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Edward Teller was born in Budapest, Austria-Hungary, in 1908. He graduated in chemical engineering at Karlsruhe, before studying theoretical physics at Munich and Copenhagen under Nils Bohr.
Teller continued his research in Germany but when Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 he decided to move to England. Two years later he emigrated to America and taught at George Washington University before moving to the University of Chicago.
In 1943 Teller joined Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi, David Bohm, James Franck, James Chadwick, Otto Frisch, Emilio Segre, Eugene Wigner, Felix Bloch, Leo Szilard and Klaus Fuchs on the Manhattan Project. Over the next few years Teller developed the atom bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He also worked on developing the H-bomb (1946-53).
In 1953 Teller was appointed as professor at the University of California. The following year Teller was a key witness against his colleague, Robert Oppenheimer, who was considered a security risk because he objected to the development of the hydrogen bomb. Unlike Oppenheimer, Teller disagreed with the idea that a scientist should consider the moral implications of research.
The author of Our Nuclear Future (1958), Teller opposed the 1963 test-ban treaty. It was Teller who convinced President Ronald Reagan of the feasibility of the Star Wars Project for militarizing space with fission-bomb-powered X-ray lasers.
If we had made a demonstration and that had failed, then I think dropping the bomb would have been justified in order to end the war. To drop it without warning was wrong. It was wrong on moral grounds - it killed; it was wrong, although I could not see that at the time, on practical grounds because the dropping of the bomb has distorted our views, has changed our whole outlook. We are not now looking on the accomplishment of atomic explosions as progress which can, and should, be used in the right way. We had started at that time to look at it as something horrible, something that should not be continued.
On its 100th birthday in 1959, Edward Teller warned the oil industry about global warming
It was a typical November day in New York City. The year: 1959. Robert Dunlop, 50 years old and photographed later as clean-shaven, hair carefully parted, his earnest face donning horn-rimmed glasses, passed under the Ionian columns of Columbia University’s iconic Low Library. He was a guest of honor for a grand occasion: the centennial of the American oil industry.
Over 300 government officials, economists, historians, scientists, and industry executives were present for the Energy and Man symposium – organized by the American Petroleum Institute and the Columbia Graduate School of Business – and Dunlop was to address the entire congregation on the “prime mover” of the last century – energy – and its major source: oil. As President of the Sun Oil Company, he knew the business well, and as al director of the American Petroleum Institute – the industry’s largest and oldest trade association in the land of Uncle Sam – he was responsible for representing the interests of all those many oilmen gathered around him.
Four others joined Dunlop at the podium that day, one of whom had made the journey from California – and Hungary before that. The nuclear weapons physicist Edward Teller had, by 1959, become ostracized by the scientific community for betraying his colleague J. Robert Oppenheimer, but he retained the embrace of industry and government. Teller’s task that November fourth was to address the crowd on “energy patterns of the future,” and his words carried an unexpected warning:
Ladies and gentlemen, I am to talk to you about energy in the future. I will start by telling you why I believe that the energy resources of the past must be supplemented. First of all, these energy resources will run short as we use more and more of the fossil fuels. [. ] But I would [. ] like to mention another reason why we probably have to look for additional fuel supplies. And this, strangely, is the question of contaminating the atmosphere. [. ] Whenever you burn conventional fuel, you create carbon dioxide. [. ] The carbon dioxide is invisible, it is transparent, you can’t smell it, it is not dangerous to health, so why should one worry about it?
Carbon dioxide has a strange property. It transmits visible light but it absorbs the infrared radiation which is emitted from the earth. Its presence in the atmosphere causes a greenhouse effect [. ] It has been calculated that a temperature rise corresponding to a 10 per cent increase in carbon dioxide will be sufficient to melt the icecap and submerge New York. All the coastal cities would be covered, and since a considerable percentage of the human race lives in coastal regions, I think that this chemical contamination is more serious than most people tend to believe.
How, precisely, Mr. Dunlop and the rest of the audience reacted is unknown, but it’s hard to imagine this being welcome news. After his talk, Teller was asked to “summarize briefly the danger from increased carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere in this century.” The physicist, as if considering a numerical estimation problem, responded:
At present the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has risen by 2 per cent over normal. By 1970, it will be perhaps 4 per cent, by 1980, 8 per cent, by 1990, 16 per cent [about 360 parts per million, by Teller’s accounting], if we keep on with our exponential rise in the use of purely conventional fuels. By that time, there will be a serious additional impediment for the radiation leaving the earth. Our planet will get a little warmer. It is hard to say whether it will be 2 degrees Fahrenheit or only one or 5.
But when the temperature does rise by a few degrees over the whole globe, there is a possibility that the icecaps will start melting and the level of the oceans will begin to rise. Well, I don’t know whether they will cover the Empire State Building or not, but anyone can calculate it by looking at the map and noting that the icecaps over Greenland and over Antarctica are perhaps five thousand feet thick.
And so, at its hundredth birthday party, American oil was warned of its civilization-destroying potential.
How did the petroleum industry respond? Eight years later, on a cold, clear day in March, Robert Dunlop walked the halls of the U.S. Congress. The 1967 oil embargo was weeks away, and the Senate was investigating the potential of electric vehicles. Dunlop, testifying now as the Chairman of the Board of the American Petroleum Institute, posed the question, “tomorrow’s car: electric or gasoline powered?” His preferred answer was the latter:
We in the petroleum industry are convinced that by the time a practical electric car can be mass-produced and marketed, it will not enjoy any meaningful advantage from an air pollution standpoint. Emissions from internal-combustion engines will have long since been controlled.
Dunlop went on to describe progress in controlling carbon monoxide, nitrous oxide, and hydrocarbon emissions from automobiles. Absent from his list? The pollutant he had been warned of years before: carbon dioxide.
We might surmise that the odorless gas simply passed under Robert Dunlop’s nose unnoticed. But less than a year later, the American Petroleum Institute quietly received a report on air pollution it had commissioned from the Stanford Research Institute, and its warning on carbon dioxide was direct:
Significant temperature changes are almost certain to occur by the year 2000, and these could bring about climatic changes. [. ] there seems to be no doubt that the potential damage to our environment could be severe. [. ] pollutants which we generally ignore because they have little local effect, CO2 and submicron particles, may be the cause of serious world-wide environmental changes.
Thus, by 1968, American oil held in its hands yet another notice of its products’ world-altering side effects, one affirming that global warming was not just cause for research and concern, but a reality needing corrective action: “Past and present studies of CO2 are detailed,” the Stanford Research Institute advised. “What is lacking, however, is [. ] work toward systems in which CO2 emissions would be brought under control.”
This early history illuminates the American petroleum industry’s long-running awareness of the planetary warming caused by its products. Teller’s warning, revealed in documentation I found while searching archives, is another brick in a growing wall of evidence.
In the closing days of those optimistic 1950s, Robert Dunlop may have been one of the first oilmen to be warned of the tragedy now looming before us. By the time he departed this world in 1995, the American Petroleum Institute he once led was denying the climate science it had been informed of decades before, attacking the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and fighting climate policies wherever they arose.
This is a history of choices made, paths not taken, and the fall from grace of one of the greatest enterprises – oil, the “prime mover” – ever to tread the earth. Whether it’s also a history of redemption, however partial, remains to be seen.
American oil’s awareness of global warming – and its conspiracy of silence, deceit, and obstruction – goes further than any one company. It extends beyond (though includes) ExxonMobil. The industry is implicated to its core by the history of its largest representative, the American Petroleum Institute.
It is now too late to stop a great deal of change to our planet’s climate and its global payload of disease, destruction, and death. But we can fight to halt climate change as quickly as possible, and we can uncover the history of how we got here. There are lessons to be learned, and there is justice to be served.
Benjamin Franta (@BenFranta) is a PhD student in history of science at Stanford University who studies the history of climate change science and politics. He has a PhD in applied physics from Harvard University and is a former research fellow at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
January 15, 1908 Birth, Budapest (Hungary).
1929 – 1931 Research Associate, University of Leipzig.
1930 Received Ph.D. in physics, University of Leipzig, Leipzig (Germany).
1931 – 1933 Research Associate, University of Göttingen.
1933 – 1934 Rockefeller Fellow, Institute for Theoretical Physics, Copenhagen.
1934 Lecturer, London City College.
1935 – 1941 Professor of Physics, George Washington University, Washington (D.C.).
1941 – 1942 Researcher, Columbia University.
