Sunday, June 04, 2006

Edward Teller

April 17, 2006

"When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it's time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly." ~Edward Teller

Edward Teller (1908-2003), a Hungarian-born American nuclear physicist, was recruited to work on the Manhattan Project, the code name given to the development of the first atomic bomb. Later he became popularly known as "the father of the hydrogen bomb." He was part of a group of U.S. Scientists Time magazine named People of the Year in 1960.

Although Teller was a leading physicist, he was also controversial within the competitive scientific community. He was accused of seeking credit for the work of others, and damaged the credibility of Dr. Robert Oppenheimer (called "father of the atomic bomb"), hinting in a security hearing that his colleague was a risk due to suspected Communist sympathies earlier in his life. Oppenheimer was stripped of his security clearance, and Teller was ostracized by the academic scientific community.

In the post-war period, Teller advocated non-military uses of atomic power, including the use of a hydrogen bomb to dig a deep harbor along the coastline of Alaska, and the use of nuclear explosions to extract oil in northern Alberta. During the Reagan administration, he was a leading proponent of the Strategic Defense Initiative.

Teller's critics viewed him as a "mad scientist," a stereotype aided by his bushy eyebrows and thick Hungarian accent. Some say Stanley Kubrick used Teller as the inspiration for the lead character in his 1964 film Dr. Strangelove.


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