Edward Teller

Edward Teller

Biography: 

Edward Teller, a senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution since 1975, where he specialized in international and national policies concerning defense and energy, died Tuesday, September 9, 2003. He was 95.

Teller was most widely known for his significant contributions to the first demonstration of thermonuclear energy; in addition he 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.

He had 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.

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

He was a fellow of the American Physical Society and the American Nuclear Society and was 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 (Plenum Press, 1991), Better a Shield Than a Sword (Free Press, 1987), Pursuit of Simplicity (Pepperdine Press, 1980), and Energy from Heaven and Earth (W. H. Freeman, 1979).

He was director of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory 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 continued as a consultant at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

From 1954 to 1958, he served as Associate Director at the new Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. He became a consultant to the laboratory in 1952.

In 1946, he became a professor of physics at the University of Chicago but returned to Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in 1949.

In 1942, having served as a consultant to the Briggs committee, 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 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 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.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1908, he received his university training in Germany and completed his Ph.D. in physics under Werner Heisenberg in 1930 at the University of Leipzig.

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Recent Commentary

The Ultimate Defense

by Edward Tellervia Hoover Digest
Wednesday, January 30, 2002

In this excerpt from his recently published memoirs, Hoover fellow Edward Teller recounts his 40-year campaign for a strategic defense system that would, in the words of Ronald Reagan, make nuclear weapons "impotent and obsolete."

Stealing Secrets, Then and Now

by Edward Tellervia Hoover Digest
Saturday, October 30, 1999

In the wake of reports of Chinese nuclear espionage, Hoover fellow Edward Teller draws on his own experience to argue that there is one sure way to protect American technology from foreign spies: develop new technology.

Teller Reflects

by Edward Teller, Lee Munsonvia Hoover Digest
Friday, April 30, 1999

One of the century’s intellectual giants reflects on America’s past—and future. An interview with Hoover fellow Edward Teller by Lee Munson.

Fateful Decision

by Edward Tellervia Hoover Digest
Friday, October 30, 1998

Fifty years ago nuclear scientists from Robert Oppenheimer to Enrico Fermi advised President Truman against developing the hydrogen bomb. Only one nuclear scientist disagreed, instead advising the president to go ahead. Hoover fellow Edward Teller looks back on his decision to break ranks.

Sunscreen for Planet Earth

by Edward Tellervia Hoover Digest
Friday, January 30, 1998

Global warming is too serious to be left to the politicians. Hoover fellow Edward Teller suggests a scientific solution to the problem. (If there is a problem, that is.)

Back to the Future

by Edward Teller, Edward Neilan, Peter M. Robinsonvia Hoover Digest
Thursday, January 30, 1997

Hoover fellow Edward Teller became a central figure in President Reagan's effort to develop a defense against ballistic missiles-the Strategic Defense Initiative, or, as it was quickly nicknamed, Star Wars. Recently, some in Congress have once again begun to urge the deployment of a space-based missile defense. Teller is right back in the middle of the controversy.

We present a brief appreciation of Teller by Hoover media fellow Edward Neilan. Then we present an interview with Teller himself, who talks with Hoover fellow Peter Robinson.