1942 – 1946 Researcher, Chicago Metallurgical Laboratory (1942-1943) Leader of Hydrodynamics of Implosion and Super Theory Group (1943-1944) and Leader of General and Super Theory Group (1944-1946), Los Alamos Laboratory, Manhattan Project.
1946 – 1952 Professor of Physics, University of Chicago, Chicago (Ill.).
1948 Member, National Academy of Sciences.
1949 – 1952 Assistant Director, Los Alamos National Laboratory.
1952 – 1960 Consultant (1952-1953) Associate Director (1954-1958) and Director (1958-1960), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore (Calif.).
1953 – 2003 Professor of Physics (1953-1975) and Emeritus Professor of Physics (1975-2003), University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley (Calif.).
1956 – 1958 Member, General Advisory Committee, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.
1960 – 2003 Professor (1960-1975) and Senior Research Fellow (1975-2003), Hoover Institution on War Revolution and Peace, Stanford University, Stanford (Calif.).
1962 Received Enrico Fermi Award, U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.
1982 Received National Medal of Science.
1994 Received Middle Cross with the Star of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary.
Edward Teller - History
Who Built the H-Bomb? Debate Revives
By William J. Broad
After suffering a heart attack, Edward Teller took a breath, sat down with a friend and a tape recorder and offered his views on the secret history of the hydrogen bomb.
"So that first design," Dr. Teller said, "was made by Dick Garwin." He repeated the credit, ensuring there would be no misunderstanding.
Dr. Teller, now 93, was not ceding the laurels for devising the bomb - a glory he claims for himself. But he was rewriting how the rough idea became the world's most feared weapon. His tribute, made more than two decades ago but just now coming to light, adds a surprising twist to a dispute that has roiled historians and scientists for decades: who should get credit for designing the H-bomb?
The oral testament was meant to disparage Dr. Stanislaw M. Ulam, Dr. Teller's rival, now dead, and boost Dr. Richard L. Garwin, a young scientist at the time of the invention who later clashed with Dr. Teller and now says he would wipe the bomb from the earth if he could.
The New York Times obtained a transcript of the recording recently from the friend with whom Dr. Teller shared his memories. Some historians of science praise Dr. Teller's tribute to Dr. Garwin as candid others fault it as disingenuous.
In any event, the recognition of Dr. Garwin is surprising because he is not usually seen as having a major role in designing the hydrogen bomb. In fact, he eventually became an outspoken advocate of arms control, battling often with Dr. Teller. The tribute also poses the riddle of how Dr. Garwin's work, done in the early 1950's, could have gone unacknowledged for so long.
"It's fascinating," said Dr. Ray E. Kidder, an H-bomb pioneer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, which Dr. Teller helped found and once directed. "There's always been this controversy over who had the idea of the H-bomb and who did what. This spells it out. It's extremely credible, and I dare say accurate."
Dr. Priscilla McMillan, a historian at Harvard who is working on a book about the early H-bomb disputes, agreed, saying the tribute sounded right. She added that Dr. Teller might have done it to "square things with God" after his 1979 heart attack.
One of the most controversial figures of the nuclear era, Dr. Teller played central roles in inventing the atomic and hydrogen bombs, and in destroying the career of Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer, who in World War II had run the laboratory in the mountains of New Mexico that gave birth to the atomic bomb. Afterward, though, he questioned the morality of devising an even more powerful weapon, and amid the anti-Communist paranoia of the McCarthy era, the government stripped him of his security clearance. The schism among scientists over his fate lasts to this day.
In the process, Dr. Teller became a hero to conservatives but was disparaged by liberals as the role model for Dr. Strangelove, the fictional mad scientist of Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film who was fixated on mass destruction.
Dr. Garwin, during the design effort a half-century ago, was a 23- year-old faculty member at the University of Chicago who was working during the summer break of 1951 at the New Mexican weapons laboratory, known as Los Alamos. Over the decades, he rose to prominence, often advising the government on secret matters of intelligence and weapons.
In an interview, Dr. Garwin said Dr. Teller was correct to include him among the bomb's designers, likening himself to its midwife. "It was the kind of thing I do well," he said of joining theory, experiment and engineering to make complex new devices.
But he added, "If I could wave a wand" to make the hydrogen bomb and the nuclear age go away, "I would do that."
Now 73, Dr. Garwin is an experimental physicist who for decades has worked at the International Business Machines Corporation and is now a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations in Manhattan. He backs such arms control measures as the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to outlaw all nuclear explosions.
A theoretical physicist, Dr. Teller is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford and director emeritus of the Livermore weapons laboratory. He was an ardent advocate of the Reagan administration's Star Wars antimissile plan and, more recently, has promoted the idea of manipulating the earth's atmosphere to counteract global warming.
If Dr. Teller's version of events is right, he and Dr. Garwin were the main forces behind one of the most ominous inventions of all time, a bomb that harnessed the fusion power of the sun.
Dr. Teller had championed the goal since the early 1940's, long before the atomic bomb flashed to life. His basic idea was to use the high heat of an exploding atomic bomb to ignite hydrogen fuel, fusing its atoms together and releasing even larger bursts of nuclear energy. But no one working at Los Alamos could figure out how to do that.
The credit dispute has its roots in a conversation Dr. Teller had in early 1951 with Dr. Ulam, then a mathematician at Los Alamos. Afterward, a new plan emerged.
The idea, known as radiation implosion, was to build a large cylindrical casing that would hold the atomic bomb and hydrogen fuel at opposite ends. The flash of the exploding bomb would hit the case, causing it to glow and flood the interior of the casing with radiation of pressure sufficient to compress and ignite the hydrogen fuel.
No one knew whether the idea would work. And studies of it were slowed by ill will between Dr. Teller and Dr. Ulam, as well as debates at the weapons laboratory over whether building a hydrogen bomb was ethical and smart, given its potentially unlimited power.
Dr. Garwin arrived at Los Alamos in May 1951 from the University of Chicago, where he had been a star in the laboratory of Enrico Fermi, the Nobel laureate and arguably the day's top physicist. Dr. Garwin had been at Los Alamos the previous summer and, intrigued by the work, had come back for another atomic sabbatical.
In the interview, Dr. Garwin recalled that Dr. Teller had told him of the new idea and asked him to design an experiment to prove that it would work - something the Los Alamos regulars failed to do. "They were burnt out" from too many rush efforts to build and test prototype nuclear arms, Dr. Garwin recalled. "So I did it."
By July 1951, after talking at the weapons laboratory with physicists and engineers, he had sketched a preliminary design. Of its features, Dr. Garwin said, "There is still very little I'm allowed to say."
He continued working on the design until he went back to Chicago that fall. Then, as momentum built at Los Alamos for the H-bomb, many experts joined the design effort, which was finished in early 1952.
The prototype bomb stood two stories high. In November 1952, it vaporized the Pacific island of Elugelab, a mile in diameter. Its power was equal to 10.4 million tons of high explosive, or about 700 times the power of atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Unlike its atomic predecessors, the hydrogen bomb theoretically had no destructive limits. Its fuel was cheap, and its force could be made as large as desired. Scientists talked of doomsday weapons big enough to blow the earth's atmosphere into space, or to raise ocean waves that crushed whole nations.
Many books and articles were written about the dark feat. Most mentioned Dr. Teller and Dr. Ulam and their rivalry. Few if any mentioned Dr. Garwin's role. All details of the invention were shrouded in secrecy to try to keep Washington's foes in the dark.
The backdrop to Dr. Teller's testament is the reactor accident in Pennsylvania at Three Mile Island in March 1979. As the nation panicked, Dr. Teller, an ardent backer of nuclear power, went on a public relations blitz to insist that the crisis was one of politics, not technology. In May 1979, he stressed the point to Congress.
The next day, Dr. Teller, then 71, suffered a heart attack.
"He called me from the intensive care unit," recalled Dr. George A. Keyworth II, a friend of Dr. Teller's at Los Alamos who later served as President Ronald Reagan's science adviser. He said the elder physicist began the call with two assertions: "Heart attacks are painful, and I have discovered that I am not immortal."
Dr. Keyworth recalled: "He was frightened, like a child."
Upon release from the California hospital, Dr. Teller came to Los Alamos to recuperate. He sat down with Dr. Keyworth in September 1979 to detail his H-bomb views. A copy of the transcript, which Dr. Keyworth recently gave The New York Times, ran to 20 pages.
It was a long rebuttal of the idea that Dr. Ulam played any role in developing the hydrogen bomb. Instead, Dr. Teller asserted, he alone made the key theoretical breakthrough after a decade of work. Then, he said, he told Dr. Fermi's star pupil about it, "and I asked him to put down a concrete design" and make it "so hard that there should be the least possible doubt about it."
