually most alert and a very complicated person, and I think it would be presumptuous and wrong on my part if I would try in any way to analyze his motives. But I have always assumed, and I now assume that he is loyal to the United States. I believe this, and I shall believe it until I see very conclusive proof to the opposite.


However, he was immediately asked whether he believed that Oppenheimer was a "security risk", to which he testified:
In a great number of cases I have seen Dr. Oppenheimer act—I understood that Dr. Oppenheimer acted—in a way which for me was exceedingly hard to understand. I thoroughly disagreed with him in numerous issues and his actions frankly appeared to me confused and complicated. To this extent I feel that I would like to see the vital interests of this country in hands which I understand better, and therefore trust more. In this very limited sense I would like to express a feeling that I would feel personally more secure if public matters would rest in other hands.


Teller also testified that Oppenheimer's opinion about the thermonuclear program seemed to be based more on the scientific feasibility of the weapon than anything else. He additionally testified that Oppenheimer's direction of Los Alamos was "a very outstanding achievement" both as a scientist and an administrator, lauding his "very quick mind" and that he made "just a most wonderful and excellent director."

After this, however, he detailed ways in which he felt that Oppenheimer had hindered his efforts towards an active thermonuclear development program, and at length criticized Oppenheimer's decisions not to invest more work onto the question at different points in his career, saying:
If it is a question of wisdom and judgment, as demonstrated by actions since 1945, then I would say one would be wiser not to grant clearance.


Oppenheimer's security clearance was revoked after the hearing, because of his many associations with the Communist Party
Communist Party USA
The Communist Party USA is a Marxist political party in the United States, established in 1919. It has a long, complex history that is closely related to the histories of similar communist parties worldwide and the U.S. labor movement....

 and how he lied about some of those associations. Most of Teller's former colleagues disapproved of his testimony and he became ostracized by much of the scientific community. Afterwards, Teller began to run with a more military and governmental crowd, becoming the scientific darling of conservative
Conservatism
Conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism...

 politicians and thinkers for his advocacy of American scientific and technological supremacy. After the fact, Teller consistently denied that he was intending to damn Oppenheimer, and even claimed that he was attempting to exonerate him. Documentary evidence has suggested that this was likely not the case, however. Six days before the testimony, Teller met with an AEC liaison officer and suggested "deepening the charges" in his testimony. It has been suggested that Teller's testimony against Oppenheimer was an attempt to remove Oppenheimer from power so that Teller could become the leader of the American nuclear scientist community.

Teller always insisted that his testimony had not significantly harmed Oppenheimer. In 2002, Teller contended that Oppenheimer was "not destroyed" by the security hearing but "no longer asked to assist in policy matters." He claimed his words were an overreaction, because he had only just learned of Oppenheimer’s failure to immediately report an approach by Haakon Chevalier, who had approached Oppenheimer to help the Russians. Teller said that, in hindsight, he would have responded differently.

US Government work and political advocacy


After the Oppenheimer controversy, Teller became ostracized by much of the scientific community, but was still quite welcome in the government and military science circles. Along with his traditional advocacy for nuclear energy development, a strong nuclear arsenal, and a vigorous nuclear testing program, he had helped to develop nuclear reactor
Nuclear reactor
A nuclear reactor is a device to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction. Most commonly they are used for generating electricity and for the propulsion of ships. Usually heat from nuclear fission is passed to a working fluid , which runs through turbines that power either ship's...

 safety standards as the chair of the Reactor Safeguard Committee of the AEC in the late 1940s, and later headed an effort at General Atomics
General Atomics
General Atomics is a nuclear physics and defense contractor headquartered in San Diego, California. General Atomics’ research into fission and fusion matured into competencies in related technologies, allowing the company to expand into other fields of research...

 which designed research reactors in which a nuclear meltdown
Nuclear meltdown
Nuclear meltdown is an informal term for a severe nuclear reactor accident that results in core damage from overheating. The term is not officially defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency or by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission...

 would be impossible (the TRIGA
TRIGA
TRIGA is a class of small nuclear reactor designed and manufactured by General Atomics. The design team for TRIGA was led by the physicist Freeman Dyson.TRIGA is the acronym of Training, Research, Isotopes, General Atomics.-Design:...

