Hoover fellow Edward Teller has been awarded the nation's highest civil honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. President George W. Bush presented the award to Teller and ten other distinguished Americans, including Hoover overseer James Q. Wilson, in a ceremony at the White House on July 23.

Teller joins a distinguished group of Hoover fellows who have been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, including Milton Friedman, William J. Perry, Ronald Reagan, and George P. Shultz.

Teller left his native Hungary to escape the rise of Nazi Germany. After arriving in America, he established himself as a premier physicist. His work on national defense projects, such as the Manhattan Project and the Strategic Defense Initiative, helped protect our nation and bring about the end of the cold war.

Teller, a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, specializes in international and national policies concerning defense and energy. He is most widely known for his significant contributions to the first demonstration of thermonuclear energy. In addition, he has added to the knowledge of quantum theory, molecular physics, and astrophysics. He served as a member of the General Advisory Committee of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission from 1956 to 1958 and was chairman of the first Nuclear Reaction Safeguard Committee.

Teller has been concerned with civil defense since the early 1950s. He was a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the U.S. Air Force, a member of the Advisory Board of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and on the White House Science Council


Born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1908, Teller received his university training in Germany and completed his Ph.D. in physics under Werner Heisenberg in 1930 at the University of Leipzig. In 1934, under the auspices of the Jewish Rescue Committee, Teller served as a lecturer at the University of London. He spent two years as a research associate at the University of Goettingen, followed by a year as a Rockefeller Fellow with Niels Bohr in Copenhagen. In 1935, Teller and his wife came to the United States, where he held, until 1941, a professorship at George Washington University. The Tellers became U.S. citizens in 1941.

In 1942, having served as a consultant to the Briggs committee studying uranium chain reactions, Teller joined the Manhattan Project. His efforts during the war years included work on the first nuclear reactor, theoretical calculations of the far-reaching effects of a fission explosion, and research on a potential fusion reaction. In 1946, he became a professor of physics at the University of Chicago but returned to the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in 1949.

Teller joined the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory in 1952 and was its director from 1958 to 1960, at which time he accepted a joint appointment as a professor of physics at the University of California and as associate director of the laboratory. He held these posts until his retirement in 1975. He continues as a consultant at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Teller has received numerous honors, among them the Albert Einstein Award, the Enrico Fermi Award, the Harvey Prize from the Technion-Israel Institute, and the National Medal of Science.

He is a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Nuclear Society and is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Science.

His books include Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics (written with Judith Shoolery, 2001), Conversations on the Dark Secrets of Physics (1991), Better a Shield Than a Sword (1987), Pursuit of Simplicity (1980), and Energy from Heaven and Earth (1979).

James Q. Wilson, the Ronald Reagan Professor of Public Policy at Pepperdine University, is a member of the Hoover Institution Board of Overseers. Wilson has written influential works on the nature of human morality, government, and criminal justice issues. A noted social commentator, Wilson has taught at Harvard University and the University of California, Los Angeles. His books include Varieties of Police Behavior, The Moral Sense, and The Marriage Problem: How Our Culture Has Weakened Families.

Also honored were Jacques Barzun, a former Columbia University professor and dean and author and scholar of modern European thought and culture; Julia Child, master chef, television pioneer, and author; Roberto Clemente Walker, Hall of Fame baseball player; Van Cliburn, concert pianist; Václav Havel, playwright, political activist, and former president of the Czech Republic; Charlton Heston, Academy Award-winning actor; R. David Thomas, restauranteur and philanthropist; Byron Raymond White, who served for 31 years as a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States; and John R. Wooden, a record-setting basketball coach for the University of California, Los Angeles.

The Hoover Institution, founded at Stanford University in 1919 by Herbert Hoover, who went on to become the 31st president of the United States, is an interdisciplinary research center for advanced study on domestic public policy and international affairs, with an internationally renowned archives.

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