"So that first design was made by Dick Garwin," Dr. Teller said. "It was then criticized forward and backward. In the end, it stood up to all criticism."
Dr. Teller said the scientists who worked out the details of the design were Dr. Marshall Rosenbluth and Dr. Conrad Longmire. After Dr. Garwin went back to the University of Chicago in the fall of 1951 and Dr. Teller returned to Los Alamos in December 1951 to check on progress, "I found that the calculations came out just as I had expected" and that "the design remained unchanged."
"And therefore, as far as I'm concerned, the preparation for the hydrogen bomb was completed by Dick Garwin's design."
In an interview, Dr. Keyworth judged that Dr. Teller's memory at that time "was as good as it gets," and he said Dr. Teller put no restrictions on how to treat the testament. "He simply had a near-death experience," Dr. Keyworth said, "and was thinking of his place in history."
Two years later, at a meeting in Italy of a dozen scientists including Dr. Garwin, Dr. Teller alluded to the younger man's role in public. "The shot," he said, "was fired almost precisely according to Garwin's design."
After that, Dr. Teller and Dr. Garwin clashed for years over Star Wars, which Dr. Teller helped create and Dr. Garwin criticized as a dangerous fantasy.
Silence ruled afterward. Dr. Teller, in his 1987 book, "Better a Shield Than a Sword," did not mention Dr. Garwin's design in a long account of the H-bomb's development. Nor did Dr. Teller's biographers, Stanley A. Blumberg and Louis G. Panos, authors of "Edward Teller: Giant of the Golden Age of Physics" in 1990, though they had a transcript of the testament.
In an interview yesterday, Dr. Teller stood by his 1979 portrayal. "He filled in the details very effectively," he said of Dr. Garwin. "He made the design and that was it." And Dr. Teller denied slighting Dr. Garwin in earlier accounts of the breakthrough. "He was a good man who did it in record time."
That judgment was lost to history, however. In 1995, Richard Rhodes, in his book "Dark Sun: The Making of the Hydrogen Bomb" found that Dr. Teller actually delayed the bomb's development and made no mention of Dr. Garwin's role.
In an interview, Mr. Rhodes said that in praising the 23-year-old outsider, Dr. Teller was "essentially saying the guys at Los Alamos couldn't cut the mustard." And that assertion, he said, was false.
But Dr. McMillan of Harvard disagreed, saying that while Dr. Teller could be combative and vindictive, he was also generous and fair. The testament, she said, should probably be taken at face value.
Few players in this drama survive, making it difficult to clear things up.
Dr. Jacob Wechsler, who was a young man on the hydrogen bomb team, said the Los Alamos regulars, not Dr. Garwin, were the real stars. "We had to hit this with a sledge hammer," he said.
Dr. Rosenbluth, a main H-bomb designer at Los Alamos, said his own role was underplayed in the testament but that nevertheless he substantially agreed with Dr. Teller. "Dick understood physics," Dr. Rosenbluth said, "and certainly produced the embodiment thatwas actually constructible."
He added that Dr. Garwin was virtually unique at Los Alamos in his ability to bridge gaps between experts in different fields.
"I was a pure theorist, and there were a lot of experimental engineering types, but there weren't many people able to serve as a link between the two," Dr. Rosenbluth said. Dr. Garwin was probably the project's intellectual glue, tying many ideas into the successful device, he said.
"He's an extremely brilliant person and has this rare combination of talents," Dr. Rosenbluth said. "Fermi had them. But in the generation after Fermi, Dick may be the best exemplar."
Over the decades, Dr. Garwin said, he spoke publicly of his role in the hydrogen bomb on more than one occasion.
But he added that he was advised early in his career, "You can get credit for something or get it done, but not both."
The Strange Saga of Edward Teller and Area 51
Taking into consideration the fact that the saga of Bob Lazar is coming up to its 30th anniversary, I thought I would turn my thoughts into a 3-part feature (here’s part-1 and here’s part-2). The third and final part revolves around none other than an encounter that Lazar had in the early eighties with a world-famous scientist. It was in 1982 that the Los Alamos Monitor newspaper ran an article on Lazar, which revealed (a) Lazar’s love of jet-cars and (b) his then-employment at the Los Alamos Meson Physics Facility. Today, it’s the Los Alamos Neutron Science Center.
Just a couple of months after the Los Alamos Monitor ran its feature on Lazar, the man of the hour had a brief encounter with one of the most legendary figures in the world of physics, and someone who became known as “the father of the hydrogen bomb.” That man was Edward Teller. When Teller died in 2003 at the age of ninety-five, the U.K.’s Telegraph newspaper noted the following: “A man of enormous intellect, and one of the most controversial scientific figures of the 20th century, Teller made important contributions to the field of quantum mechanics and physical chemistry as well as nuclear physics but it was as an ardent ‘Cold War Warrior’ that he entered the popular mind.”
On the day on which the two men met, Lazar sat in on a lecture that Teller gave at Los Alamos. It was not so much Teller’s lecture that amazed Lazar. Rather, it was the fact that when Lazar was hanging around at the entrance to the facility, there was Teller, sitting on a wall and reading the very article that the Los Alamos Monitor had written on Lazar – which just happened to be a front-page article. Lazar instantly recognized what it was that Teller was so fixated on. So, Lazar decided to make the plunge: he walked over to Teller and told him who he was – namely, the person profiled in the article because of his jet-car achievements. Teller found it all very interesting. The two talked for a while about their respective work, after which Teller headed off inside to deliver his presentation. Six years later, the paths of Lazar and Teller crossed again. It would lead Lazar into the world of Area 51, UFOs and aliens. Or, into a world of disinformation and mind-manipulation.
In 1988, Lazar had a very different job to all of those which came before him. He was living and working in Sin City itself, Las Vegas, where he ran a photo-processing store. It was a job and it paid the bills. It was not, however, the dream job that Lazar wanted. That dream, however, would soon come true. But, it may have also become a definitive nightmare. Lazar decided to send out a resume to just about anyone and everyone he had worked with, met, and knew. One of those – no surprise – was Edward Teller. It’s also not surprising that Teller remembered all too well the man with the liquid propane car that could zoom across the landscape at around two hundred miles per hour. Teller also remembered that Lazar had a background in physics. More importantly, Teller was someone who had power, influence, the ability to open doors, and an ability to have access to some of the U.S. Government’s most prized and guarded secrets. Almost certainly, Teller played a role in what happened next: namely, that Lazar soon found himself at Area 51.
When Lazar went public with his story of working on alien spaceships at Area 51, he mentioned the Teller connection. It caused more than a few ripples. It’s curious that Teller didn’t back – maybe even with a lawsuit. This scenario makes even more sense, because Lazar didn’t just keep the Teller story to himself. This would have given Teller even more reason – and ammunition – to attack Lazar, verbally and from a legal perspective too. But, Teller did not dispatch a team of high-powered and high-paid attorneys to hammer Lazar into the ground. No. Teller did something very different. Teller made a statement that was so couched in careful terms that it almost became laughable. In fact, it sounds like the carefully chosen words that a lawyer would advise his or her client to use. Teller said, and I quote exactly: “I probably met him. I might have said to somebody I met him and I liked him, after I met him, and if I liked him. But, I don’t remember him.”
All of this sounds very much like Teller wanting the story to go away, and to go away as quickly as conceivably possible, and in a way that didn’t implicate him in any fashion at all. That Teller claimed not to have remembered Lazar is at significant odds with his, Teller’s, recall of Lazar in 1988 – six years after the pair had a person-to-person chat about Lazar’s passion for super-fast jet-cars. Teller clearly remembered that short chat more than half a decade after it happened. But, no time after the Teller angle became public information in 1989, Teller’s memory is suddenly hazy. Very hazy. Or, as today’s politicians are so keen to say under awkward circumstances, “I don’t recall.” Teller hemmed and hawed in what was an embarrassingly awkward fashion.
Did Teller know of the program which saw Lazar manipulated and mind-controlled to ultimately and unknowingly promote a bogus tale of UFOs at Area 51? Whatever the answer, there seems to be little doubt that when the story went public, Teller did just about everything he could to distance himself from Bob Lazar.
Edward Teller (1908-2003) was a Hungarian-born American theoretical physicist. He is considered one of the fathers of the hydrogen bomb.