).


Teller promoted increased defense spending to counter the perceived Soviet missile threat. He was a signatory to the 1958 report by the military sub-panel of the Rockefeller Brothers funded Special Studies Project
Special Studies Project
The Special Studies Project was a study funded by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and conceived by its then president, Nelson Rockefeller, to 'define the major problems and opportunities facing the U.S. and clarify national purposes and objectives, and to develop principles which could serve as the...

, which called for a $3 billion annual increase in America's military budget.

He was Director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory , just outside Livermore, California, is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center founded by the University of California in 1952...

 (1958–1960), which he helped to found (along with Ernest O. Lawrence), and after that he continued as an Associate Director. He chaired the committee that founded the Space Sciences Laboratory
Space Sciences Laboratory
The Space Sciences Laboratory is an Organized Research Unit of the University of California, Berkeley. It is located in the Berkeley Hills above the university campus...

 at Berkeley. He also served concurrently as a Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

. He was a tireless advocate of a strong nuclear program and argued for continued testing and development—in fact, he stepped down from the directorship of Livermore so that he could better lobby
Lobbying
Lobbying is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in the government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies. Lobbying is done by various people or groups, from private-sector individuals or corporations, fellow legislators or government officials, or...

 against the proposed test ban
Partial Test Ban Treaty
The treaty banning nuclear weapon tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water, often abbreviated as the Partial Test Ban Treaty , Limited Test Ban Treaty , or Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is a treaty prohibiting all test detonations of nuclear weapons...

. He testified against the test ban both before Congress as well as on television.

Teller established the Department of Applied Science at the University of California, Davis
University of California, Davis
The University of California, Davis is a public teaching and research university established in 1905 and located in Davis, California, USA. Spanning over , the campus is the largest within the University of California system and third largest by enrollment...

 and LLNL
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory , just outside Livermore, California, is a Federally Funded Research and Development Center founded by the University of California in 1952...

 in 1963, which holds the Edward Teller endowed professorship in his honor. In 1975 he retired from both the lab and Berkeley, and was named Director Emeritus of the Livermore Laboratory and appointed Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution
Hoover Institution
The Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace is a public policy think tank and library founded in 1919 by then future U.S. president, Herbert Hoover, an early alumnus of Stanford....

. In 1983, he spoke at The Thomas Jefferson School, a conference of intellectuals discussing Objectivism
Objectivism (Ayn Rand)
Objectivism is a philosophy created by the Russian-American philosopher and novelist Ayn Rand . Objectivism holds that reality exists independent of consciousness, that human beings have direct contact with reality through sense perception, that one can attain objective knowledge from perception...

 organized by economist Professor George Reisman
George Reisman
George Gerald Reisman is Professor Emeritus of Economics at Pepperdine University and author of Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics . He is also the author of an earlier book, The Government Against the Economy , which was praised by F.A...

, where he received a standing ovation. After the fall of communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 in Hungary in 1989, he made several visits to his country of origin, and paid careful attention to the political changes there.

Operation Plowshare and Project Chariot


Teller was one of the strongest and best-known advocates for investigating non-military uses
Peaceful nuclear explosions
Peaceful nuclear explosions are nuclear explosions conducted for non-military purposes, such as activities related to economic development including the creation of canals...

 of nuclear explosives, which the United States explored under Operation Plowshare
Operation Plowshare
Project Plowshare was the overall United States term for the development of techniques to use nuclear explosives for peaceful construction purposes...

. One of the most controversial projects he proposed was a plan to use a multi-megaton hydrogen bomb to dig a deep-water harbor more than a mile long and half a mile wide to use for shipment of resources from coal and oil fields through Point Hope
Point Hope, Alaska
Point Hope is a city in North Slope Borough, Alaska, United States. At the 2000 census the population was 757.-Geography:...