Teller, along with Leo Szilard and Eugene Wigner, helped urge President Roosevelt to develop an atomic bomb program in the United States. Teller joined the Los Alamos Laboratory in 1943 as group leader in the Theoretical Physics Division. Teller became interested in the possibility of developing a hydrogen bomb after Enrico Fermi suggested that a weapon based on nuclear fission could be used to set off an even larger nuclear fusion reaction. Teller continued to push his ideas for a fusion weapon throughout the project despite physicists' skepticism that such a device could ever work.
When Hans Bethe was selected as Director of the Theoretical Division, Teller became frustrated and refused to enagage in calculations for the implosion mechanism of the fission bomb. This caused tensions with other physicists at Los Alamos, as additional scientists had to be employed to do that work--including Klaus Fuchs, who was later revealed to be a Soviet spy.
Teller was one of the few scientists to actually watch (with eye protection) the detonation of the Gadget during the Trinity Test in July 1945, rather than follow orders to lie on the ground with his back turned.
In 1954, Teller testified against J. Robert Oppenheimer at his security clearance hearing. He was a major proponent of investigating non-military uses for nuclear explosives, and visited Israel often as their main advisor on nuclear matters.
Edward Teller is often referred to as the "father of the hydrogen bomb." After the Soviet Union detonated its first atomic bomb in 1949, Teller worked to convince President Truman to develop a crash program for the hydrogen bomb, which he believed was feasible. In 1950, Truman approved the hydrogen bomb program, and Teller returned to Los Alamos later that year to begin working on a design.
Teller collaborated with Polish mathematician Stanislaw Ulam and came up with the first workable design for a thermonuclear device in 1951. A year later, the United States tested it first ever thermonuclear device at Eniwetok Atoll in the South Pacific. The Mike Shot, as it was known, yielded 10 megatons of TNT and was roughly 1000 times larger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima seven years earlier. The design, which came to be known as the Teller-Ulam design, still remains classified.
The many tragedies of Edward Teller
Edward Teller was born on this day 106 years ago. Teller is best known to the general public for two things: his reputation as the “father of the hydrogen bomb” and as a key villain in the story of the downfall of Robert Oppenheimer.
Edward Teller was born on this day 106 years ago. Teller is best known to the general public for two things: his reputation as the "father of the hydrogen bomb" and as a key villain in the story of the downfall of Robert Oppenheimer. To me Teller will always be a prime example of the harm that brilliant men can do - either by accident or design - when they are placed in positions of power as the famed historian Richard Rhodes said about Teller in an interview, "Teller consistently gave bad advice to every president that he worked for". It's a phenomenon that is a mainstay of politics but Teller's case sadly indicates that even science can be put into the service of such misuse of power
Ironically it is the two most publicly known facts about Teller that are also probably not entirely accurate. Later in life he often complained that the public had exaggerated his roles in both the hydrogen bomb program and in the ousting of Oppenheimer, and this contention was largely true. In truth he deserved both less credit and less blame for his two major acts. Without Teller hydrogen bombs would still have been developed and without Teller Oppenheimer would still have been removed from his role as the government's foremost scientific advisor.
The question that continues to dog historians and scientists is simple why did Teller behave the way he did? By any account he was a brilliant man, well attuned to the massive overkill by nuclear weapons that he was advocating and also well attuned to the damage he would cause Oppenheimer and the scientific community by testifying against the father of the atomic bomb. He was also often a warm person and clearly desired friendship with his peers, so why did he choose to alienate so many who were close to him? The answers to these questions undoubtedly lie in Teller's background. Growing up in progressive Hungary at the turn of the century as the son of a well to do Jewish father, Teller was part of a constellation of Hungarian prodigies with similar cultural and family backgrounds who followed similar trajectories, emigrated to the United States and became famous scientists. Leo Szilard, Eugene Wigner and John von Neumann were all childhood friends.
Sadly Teller became a psychological casualty of Hungary's post-World War 1 communist and fascist regimes early in his childhood when he witnessed first hand the depredations visited upon his country by Bela Kun and then by Miklos Horthy. The chaos and uncertainty brought about by the communists left a deep impression on the sensitive young boy and traumatized him for life. Later when Teller migrated to Germany, England and America he saw the noose of Nazism tightening around Europe. This combined double blow brought about by the cruelties of communism and Nazism seems to have dictated almost every one of Teller's major decisions for the rest of his life.
The fear of totalitarianism manifested itself early, leading Teller to be among the first ones to push for a US nuclear weapons program. He was Leo Szilard's driver when Szilard went to meet Einstein in his Long Island cottage and got the famous letter to FDR signed by the great physicist. Along with Szilard and Wigner Teller was the first one to raise the alarm about a potential German atomic project and he lobbied vigorously for the government to take notice. By the time the war started he was a respected professor at George Washington University. Goaded by his experiences and inner conscience, Teller became one of Oppenheimer's first recruits at Los Alamos where he moved at the beginning of the Manhattan Project in the spring of 1943.
Oppenheimer and Teller's meeting was like one of those fateful events in Greek tragedies which is destined to end in friction and tragedy. Perhaps the most ironic twist in this story is how similar the two men were brilliant physicists who were both products of high culture and affluent families, interested in literature and the arts, envisioning a great role for themselves in history and sensitive to the plight of human beings around them. However their personalities clashed almost right from the beginning, although the mistrust was mostly engendered by Teller.
Not all of it was Teller's fault however. By the time Teller met Oppenheimer the latter had established himself as the foremost American-born theoretical physicist of his age, a man who could hold sway over even Nobel Laureates with his astonishingly quick mind, dazzlingly Catholic interests and knowledge and ability to metamorphose into adopting whatever role history had thrust upon him. But men like Oppenheimer are hardly simple, and Oppenheimer's colleagues and students usually fell into two extreme camps, those who saw him as an insecure and pretentious poseur and those who idolized his intellect. Clearly Teller fell into the former group.
The friction between the two men was accentuated after Teller moved to Los Alamos when Oppenheimer made Hans Bethe the head of the project's important theoretical division. Teller understandably chafed at the choice since unlike Bethe he had lived with the project since the beginning, but Oppenheimer's decision was wise he had sized up both physicists and realized that while both were undoubtedly scientifically capable, administering a division of prima donnas needed steadfast determination, levelheaded decision making and the ability to be a team player while quietly soothing egos, all of which were qualities inherent in Bethe but not in the volatile Teller.
Teller never really recovered from this slight and from then on his relationship with both Oppenheimer and Bethe (with whom he had been best friends for years) was increasingly strained. It wouldn't be the first time he let the personal interfere with the professional and I think this was his first great tragedy - the inability to separate personal feelings from objective thinking. It was also during the war that the idea of using an atomic bomb to ignite a self-sustaining fusion reaction caught Teller's imagination. Teller confirmed Oppenheimer's decision to hire Bethe when he refused to perform detailed calculations for the implosion weapon and insisted that he work on his pet idea for the "Super", a diversion that was undoubtedly orthogonal to the urgent task of producing an atomic bomb, especially one which was necessary to light up the Super in any case.
After the war got over Teller kept on pushing for the hydrogen bomb. History was on his side and the increasing encroachment of the Soviets into Eastern Europe followed by major events like the Berlin airlift and the testing of the first Soviet atomic bomb firmed up his conviction and allowed him to drum up support from scientists, politicians and the military. Sadly his initial design for the Super was fatally flawed while an atomic bomb would in fact ignite a large mass of tritium or deuterium, energy losses would be too rapid to sustain a successful fusion reaction. Even after knowing this Teller kept pushing for the design, taking advantage of the worsening political situation and his own growing prominence in the scientific community. This was Teller's first real dishonest act.
His second dishonest act was withholding credit from the man who actually came up with the first successful idea for a hydrogen bomb - Stanislaw Ulam. An exceptionally brilliant and versatile mathematician, Ulam first performed detailed calculations that revealed holes in Teller's original Super design and then thought of the key process of radiation implosion that would compress a batch of thermonuclear fuel and enable its sustained fusion. Teller who had been smoldering with rage at Ulam's calculations until then immediately saw the merit of the idea and significantly refined it. Since then almost every hydrogen bomb in the world's nuclear arsenals has been constructed on the basis of the Teller-Ulam model. Yet Teller seems to have denied Ulam the credit for the idea even in his later years, something that is especially puzzling considering that he downplayed his own role in the development of hydrogen bombs in the waning years of his life. Was this simply a ploy engineered to gain sympathy and to display false modesty? We will never know.