, Alaska. The Atomic Energy Commission
United States Atomic Energy Commission
The United States Atomic Energy Commission was an agency of the United States government established after World War II by Congress to foster and control the peace time development of atomic science and technology. President Harry S...

 accepted Teller's proposal in 1958 and it was designated Project Chariot
Operation Chariot (1958)
Project Chariot was a 1958 US Atomic Energy Commission proposal to construct an artificial harbor at Cape Thompson on the North Slope of the U.S...

. While the AEC was scouting out the Alaskan site, and having withdrawn the land from the public domain, Teller publicly advocated the economic benefits of the plan, but was unable to convince local government leaders that the plan was financially viable.

Other scientists criticized the project as being potentially unsafe for the local wildlife and the Inupiat people living near the designated area, who were not officially told of the plan until March 1960. Additionally, it turned out that the harbor would be ice-bound for nine months out of the year. In the end, due to the financial infeasibility of the project and the concerns over radiation-related health issues, the project was cancelled in 1962.

A related experiment which also had Teller's endorsement was a plan to extract oil from the tar sands
Athabasca Oil Sands
The Athabasca oil sands are large deposits of bitumen, or extremely heavy crude oil, located in northeastern Alberta, Canada - roughly centred on the boomtown of Fort McMurray...

 in northern Alberta
Alberta
Alberta is a province of Canada. It had an estimated population of 3.7 million in 2010 making it the most populous of Canada's three prairie provinces...

 with nuclear explosions. The plan actually received the endorsement of the Alberta government, but was rejected by the Government of Canada
Government of Canada
The Government of Canada, formally Her Majesty's Government, is the system whereby the federation of Canada is administered by a common authority; in Canadian English, the term can mean either the collective set of institutions or specifically the Queen-in-Council...

 under Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Canada
The Prime Minister of Canada is the primary minister of the Crown, chairman of the Cabinet, and thus head of government for Canada, charged with advising the Canadian monarch or viceroy on the exercise of the executive powers vested in them by the constitution...

 John Diefenbaker
John Diefenbaker
John George Diefenbaker, PC, CH, QC was the 13th Prime Minister of Canada, serving from June 21, 1957, to April 22, 1963...

, who was opposed to having any nuclear weapons in Canada, although Canada had nuclear weapons from 1963 to 1984.

Nuclear technology and Israel


For some twenty years, Teller advised Israel on nuclear matters in general, and on the building of a hydrogen bomb in particular. In 1952, Teller and Oppenheimer had a long meeting with David Ben-Gurion
David Ben-Gurion
' was the first Prime Minister of Israel.Ben-Gurion's passion for Zionism, which began early in life, led him to become a major Zionist leader and Executive Head of the World Zionist Organization in 1946...

 in Tel Aviv, telling him that the best way to accumulate plutonium was to burn natural uranium in a nuclear reactor. Starting in 1964, a connection between Teller and Israel was made by the physicist Yuval Neeman, who had similar political views. Between 1964 and 1967, Teller visited Israel six times, lecturing at Tel Aviv University, and advising the chiefs of Israel's scientific-security circle as well as prime ministers and cabinet members. At each of his talks with members of the Israeli security establishment's highest levels he would make them swear that they would never be tempted into signing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty
The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT, is a landmark international treaty whose objective is to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and weapons technology, to promote cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to...

. In 1967 when the Israeli program was nearing completion, Teller informed Neeman that he was going to tell the CIA that Israel had built nuclear weapons and explain that it was justified by the background of the Six-Day War
Six-Day War
The Six-Day War , also known as the June War, 1967 Arab-Israeli War, or Third Arab-Israeli War, was fought between June 5 and 10, 1967, by Israel and the neighboring states of Egypt , Jordan, and Syria...

. After Neeman cleared it with Prime Minister Levi Eshkol
Levi Eshkol
' served as the third Prime Minister of Israel from 1963 until his death from a heart attack in 1969. He was the first Israeli Prime Minister to die in office.-Biography:...