The act for which Teller became infamous followed only a few years later in 1954. Since the end of the war Oppenheimer had been steadfast in his opposition to the hydrogen bomb, not just on a moral basis but also on a technical basis. This did not go down well with the establishment, especially in the face of the increasingly dire-looking international situation. Oppenheimer was hardly the only one opposing the project - prominent scientists like Enrico Fermi and Isidor Rabi were even more vocal in their opposition - but Oppenheimer's reputation, his role as the government's foremost nuclear advisor and his often casual cruelty and impatience with lesser men made him stand out. After the Teller-Ulam design came to light Oppenheimer actually supported the project but by that time he had already made powerful enemies, especially in the person of Lewis Strauss, a vindictive, petty and thin-skinned former Secretary of the Navy who unfortunately had the ear of President Eisenhower.
When the government brought charges against Oppenheimer Teller was asked to testify. He could have declined and still saved his reputation but he chose not to. Curiously, the actual testimony offered by Teller is at the same time rather straightforward as well as vague enough to be interpreted damningly. It has an air of calculated ambiguity about it that makes it particularly potent. What Teller said was the following:
What is interesting about the testimony, as explained by Freeman Dyson in his autobiography, is that it's actually quite undramatic and true. Oppenheimer had lied to army officials during the war regarding an indirect approach made to him for ferrying secrets to the Soviet Union. He had refused right away but had then concocted an unnecessary and bizarre "cock and bull story" (in his own words) to explain his actions. That story had not gotten him into trouble during the war because of his indispensable role in the project, but it certainly qualified him as "confused and complicated". In addition after the war, Oppenheimer's views on nuclear weapons also often appeared conflicted, as did his loyalties to his former students. Oppenheimer's opinions on the hydrogen bomb which were quite sound were however also interpreted as "confused and complicated" by Teller. But where Teller was coming from, Oppenheimer's actions were hard to understand, and therefore it was clear that Teller would trust opinions regarding national security in someone's else's hands. Thus Teller's testimony was actually rather unsurprising and sensible when seen in a certain context.
As it happened however, his words were seen as a great betrayal by the majority of physicists who supported Oppenheimer. The result of this perception was that Teller himself was damaged far more by his testimony than was Oppenheimer. Close friends simply stopped talking to him and one former colleague publicly refused to shake his hand, a defiant display that led Teller to retire to his room and weep. He was essentially declared a pariah by a large part of the wartime physics community. It is likely that Teller would have reconsidered testifying against Oppenheimer had he known the personal price he would have to pay. But the key point here is that Teller had again let personal feelings interfere with objective decision making Teller's animosity toward Oppenheimer went back years, and he knew that as long as the emperor ruled he could never take his place. This was his chance to stage a coup. As it happened his decision simply led to a great tragedy of his life, a tragedy that was particularly acute since his not testifying would have essentially made no difference in the revocation of Oppenheimer's security clearance.
This inability to keep the personal separate from reality exemplified Teller's obsession with nuclear weapons for the next fifty years until his death. At one point he was paranoid enough to proclaim that he saw himself in a Soviet prison camp within five years. I will not go so far as to label Teller paranoid from a medical standpoint but some of the symptoms certainly seem to be there. Teller's attachment to his hydrogen bombs became so absolute that he essentially opposed almost every effort to seek reconciliation and arms reductions with the Soviets. The Partial Test Ban Treaty, the NPT, the ABM treaty and sound scientific opposition to Reagan's fictional "Star Wars" defense all met with his swift disapproval even when the science argued otherwise, as in the case of Star Wars . He also publicly debated Linus Pauling regarding the genetic effects of radiation just as he would debate Carl Sagan twenty years later regarding nuclear winter.
Sagan has a particularly illuminating take on Teller's relationship with nuclear weapons in his book "The Demon- Haunted World". The book has an entire chapter on Teller in which Sagan tries to understand Teller's love affair with bombs. Sagan's opinion is that Teller was actually sincere in his beliefs that nuclear weapons were humanity's savior. He actually believed that these weapons would solve all our problems in war and peace. This led to him advocating rather outlandish uses for nuclear weapons: "Do you want to find out more about moon dust? Explode a nuclear weapon on the moon and analyze the spectrum of the resulting dust. Do you want to excavate harbors or change the course of rivers? Nuclear weapons can do the job". Teller's proposal to excavate harbors in Alaska using bombs led to appropriate opposition from the Alaskan natives. In many of these scenarios he seemed to simply ignore the biological effects of fallout.
But as much as I appreciate Sagan's view that Teller was sincere in his proposals I find it hard to digest Teller was smart enough to know the collateral damage caused by nuclear weapons, or to know how ridiculous the idea of using nuclear weapons to study moon dust sounded when there were much simpler methods to do it. My opinion is that by this time he had travelled so far along the path which he chose for himself after the war that he simply could not retract his steps. He clung to dubious peacetime uses of nuclear weapons simply so that he could advocate their buildup in wartime. By this time the man was too far along to choose another role in his life. That, I think, was another of Teller's tragedies.
But in my view, Teller's greatest tragedy had nothing to do with nuclear weapons. It was simply the fact that in pursuit of his obsession with bombs he wasted his great scientific gifts and failed to become a truly great physicist. Ironically he again shared this fate with his nemesis Robert Oppenheimer. Before the war both Oppenheimer and Teller had made significant contributions to science. Teller is so famous for his weapons work that it is easy to ignore his scientific research. Along with two other scientists he worked out an important equation describing the adsorption of gases to solids. Another very significant Teller contribution known to chemists is the Jahn-Teller effect, a distortion of geometry in certain inorganic molecular complexes that impacts key properties like color and magnetic behavior. In nuclear physics Teller again came up with several ideas including the Gamow-Teller rules that describe energy transitions in nuclei. Even after the war Teller kept on thinking about science, working for instance on Thomas-Fermi theory which was the precursor of techniques used to calculate important properties of molecules.
But after 1945 Teller's scientific gifts essentially lay undisturbed, stagnating in all their creative glory. Edward Teller the theoretical physicist was slowly but surely banished to the shadows and Edward Teller the nuclear weapons expert and political advocate took his place. A similar fate befell Oppenheimer, although for many years he at least stayed in touch with the latest developments in physics. Seduced by power, both men forgot what had brought them to this juncture in history to begin with. In pursuing power they ignored their beloved science.
Ultimately one fact stands apart stark and clear in my view: Edward Teller's obsession with nuclear weapons will likely become a historical curiosity but the Jahn-Teller will persist for all eternity. This, I think, is the real tragedy.
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.
Teller is in 1908 in Hongarye gebore met Joodse ouers, Miska "Max" Teller, 'n prokureur, en Ilona Deutsch, 'n pianis.  Hy het sy opleiding aan die Fasori Lutherse Gimnasium en die Minta Gimnasium in Boedapest ontvang. Op 'n vroeë ouderdom het hy godsdiens vaarwel geroep. "Godsdiens was nie 'n probleem in my gesin nie", het hy later geskryf, "dit is inderdaad nooit bespreek nie. My enigste godsdiensopleiding het gekom omdat die Minta vereis het dat alle studente klasse in hul onderskeie godsdienste moes neem. My familie het een vakansie gevier, Jom Kippoer, wanneer ons almal gevas het. Tog het my pa op Saterdae en al die Joodse vakansiedae vir sy ouers gebid. Die idee van God wat ek aanvaar het, was dat dit wonderlik sou wees as Hy bestaan het: ons het Hom dringend nodig, maar het Hom vir duisende jare nooit gesien het nie." 
Soos in Albert Einstein en Richard Feynman se geval het Teller se spraakvermoë stadiger as by meeste kinders ontwikkel, maar hy het baie in getalle belanggestel. Hy sou groot somme in sy kop bereken vir die plesier daarvan. 
In 1926 het Teller Hongarye verlaat en na Duitsland gegaan, hoofsaaklik weens die fascistiese bewind van Miklós Horthy in Hongarye. In hierdie tydperk het hy 'n blywende vyandigheid teenoor kommunisme en fascisme ontwikkel. 
Tussen 1926 en 1928 het hy wiskunde en chemie aan die Universiteit van Karlsruhe studeer en 'n graad in chemiese ingenieurswese behaal. Dit was egter 'n lesing deur Herman Mark oor molekulêre spektroskopie wat hom gemotiveer het om oor te skakel na fisika.  Daarna is Teller na die Universiteit van München waar hy fisika onder Arnold Sommerfeld studeer het.