, Teller briefed the head of the CIA's Office of Science and Technology, Carl Duckett. It took a year for Teller to convince the CIA that Israel had obtained nuclear capability; the information then went through CIA Director Richard Helms
Richard Helms
Richard McGarrah Helms was the Director of Central Intelligence from 1966 to 1973. He was the only director to have been convicted of lying to the United States Congress over Central Intelligence Agency undercover activities. In 1977, he was sentenced to the maximum fine and received a suspended...

 and then to the US president. Teller also persuaded them to end the American attempts to inspect the Negev Nuclear Research Center
Negev Nuclear Research Center
The Negev Nuclear Research Center is an Israeli nuclear installation located in the Negev desert, about thirteen kilometers to the south-east of the city of Dimona. The purpose of Dimona is widely assumed to be the manufacturing of nuclear weapons, and the majority of defense experts have...

 in Dimona.

Three Mile Island



Teller suffered a heart attack
Myocardial infarction
Myocardial infarction or acute myocardial infarction , commonly known as a heart attack, results from the interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart, causing heart cells to die...

 in 1979, which he blamed on Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda is an American actress, writer, political activist, former fashion model, and fitness guru. She rose to fame in the 1960s with films such as Barbarella and Cat Ballou. She has won two Academy Awards and received several other movie awards and nominations during more than 50 years as an...

; after the Three Mile Island accident
Three Mile Island accident
The Three Mile Island accident was a core meltdown in Unit 2 of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania near Harrisburg, United States in 1979....

, the actress had outspokenly lobbied against nuclear power
Nuclear reactor
A nuclear reactor is a device to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction. Most commonly they are used for generating electricity and for the propulsion of ships. Usually heat from nuclear fission is passed to a working fluid , which runs through turbines that power either ship's...

 while promoting her latest movie, The China Syndrome
The China Syndrome
The China Syndrome is a 1979 American thriller film that tells the story of a reporter and cameraman who discover safety coverups at a nuclear power plant. It stars Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon, Michael Douglas, Scott Brady, James Hampton, Peter Donat, Richard Herd, and Wilford Brimley.The film was...

(a movie depicting a nuclear accident which had coincidentally been released only a little over a week before the actual incident.) In response, Teller acted quickly to lobby in favor of nuclear energy, testifying to its safety and reliability, and after such a flurry of activity suffered the attack. Teller authored a two-page spread in the Wall Street Journal which appeared on July 31, 1979, under the headline "I was the only victim of Three-Mile Island", which opened with:
The next day, The New York Times
The New York Times
The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

ran an editorial criticizing the ad, noting that it was sponsored by Dresser Industries
Dresser Industries
Dresser Industries was a multinational corporation headquartered in Dallas, Texas, United States, which provided a wide range of technology, products, and services used for developing energy and natural resources...

, the firm which had manufactured one of the defective valves which contributed to the Three Mile Island accident.

Strategic Defense Initiative


In the 1980s, Teller began a strong campaign for what was later called the Strategic Defense Initiative
Strategic Defense Initiative
The Strategic Defense Initiative was proposed by U.S. President Ronald Reagan on March 23, 1983 to use ground and space-based systems to protect the United States from attack by strategic nuclear ballistic missiles. The initiative focused on strategic defense rather than the prior strategic...

 (SDI), derided by critics as "Star Wars," the concept of using ground and satellite-based lasers, particle beams and missiles to destroy incoming Soviet ICBMs. Teller lobbied with government agencies—and got the approval of President Ronald Reagan
Ronald Reagan
Ronald Wilson Reagan was the 40th President of the United States , the 33rd Governor of California and, prior to that, a radio, film and television actor....

—for a plan to develop a system using elaborate satellite
Satellite
In the context of spaceflight, a satellite is an object which has been placed into orbit by human endeavour. Such objects are sometimes called artificial satellites to distinguish them from natural satellites such as the Moon....

s which used atomic weapons to fire X-ray
X-ray
X-radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation. X-rays have a wavelength in the range of 0.01 to 10 nanometers, corresponding to frequencies in the range 30 petahertz to 30 exahertz and energies in the range 120 eV to 120 keV. They are shorter in wavelength than UV rays and longer than gamma...

 lasers at incoming missiles— as part of a broader scientific research program into defenses against nuclear weapons. However, scandal erupted when Teller (and his associate Lowell Wood
Lowell Wood
Lowell Wood is an American astrophysicist who has been involved with the Strategic Defense Initiative and with geoengineering studies. He has been affiliated with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Hoover Institution, and chaired the EMP Commission. Wood invented the Mosquito laser.-...

) were accused of deliberately overselling the program and perhaps had encouraged the dismissal of a laboratory director (Roy Woodruff) who had attempted to correct the error. His claims led to a joke which circulated in the scientific community, that a new unit of unfounded optimism was designated as the teller; one teller was so large that most events had to be measured in nanotellers or picotellers. Many prominent scientists argued that the system was futile. Bethe, along with IBM
IBM
International Business Machines Corporation or IBM is an American multinational technology and consulting corporation headquartered in Armonk, New York, United States. IBM manufactures and sells computer hardware and software, and it offers infrastructure, hosting and consulting services in areas...

 physicist Richard Garwin
Richard Garwin
Richard Lawrence Garwin , is an American physicist. He received his bachelor's degree from the Case Institute of Technology in 1947 and obtained his Doctor of Philosophy from the University of Chicago in 1949, where he worked in the lab of Enrico Fermi.Garwin is IBM Fellow Emeritus at the Thomas J...

 and Cornell University
Cornell University
Cornell University is an Ivy League university located in Ithaca, New York, United States. It is a private land-grant university, receiving annual funding from the State of New York for certain educational missions...

 colleague Kurt Gottfried, wrote an article in Scientific American which analyzed the system and concluded that any putative enemy could disable such a system by the use of suitable decoys. The project's funding was eventually scaled back.

Many scientists opposed strategic defense on moral or political rather than purely technical grounds. They argued that, even if an effective system could be produced, it would undermine the system of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) that had prevented all-out war between the western democracies and the communist bloc. An effective defense, they contended, would make such a war "winnable" and therefore more likely.

Despite (or perhaps because of) his hawkish reputation, Teller made a public point of noting that he regretted the use of the first atomic bombs on civilian cities during World War II. He further claimed that before the bombing of Hiroshima
Hiroshima
is the capital of Hiroshima Prefecture, and the largest city in the Chūgoku region of western Honshu, the largest island of Japan. It became best known as the first city in history to be destroyed by a nuclear weapon when the United States Army Air Forces dropped an atomic bomb on it at 8:15 A.M...

 he had indeed lobbied Oppenheimer to use the weapons first in a "demonstration" which could be witnessed by the Japanese
Japanese people
The are an ethnic group originating in the Japanese archipelago and are the predominant ethnic group of Japan. Worldwide, approximately 130 million people are of Japanese descent; of these, approximately 127 million are residents of Japan. People of Japanese ancestry who live in other countries...

 high-command and citizenry before using them to inflict thousands of deaths. The "father of the hydrogen bomb" would use this quasi-anti-nuclear stance (he would say that he believed nuclear weapons to be unfortunate, but that the arms race
Arms race
The term arms race, in its original usage, describes a competition between two or more parties for the best armed forces. Each party competes to produce larger numbers of weapons, greater armies, or superior military technology in a technological escalation...

 was unavoidable due to the intractable nature of Communism) to promote technologies such as SDI, arguing that they were needed to make sure that nuclear weapons could never be used again (Better a shield than a sword was the title of one of his books on the subject).