Op 14 Julie 1928, terwyl hy nog 'n jong student in München was, het hy 'n trem geneem om 'n trein te haal vir 'n staptog in die nabye Alpe en het besluit om af te spring terwyl dit nog beweeg het. Hy het geval en die wiel het die grootste deel van sy regtervoet afgery. Vir die res van sy lewe het hy pal mank geloop. Hy wou nie pynstillers neem nie, omdat dit sy denke bemoeilik het, en het homself oortuig deur gebruik van die plasebo-effek dat hy hulle wel geneem het. Werner Heisenberg het op 'n slag kommentaar gelewer oor die "gehardheid van sy gees."  In 1929 het Teller by die Universiteit van Leipzig ingeskryf, waar hy sy doktersgraad in fisika onder Werner Heisenberg behaal het. Sy tesis was een van die eerste akkurate kwantummeganiese verhandelings oor die waterstofmolekulêre ioon.
In 1930 het Teller na die Universiteit van Göttingen geskuif om saam met Max Born en James Franck te werk. In 1932 het Teller se lewenslange vriend en mede-fisikus, George Placzek, gereël dat Teller vir die somer by Enrico Fermi in Italië gaan bly. Na 1933, toe Adolf Hitler kanselier geword het, het Duitsland onveilig geword vir Jode, sodat Teller na Engeland vertrek het. Hy was 'n jaar in Kopenhagen waar hy onder Niels Bohr gewerk het. In 1934 het hy met sy jarelange vriendin Augusta Maria "Mici" Harkanyi getrou. 
Mici was reeds 'n student in Pittsburgh en wou terugkeer na die Verenigde State. In 1935 is Teller uitgenooi om professor in fisika aan die George Washington Universiteit te word, waar hy tot 1941 gewerk het. Hier in 1937 het hy die Jahn–Teller-effek voorgestel. Die Jahn-Teller-effek verdraai molekules in sekere situasies en beïnvloed die chemiese reaksies van metale, en veral die kleur van sekere metaalkleurstowwe.  In samewerking met Stephen Brunauer en Paul Hugh Emmett het Teller ook 'n belangrike bydrae gelewer tot oppervlakfisika en chemie: die sogenaamde Brunauer–Emmett–Teller-isotermie (of BET-isotermie).  Sy uitbreiding van Enrico Fermi se teorie oor betaverval, in die vorm van Gamow–Teller-oorgange, het 'n belangrike stap in die toepassing daarvan gelewer, terwyl die Jahn–Teller-effek en die Brunauer–Emmett–Teller-teorie (BET) hul oorspronklike formulering behou het en is steeds steunpilare in fisika en chemie. 
Teller en Mici het in 1941 Verenigde State-burgers geword.  Teller het ook bydraes gelewer tot die Thomas–Fermi-teorie, die voorloper van die funksionele teorie van digtheid, 'n standaard moderne instrument in die kwantummeganiese behandeling van komplekse molekules. In 1953, saam met Nicholas Metropolis, Arianna Rosenbluth, Marshall Rosenbluth en sy vrou Augusta "Mici" Teller, was Teller mede-outeur van 'n artikel wat 'n standaard-vertrekpunt is in die toepassing van die Monte Carlo-metode op statistiese meganika. 
Die Los Alamos-laboratorium Wysig
In 1942 was Teller deel van Oppenheimer se somerbeplanningsessie vir die Manhattan-projek aan die Universiteit van Kalifornië en was 'n vroeë lid van die Manhattan-projek, belas met die ontwikkeling van die eerste atoombom, en het 'n suksesvolle ontwerp vir 'n soliede putinploffing voorgestel. Hy het ook 'n ernstige poging aangewend om die eerste wapens wat op kernfusie gebaseer is te ontwikkel, maar dit is uitgestel tot na die Tweede Wêreldoorlog. Dit was ná 'n opmerking aan Teller deur Enrico Fermi oor die gebruik van 'n splitsingsreaksie om 'n nog groter fusiereaksie te begin. Tydens die beplanningsessie het Teller die bespreking van 'n kernsplytingwapen na 'n kernfusiewapen afgelei en dit het gelei tot die idee van die waterstofbom.   Sy idee van 'n kernfusiewapen het hy die "Super" genoem.
Wetenskaplikes van die universiteite van Columbia, Princeton, Chicago en die Universiteit van Kalifornië, Berkeley, is na die Universiteit van Chicago se Metallurgiese laboratoriums verskuif om aan uraannavorsing onder Arthur Compton te werk. Aanvanklik is Teller uitgesluit van die groep aangesien hy en sy vrou nog familielede in vyandelike lande gehad het. In 1943 was die Los Alamos-laboratorium opgerig en Teller het saam met die ander wetenskaplikes daarheen verhuis. Hy het spoedig daarin geslaag om sy bure te verpes deur laataand klavier te speel. 
'n Spesiale groep is in Maart 1944 onder Teller gestig om die wiskunde van 'n kernwapen van 'n inploffingtipe te ondersoek.  Dit het ook probleme gehad. Vanweë sy belangstelling in die Super het Teller nie so hard gewerk aan die inploffingeksperimente as wat Bethe wou hê nie. Dit was oorspronklik ook take met 'n lae prioriteit, maar die ontdekking van spontane splitsing in plutonium deur die groep van Emilio Segrè het die inploffingsbom toenemend belangrik gemaak. In Junie 1944 het Oppenheimer op Bethe se versoek Teller uit die T-afdeling verhuis en hom in beheer geplaas van 'n spesiale groep wat verantwoordelik was vir die Super, wat direk aan Oppenheimer gerapporteer het. Hy is vervang deur Rudolf Peierls van die Britse Sending, wat op sy beurt Klaus Fuchs ingebring het, wat later as 'n Sowjet-spioen ontmasker is.   Teller se Super-groep het deel geword van Fermi se F-afdeling toe hy in September 1944 by die Los Alamos Laboratorium aangesluit het.  Dit het Stanislaw Ulam, Jane Roberg, Geoffrey Chew, Harold en Mary Argo,  en Maria Goeppert-Mayer ingesluit. 
Teller het waardevolle bydraes tot bomnavorsing gelewer, veral vir die toeligting van die inploffingsmeganisme. Hy was die eerste om die soliede putontwerp voor te stel wat uiteindelik suksesvol was. (Hierdie ontwerp het bekend gestaan as 'n Christy-put, na die fisikus Robert F. Christy wat die put 'n werklikheid gemaak het.  ) Teller was een van die min wetenskaplikes wat na die Trinity-kerntoets in Julie 1945 gekyk het, eerder as om opdragte te volg om op die grond te lê met die gesig na onder. Hy het later gesê dat die atoomflits "was asof ek die gordyn in 'n donker kamer oopgetrek het en die wye daglig binnegestroom het." 
Besluit om die bom op Japan te laat val Wysig
In die dae voor en na die eerste demonstrasie van 'n kernwapen, die Trinity-toets in Julie 1945, het sy mede-Hongaar Leo Szilard die Szilard-petisie gesirkuleer, wat aangevoer het dat 'n demonstrasie aan die Japannese van die nuwe wapen moet plaasvind voor die werklike gebruik van die wapen op Japan, en daarmee saam sou die wapens hopelik nooit op mense gebruik word nie. In antwoord op Szilard se petisie het Teller sy vriend Robert Oppenheimer geraadpleeg. Teller het geglo dat Oppenheimer 'n natuurlike leier was en hom met so 'n formidabele politieke probleem kon help. Oppenheimer het Teller gerusgestel dat die lot van die land aan die verstandige politici in Washington oorgelaat moet word. Versterk deur die invloed van Oppenheimer, het hy besluit om nie die petisie te onderteken nie. 
Later, toe hy sy lewensverhaal geskryf het, het Teller oor hierdie besluit geskryf: "Eerstens was Szilard reg. As wetenskaplikes wat aan die vervaardiging van die bom gewerk het, het ons 'n spesiale verantwoordelikheid gehad. Tweedens was Oppenheimer reg. Ons het nie genoeg geweet van die politieke situasie nie om 'n geldige mening te hê. Derdens, wat ons moes gedoen het, maar nie kon doen nie, was om die tegniese veranderinge uit te werk wat nodig was om die bom oor Tokio te demonstreer en die inligting aan president Truman voor te lê." 
Teller was onbewus dat vier van sy kollegas deel van die geheime organisasie (genaamd "die interimkomitee") was, en besluit het hoe die nuwe wapens aanvanklik gebruik moes word. Die "wetenskaplike paneel" van die komitee is gelei deur Oppenheimer hulle het tot die gevolgtrekking gekom dat onmiddellike militêre gebruik op Japan die beste opsie was. 
Norris Bradbury, wat Oppenheimer in November 1945 as direkteur van Los Alamos vervang het, het Teller die pos as hoof van die T-afdeling aangebied, maar Teller het op 1 Februarie 1946 Los Alamos verlaat om na die Universiteit van Chicago terug te keer as professor en medewerker van Fermi en Goeppert-Mayer. 