However, there is contrary evidence. In the 1970s, a letter of Teller to Leó Szilárd
Leó Szilárd
Leó Szilárd was an Austro-Hungarian physicist and inventor who conceived the nuclear chain reaction in 1933, patented the idea of a nuclear reactor with Enrico Fermi, and in late 1939 wrote the letter for Albert Einstein's signature that resulted in the Manhattan Project that built the atomic bomb...

 emerged, dated July 2, 1945:
"Our only hope is in getting the facts of our results before the people. This might help convince everybody the next war would be fatal. For this purpose, actual combat-use might even be the best thing."


The historian Barton Bernstein
Barton Bernstein
Barton J. Bernstein is Professor of History at Stanford University and Co-Chair of the International Relations Program and the International Policy Studies Program, having received his Ph.D...

 argued that it is an "unconvincing claim" by Teller that he was a "covert dissenter" to the use of the weapon. In his 2001 Memoirs, Teller claims that he did lobby Oppenheimer, but that Oppenheimer had convinced him that he should take no action and that the scientists should leave military questions in the hands of the military; Teller claims he was not aware that Oppenheimer and other scientists were being consulted as to the actual use of the weapon and implies that Oppenheimer was being hypocritical.

Teller's own comments on the role of lasers in SDI, as disclosed in live panel discussions, were published, and are available, in two laser conference proceedings.

Legacy




In his early career, Teller made contributions to nuclear
Nuclear physics
Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies the building blocks and interactions of atomic nuclei. The most commonly known applications of nuclear physics are nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons technology, but the research has provided application in many fields, including those...

 and molecular physics
Molecular physics
Molecular physics is the study of the physical properties of molecules, the chemical bonds between atoms as well as the molecular dynamics. Its most important experimental techniques are the various types of spectroscopy...

, spectroscopy
Spectroscopy
Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy. Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, e.g., by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to comprise any interaction with radiative...

 (the Jahn–Teller and Renner–Teller effects), and surface
Surface
In mathematics, specifically in topology, a surface is a two-dimensional topological manifold. The most familiar examples are those that arise as the boundaries of solid objects in ordinary three-dimensional Euclidean space R3 — for example, the surface of a ball...

 physics. His extension of Fermi's theory of beta decay
Beta decay
In nuclear physics, beta decay is a type of radioactive decay in which a beta particle is emitted from an atom. There are two types of beta decay: beta minus and beta plus. In the case of beta decay that produces an electron emission, it is referred to as beta minus , while in the case of a...

 (in the form of the so-called Gamow–Teller transitions) provided an important stepping stone in the applications of this theory. The Jahn–Teller effect and the BET theory
BET theory
BET theory aims to explain the physical adsorption of gas molecules on a solid surface and serves as the basis for an important analysis technique for the measurement of the specific surface area of a material...

 have retained their original formulation and are still mainstays in physics and chemistry. Teller also made contributions to Thomas–Fermi theory, the precursor of density functional theory
Density functional theory
Density functional theory is a quantum mechanical modelling method used in physics and chemistry to investigate the electronic structure of many-body systems, in particular atoms, molecules, and the condensed phases. With this theory, the properties of a many-electron system can be determined by...

, a standard modern tool in the quantum mechanical treatment of complex molecules. In 1953, along with Nicholas Metropolis
Nicholas Metropolis
Nicholas Constantine Metropolis was a Greek American physicist.-Work:Metropolis received his B.Sc. and Ph.D. degrees in physics at the University of Chicago...

 and Marshall Rosenbluth
Marshall Rosenbluth
Marshall Nicholas Rosenbluth was an American plasma physicist and member of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1997 he was awarded the National Medal of Science for discoveries in controlled thermonuclear fusion, contributions to plasma physics and work in computational statistical mechanics. ...

, Teller co-authored a paper which is a standard starting point for the applications of the Monte Carlo method
Monte Carlo method
Monte Carlo methods are a class of computational algorithms that rely on repeated random sampling to compute their results. Monte Carlo methods are often used in computer simulations of physical and mathematical systems...

 to statistical mechanics
Statistical mechanics
Statistical mechanics or statistical thermodynamicsThe terms statistical mechanics and statistical thermodynamics are used interchangeably...

.

Teller's vigorous advocacy for strength through nuclear weapons, especially when so many of his wartime colleagues later expressed regret about the arms race, made him an easy target for the "mad scientist
Mad scientist
A mad scientist is a stock character of popular fiction, specifically science fiction. The mad scientist may be villainous or antagonistic, benign or neutral, and whether insane, eccentric, or simply bumbling, mad scientists often work with fictional technology in order to forward their schemes, if...

" stereotype. In 1991 he was awarded one of the first Ig Nobel Prize
Ig Nobel Prize
The Ig Nobel Prizes are an American parody of the Nobel Prizes and are given each year in early October for ten unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research. The stated aim of the prizes is to "first make people laugh, and then make them think"...

s for Peace in recognition of his "lifelong efforts to change the meaning of peace as we know it". He was also rumored to be one of the inspirations for the character of Dr. Strangelove in Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick
Stanley Kubrick was an American film director, writer, producer, and photographer who lived in England during most of the last four decades of his career...

's 1964 satirical
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 film of the same name (others speculated to be RAND
RAND
RAND Corporation is a nonprofit global policy think tank first formed to offer research and analysis to the United States armed forces by Douglas Aircraft Company. It is currently financed by the U.S. government and private endowment, corporations including the healthcare industry, universities...

 theorist Herman Kahn
Herman Kahn
Herman Kahn was one of the preeminent futurists of the latter third of the twentieth century. In the early 1970s he predicted the rise of Japan as a major world power. He was a founder of the Hudson Institute think tank and originally came to prominence as a military strategist and systems...

, rocket scientist Wernher von Braun
Wernher von Braun
Wernher Magnus Maximilian, Freiherr von Braun was a German rocket scientist, aerospace engineer, space architect, and one of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology in Nazi Germany during World War II and in the United States after that.A former member of the Nazi party,...

, and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara
Robert McNamara
Robert Strange McNamara was an American business executive and the eighth Secretary of Defense, serving under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 to 1968, during which time he played a large role in escalating the United States involvement in the Vietnam War...

). In the aforementioned Scientific American interview from 1999, he was reported as having bristled at the question: "My name is not Strangelove. I don't know about Strangelove. I'm not interested in Strangelove. What else can I say?... Look. Say it three times more, and I throw you out of this office."
Nobel Prize winning physicist Isidor I. Rabi once suggested that "It would have been a better world without Teller." In addition, Teller's false claims that Stanislaw Ulam made no significant contribution to the development of the hydrogen bomb (despite Ulam's key insights of using compression and staging elements to generate the thermonuclear reaction) and his personal attacks on Oppenheimer caused even greater animosity within the general physics community towards Teller.

In 1986, he was awarded the United States Military Academy's
United States Military Academy
The United States Military Academy at West Point is a four-year coeducational federal service academy located at West Point, New York. The academy sits on scenic high ground overlooking the Hudson River, north of New York City...

 Sylvanus Thayer Award
Sylvanus Thayer Award
The Sylvanus Thayer Award is an award that is given each year by the United States Military Academy at West Point. Sylvanus Thayer was the fifth superintendent of that academy and in honor of his achievements, the award was created...

. He was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

, the American Association for the Advancement of Science
American Association for the Advancement of Science
The American Association for the Advancement of Science is an international non-profit organization with the stated goals of promoting cooperation among scientists, defending scientific freedom, encouraging scientific responsibility, and supporting scientific education and science outreach for the...

, and the American Nuclear Society
American Nuclear Society
The American Nuclear Society is an international, not-for-profit 501 scientific and educational organization with a membership of approximately 11,000 scientists, engineers, educators, students, and other associate members. Approximately 900 members live outside the United States in 40 countries....

. Among the honors he received were the Albert Einstein Award
Albert Einstein Award
The Albert Einstein Award was an award in theoretical physics that was established to recognize high achievement in the natural sciences. It was endowed by the Lewis and Rosa Strauss Memorial Fund in honor of Albert Einstein's 70th birthday...