In April 1946 neem Teller deel geneem aan 'n konferensie in Los Alamos om die werk oor die "Super" te beoordeel. Die eienskappe van termonukleêre brandstowwe soos deuterium en die moontlike ontwerp van 'n waterstofbom is bespreek. Daar is tot die gevolgtrekking gekom dat Teller se beoordeling van 'n waterstofbom te gunstig was, en dat die hoeveelheid deuterium wat nodig was, sowel as die stralingsverliese tydens die verbranding van die deuterium, die werkbaarheid daarvan laat betwyfel. Toevoeging van duur tritium aan die termonukleêre mengsel sou die ontstekingstemperatuur waarskynlik verlaag, maar niemand het destyds geweet hoeveel tritium nodig sou wees nie, en of selfs tritiumtoevoeging hitte-voortplanting sou aanmoedig. 
Na afloop van die konferensie het Teller, ondanks die teenkanting van sommige lede soos Robert Serber, 'n optimistiese verslag voorgelê waarin hy gesê het dat 'n waterstofbom uitvoerbaar is, en dat verdere werk aan die ontwikkeling daarvan aangemoedig moet word. Fuchs het ook aan hierdie konferensie deelgeneem en hierdie inligting aan Moskou oorgedra. Die model van Teller se "klassieke Super" was so onseker dat Oppenheimer later sou sê dat hy wou hê dat die Russe hul eie waterstofbom op grond van daardie ontwerp sou bou, sodat hulle byna sekerlik hul vordering daarop sou vertraag. 
Teller is in 1950 terug na Los Alamos om aan die projek te werk. Hy het daarop aangedring om meer teoretici te betrek, maar baie van sy vooraanstaande kollegas, soos Fermi en Oppenheimer, was seker dat die projek van die waterstofbom tegnies onbegaanbaar en polities ongewens was. Nie een van die beskikbare ontwerpe was nog werkbaar nie.  Sowjetwetenskaplikes wat aan hul eie waterstofbom gewerk het, het egter beweer dat hulle dit onafhanklik ontwikkel het. 
In 1950 het berekeninge deur die Poolse wiskundige Stanislaw Ulam en Cornelius Everett, sowel as bevestigings deur Fermi, getoon dat Teller se vroeëre skatting van die hoeveelheid tritium wat nodig was vir die waterstofbom te min was, en dat selfs met hoër hoeveelhede tritium sou die energieverlies in die samesmeltingsproses te groot wees om die samesmeltingsreaksie voort te plant. In 1951 het Teller en Ulam egter 'n deurbraak gemaak en 'n nuwe ontwerp uitgevind vir 'n praktiese megaton-reeks waterstofbom, bekend as die Teller–Ulam-ontwerp. Die besonderhede van die deurbraak is nog steeds geklassifiseer. 
Teller is nie gekies om die ontwikkeling van die wapen aan te pak nie (moontlik weens sy reputasie en netelige persoonlikheid). In 1952 het hy Los Alamos verlaat en by die Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory aan die Universiteit van Kalifornië, Berkley, aangesluit. In 1952, na die ontploffing van Ivy Mike (die eerste waterstofbom wat die Teller-Ulam-ontwerp gebruik het), het Teller in die pers bekend gestaan as die "vader van die waterstofbom". 
Baie van Teller se kollegas was geïrriteerd dat dit gelyk het dat hy dit geniet het om volle krediet te neem vir iets waaraan hy net 'n rol gespeel het, en in reaksie daarop, met bemoediging van Enrico Fermi, het Teller 'n artikel geskryf met die titel "The Work of Many People", wat in die tydskif Science in Februarie 1955 verskyn het, met die klem dat hy nie alleen in die ontwikkeling van die wapen was nie. Hy sou later in sy lewenverhaal skryf dat hy in die artikel van 1955 'n "wit leuen" vertel het om "die seer gevoelens te kalmeer", en verklaar dat hy volle krediet vir die uitvinding gehad het.  
Teller het in 1954 kontroversieel geword toe hy tydens Oppenheimer se sekuriteitsklaringsverhoor teen Oppenheimer getuig het. Teller het talle kere met Oppenheimer in Los Alamos gebots en tydens Oppenheimer se verhoor was hy die enigste lid van die wetenskaplike gemeenskap wat verklaar het dat Oppenheimer nie sekuriteitsklaring moes kry nie. Hy het op gedetailleerde wyse uiteengesit waarom hy gevoel het dat Oppenheimer sy pogings tot 'n aktiewe termonukleêre ontwikkelingsprogram belemmer het, en het Oppenheimer se besluite om nie verdere werk aan die verskillende fasette van sy loopbaan te spandeer nie, gekritiseer.
Deur Teller se getuienis is Oppenheimer kwesbaar gelaat vir aanklagte dat hy 'n Sowjet-spioen was, en dit het gelei tot die vernietiging van Oppenheimer se loopbaan.  Oppenheimer se sekuriteitsklaring is ná die verhore herroep. Die meeste van Teller se voormalige kollegas het sy getuienis egter afgekeur en hy is deur 'n groot deel van die wetenskaplike gemeenskap verwerp. 
Teller was steeds baie welkom in die regering en militêre wetenskaplike kringe. Gedurende die vyftigerjare het hy navorsing gedoen oor 'n reaktor waarin kernsmelting onmoontlik sou wees. 
Hy het ook verhoogde besteding aan verdediging teen die waargenome bedreiging deur die Sowjetunie bevorder. In 1956, tydens 'n konferensie oor oorlog teen duikbote, het hy die moontlikheid bespreek om 'n kernkraghoof van 1 mega-ton vir die Polaris-missiele te ontwikkel. Die Hoof van Vlootoperasies, Admiraal Arleigh Burke, was teenwoordig op die konferensie en is oorreed om militêre besteding van die Jupiter-missiele na die Polaris-missiele te verskuif. 
In 1963 het Teller die Departement Toegepaste Wetenskap aan die Universiteit van Kalifornië, Davis en Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory gestig.  In 1975 het hy van die laboratorium en Berkeley afgetree en is hy benoem as "Director Emeritus" van die Livermore-laboratorium en as Senior Navorsingsgenoot aan die Hoover Instituut aangestel. 
Teller was een van die eerste prominente mense wat die gevaar van klimaatverandering uitgewys het, aangedryf deur die verbranding van fossielbrandstowwe. Op 'n toespraak aan die lidmaatskap van die Amerikaanse chemiese vereniging in Desember 1957, het Teller gewaarsku dat die groot hoeveelheid koolstof-gebaseerde brandstof wat sedert die middel van die 19de eeu verbrand is, die konsentrasie van koolstofdioksied in die atmosfeer verhoog het. "Dit werk op dieselfde manier as 'n kweekhuis en sal die temperatuur op die oppervlak verhoog ", het hy gesê en dat hy bereken het dat indien die konsentrasie van koolstofdioksied in die atmosfeer met 10% toeneem, "'n noemenswaardige deel van die ys kan smelt." 
Teller was een van die sterkste en bekendste advokate vir die ondersoek van nie-militêre gebruike van kernplofstof, wat die Verenigde State onder Operation Ploughshare ondersoek het. Een van die mees kontroversiële projekte wat hy voorgestel het, was 'n plan om 'n waterstofbom te gebruik om 'n diepwaterhawe te grawe om te gebruik vir die versending van hulpbronne vanaf steenkool- en olievelde deur Point Hope, Alaska. Die Amerikaanse atoomenergiekommissie het die voorstel van Teller in 1958 aanvaar en dit is aangewys as Project Chariot. Teller het die ekonomiese voordele van die plan in die openbaar voorgestaan, maar kon nie die leiers van die plaaslike regering oortuig dat die plan finansieel lewensvatbaar is nie. 
Ander wetenskaplikes het die projek gekritiseer as potensieel onveilig vir die plaaslike natuurlewe en die mense wat naby die aangewese gebied woon, wat eers in Maart 1960 van die plan vertel is.   Boonop het dit geblyk dat die hawe nege maande van die jaar ysgebonde sou wees. Uiteindelik is die projek in 1962 laat vaar weens die finansiële onvolledigheid van die projek en die kommer oor stralingverwante gesondheidskwessies. 