, the Enrico Fermi Award
Enrico Fermi Award
The Enrico Fermi Award is an award honoring scientists of international stature for their lifetime achievement in the development, use, or production of energy. It is administered by the U.S. government's Department of Energy...

, the Corvin Chain and the National Medal of Science
National Medal of Science
The National Medal of Science is an honor bestowed by the President of the United States to individuals in science and engineering who have made important contributions to the advancement of knowledge in the fields of behavioral and social sciences, biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics and...

. He was also named as part of the group of "U.S. Scientists" who were Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

magazine's People of the Year
Person of the Year
Person of the Year is an annual issue of the United States newsmagazine Time that features and profiles a person, couple, group, idea, place, or machine that "for better or for worse, ...has done the most to influence the events of the year."- History :The tradition of selecting a Man of the Year...

 in 1960, and an asteroid, 5006 Teller
5006 Teller
5006 Teller is a main-belt asteroid discovered on April 5, 1989 by E. F. Helin at Palomar. It is named for Edward Teller , a Hungarian-born American physicist, colloquially known as the "Father of the Atomic Bomb," a title he considered to be in poor taste.- External links :*...

, is named after him. He was awarded with the Presidential Medal of Freedom
Presidential Medal of Freedom
The Presidential Medal of Freedom is an award bestowed by the President of the United States and is—along with thecomparable Congressional Gold Medal bestowed by an act of U.S. Congress—the highest civilian award in the United States...

 by President George W. Bush
George W. Bush
George Walker Bush is an American politician who served as the 43rd President of the United States, from 2001 to 2009. Before that, he was the 46th Governor of Texas, having served from 1995 to 2000....

 less than two months before his death. He is a signatory of the Oregon Petition
Oregon Petition
The Global Warming Petition Project, usually referred to as the Oregon Petition, is a petition opposing the Kyoto Protocol and similar efforts to mitigate climate change. It was organized by the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine , a non-profit organisation run by Arthur B. Robinson, between...

.

Teller died in Stanford
Stanford, California
Stanford is a census-designated place in Santa Clara County, California, United States and is the home of Stanford University. The population was 13,809 at the 2010 census....

, California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 on September 9, 2003, at the age of 95.

Further reading


Written by Teller
  • Our Nuclear Future; Facts, Dangers, and Opportunities (1958)
  • Basic Concepts of Physics (1960)
  • The Legacy of Hiroshima (1962)
  • Energy from Heaven and Earth (1979)
  • The Pursuit of Simplicity (1980)
  • Better a Shield Than a Sword: Perspectives on Defense and Technology (1987)
  • Conversations on the Dark Secrets of Physics (1991)
  • Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics (2001)

Books about Teller
  • William J. Broad, Teller’s war: the top-secret story behind the Star Wars deception (Simon & Schuster, 1992).
  • Gregg Herken, Brotherhood of the bomb: the tangled lives and loyalties of Robert Oppenheimer, Ernest Lawrence (Henry Holt, 2002).
  • Peter Goodchild, Edward Teller: the real Dr. Strangelove (Harvard University Press, 2005).
  • Stanley A. Blumberg and Louis G. Panos. Edward Teller : giant of the golden age of physics; a biography (Scribner's, 1990)
  • Istvan Hargittai, Judging Edward Teller: a closer look at one of the most influential scientists of the twentieth century (Prometheus, 2010).

References to Teller in Other Writings
  • Carl Sagan
    Carl Sagan
    Carl Edward Sagan was an American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science popularizer and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences. He published more than 600 scientific papers and articles and was author, co-author or editor of more than 20 books...

     writes at length about Teller's career in chapter 16 of his book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
    The Demon-Haunted World
    The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark is a book by astrophysicist Carl Sagan, which was first published in 1995.The book is intended to explain the scientific method to laypeople, and to encourage people to learn critical or skeptical thinking...

    (Headline, 1996), p.268-274.

External links