Teller het in 1979 'n hartaanval gehad en die skuld daarvoor op Jane Fonda geplaas, wat in die rolprent The China Syndrome gespeel het. In die rolprent word 'n fiktiewe reaktorongeluk uitbeeld en dit was minder as twee weke voor die Three Mile Island-ongeluk in teaters vrygelaat. Fonda het teen kernkrag betoog terwyl sy die film bemark het. Na die ongeluk het Teller vinnig opgetree om kernenergie te verdedig, en het getuig oor die veiligheid en betroubaarheid daarvan, en kort na die vlaag aktiwiteit het hy die hartaanval opgedoen. Teller het op 31 Julie 1979 'n advertensie onderteken in The Wall Street Journal met die titel "Ek was die enigste slagoffer van Three Mile Island". 
In die tagtigerjare het Teller 'n sterk veldtog begin vir wat later die Strategiese Verdedigingsinisiatief genoem word, wat deur kritici as "Star Wars" beskou word, die konsep om grond- en satellietgebaseerde lasers, deeltjiesstrale en missiele te gebruik om inkomende Sowjet- interkontinentale ballistiese missiele te vernietig. Teller het met regeringsinstansies geveg en die goedkeuring van president Ronald Reagan gekry vir 'n plan om 'n stelsel te ontwikkel met behulp van uitgebreide satelliete wat atoomwapens gebruik om X-straallasers op inkomende missiele af te vuur – as deel van 'n breër wetenskaplike navorsingsprogram van verdediging teen kern wapens. 
Skandaal het uitgebars toe Teller en sy medewerker, Lowell Wood, daarvan beskuldig is dat hulle die program doelbewus oorverkoop het en miskien die afdanking van 'n laboratoriumdirekteur, (Roy Woodruff, wat probeer het om die fout reg te stel) aangemoedig het. 
Na die impak van die komeet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in 1994 met Jupiter, het Teller in 'n 1995-werkswinkel oor planetêre verdediging voorgestel dat die VSA en Rusland saamwerk om 'n kernontploffingstoestel van 1 gigaton te ontwerp, wat lig genoeg is om op die Russiese Energia-vuurpyl op te lig, wat gebruik kan word om 'n asteroïde van 1 km deursnee onmiddellik te vernietig, en die paaie van uitwissingsgeleentheidsklas-asteroïdes (groter as 10 km in deursnee) binne enkele maande van kennisgewing af te lei. 
Teller het in sy vroeë loopbaan bydraes gelewer tot kernfisika, molekulêre fisika, spektroskopie (die Jahn–Teller-effek en Renner–Teller-effek), en oppervlakfisika. Sy uitbreiding van Fermi se teorie van beta-verval (die Gamow–Teller-oorgange) het 'n belangrike stap in die toepassing van hierdie teorie verskaf. Die Jahn–Teller-effek en die BET-teorie het hul oorspronklike formulering behou en is steeds steunpilare in fisika en chemie. Teller het ook bydraes gelewer tot die Thomas–Fermi-model, die voorloper van funksionele teorie-digtheid, 'n standaard moderne hulpmiddel in die kwantummeganiese behandeling van komplekse molekules. 
In 1981 het Teller 'n stigterslid van die Wêreld Kultuurraad geword.  Die Wêreld Kultuurraad is 'n internasionale organisasie met die doel om kulturele waardes, welwillendheid en filantropie onder individue te bevorder.
In 1986 was Teller met die Sylvanus Thayer-toekenning van die Amerikaanse Militêre Akademie bekroon. Hy is in 1948 verkies tot lid van die Amerikaanse Nasionale Akademie vir Wetenskappe. Hy was 'n genoot van die Amerikaanse Akademie vir Kunste en Wetenskappe, die Amerikaanse vereniging vir die bevordering van wetenskap en die Amerikaanse Kerngenootskap. Onder die eerbewyse wat hy ontvang het, was die Albert Einstein-toekenning in 1958, die Golden Plate-toekenning van die Amerikaanse Akademie vir Prestasie in 1961, die Enrico Fermi-toekenning in 1962, die Eringen-medalje in 1980, die Harvey-prys in 1975, die Nasionale Medalje vir Wetenskap in 1983, die Presidensiële Burgersmedalje in 1989, en die Corvin-ketting in 2001. Hy is ook aangewys as deel van die groep Amerikaanse wetenskaplikes wat in 1960 die tydskrif Time se "Mense van die Jaar" was, en 'n asteroïde, 5006 Teller, is na hom vernoem. Hy is in 2003 bekroon met die Presidensiële Medalje van Vryheid deur president George W. Bush, minder as twee maande voor sy dood. 
Sy finale referaat, wat postuum gepubliseer is, bepleit die konstruksie van 'n prototipe vloeibare fluoried-toriumreaktor. 
Teller is op 9 September 2003 in Stanford, Kalifornië op die ouderdom van 95 oorlede.  Hy het twee dae vantevore 'n beroerte gehad en het lank aan 'n aantal toestande gely wat verband gehou met sy gevorderde ouderdom. 
In the 1980s, Teller began a strong campaign for what was later called the Strategic Defense Initiative (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—for a plan to develop a system using elaborate satellites which used atomic weapons to fire X-ray lasers at incoming missiles—as part of a broader scientific research program into defenses against nuclear weapons. Ώ]
Teller became a major lobbying force of the Strategic Defense Initiative to President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
Scandal erupted when Teller (and his associate Lowell Wood) 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. ΐ] 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. Α]
In 1987 Teller published a book supporting civil defense and active protection systems such as SDI which was titled Better a Shield than a Sword and his views on the role of lasers in SDI were published, and are available, in two 1986-7 laser conference proceedings. Β] Γ]
The History Of Nuclear Warfare And The Future Of Nuclear Energy
On August 6, 1945, the world changed forever when the first atomic bomb hit Hiroshima, Japan, killing thousands of people instantly. Three days later, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, decisively ending Japan’s involvement in World War II. Thousands of people died from radiation poisoning within a year. Since that earth-shattering day, the world has grappled with a controversial technology that not only poses strategic risks in its ability to wipe out humanity but also provides a potential solution to problems of sustainable energy.
The Hoover Institution has a long relationship with nuclear history. The Library & Archives house the original strike orders and footage taken of the nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, acquired from Harold Agnew, along with his papers. Agnew worked at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory during World War II and was an observer on The Great Artiste, a B-29 that flew behind the Enola Gay on the first atomic strike mission. The Agnew atomic bomb footage is the most-requested motion picture film in Hoover’s collections. His papers include newspaper clippings from the time documenting how people grappled with the news of the attack. The clippings evince an air of newfound terror tinged with fascination about nuclear technology. The Library & Archives also house collections of newspapers from the Marshall Islands during the nuclear testing at Bikini Atoll in the 1940s and 1950s, and the papers of nuclear physicist Edward Teller and nuclear strategist Albert Wohlstetter, as well as some of the papers of physicist Sidney Drell.
Since the first atomic bomb dropped, world leaders have been forced to contend with the strategic reality of nuclear arms. Few understand this better than former secretary of state and Thomas W. and Susan B. Ford Distinguished Fellow George Shultz. In his book Learning from Experience, Shultz wrote about his vision for global nuclear disarmament:
Out of office and out of Washington, I and my good friends and colleagues Sid Drell, Henry Kissinger, Bill Perry, and Sam Nunn try to keep the flame burning so that when and if the global atmosphere improves, the ideas stand ready to help lessen our dependence on nuclear weapons with their ability to wipe out humanity.
From the beginning of our appeals, my colleagues and I have stressed that the world is complicated. We highlight the regional conflicts that would have to be settled. We point out that a world without nuclear weapons would not be the world as it is, minus nuclear weapons. Steps to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons cannot be ignored. For Instance, conflicts have driven decisions to acquire nuclear weapons in Northeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East. (Learning from Experience, pp. 86–87)
Today, Hoover fellows including George Shultz, Admiral James O. Ellis Jr., Jim Timbie, Jeremy Carl, James Goodby, and many others continue to research and consider the risks of nuclear arms, while also recognizing the benefits of nuclear energy. Ellis and Shultz write, “Nuclear power alone will not solve our energy problems. But we do not think they can be solved without it. . . . One of us, between other jobs, built nuclear plants for a living between other jobs, the other helped make them safer. In many respects, this is a personal topic for us both.” They acknowledge America’s strategic position as the world’s largest nuclear power generator. They argue that America needs to bring the country’s brightest minds and technologies to navigate nuclear energy research and development responsibly and ensure that is a part of a cleaner global energy system. Though the decades since the first atomic bomb was dropped have brought fear about such powerful weapons, it is perhaps to be hoped that the possibilities of nuclear energy can make the future bright.
Resources on nuclear energy, warfare, and disarmament by Hoover Fellows: