Getting started: Teller's
first position was an assistantship at the University of Gottingen.
Edward would leave Gottingen due
to the increasing level of anti-Semitism in Germany. Edward joined a
growing exodus of jews leaving for safer countries like England and the
United States. Teller took an assistantship in physics at the
University College in London which fulfilled requirements that allowed
him to Win a Rockefeller Foundation fellowship at the Copenhagen
Institute for Theoretical Physics where he could work with Niels Bohr.
Moving to the United
Shortly after returning to London as a
lecturer in chemistry, Teller was offered two positions in the United
States. One was a full professorship at George Washington University
and the other was a lectureship at Princeton. Teller would take the
Professorship and Emigrated to the United States in 1935. He would
become a naturalized citizen in 1941. Teller would enjoy renewing old
friendships and creating new ones during an enjoyable time
until 1939. When Niels Bohr arrived form Europe with the news that
nucleus of the atom had been split. This would begin the push for an
American atomic bomb program.
Pushing for bomb construction:
In March of 1939 Teller received a call from a
friend Leo Szilard, Leo told Teller of the world's first known nuclear
chain reaction. This for Teller and many others would mark the
of long hard journey. The result of this journey would initially be the
first atomic bomb and would later lead to the first hydrogen bomb. Some
of the initial problems with beginning the development of the atomic
the United States governments distrust of many immigrant scientists,
the lack of funding, the lack of support from the rest of the
scientific community, and the militaries belief that the idea was too
complex. Teller was also initially not ready to give up his theoretical
physics work in order to push for support of an bomb. What changed
tellers mind was speech given by President Roosevelt on May 10, 1940.
Which called for scientists to join in the defense of "our science, our
culture, our American freedom and our civilization." Teller was
appointed as a consultant to The Uranium Committee. This led to Teller
taking leave from George Washington University to spend a year at
Colombia 1941-1942. During this time president Roosevelt had been
removing the red tape hampering the development of the atomic bomb.
Upon learning that the necessary amount of pure uranium to build a bomb
would be only 5-10 kilograms, instead of the the huge amounts
originally estimated Roosevelt granted authority to fund a secret
project to develop an atomic bomb. The official go ahead for what was
to become the Manhattan Project was given on October 9, 1941.
Working on the first atomic bomb:
Before arriving at Los Alamos Edward was
already looking beyond nuclear fission and the atomic bomb to nuclear
fusion an the
creation of the "Super"(Teller's name for the hydrogen bomb). He
would become unhappy about the
direction of research at Los Alamos after believing he would be allowed
to work on the fusion bomb as well as the fission bomb, which did not
happen. This unhappiness led to friction between Teller and his
leader. This friction led to Teller being place on his own, Teller
loner of Los Alamos. His unhappiness and separation from having
to work directly with the scientists at Los Alamos did not stop Teller
from making contributions to bomb development. Teller working with John
von Neumann made important calculations dealing with the
compressibility of the material at the center of an implosion like the
material that would be at the center of a hydrogen bomb. The importance
of these calculations was that they showed that much less fissionable
material would be needed for the bomb than originally believed.
Teller also worked on "opacities, the rapid transport of heat by
radiation expected at the very high temperatures of nuclear explosions"
and problems encountered at the plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee that was
separating nuclear isotopes. This list is fairly short and there was
some controversy as to whether or not Teller had done his best to
advance the bomb project. On Monday, July 16, 1945 the scientists
at Los Alamos witnessed the first nuclear explosion. Teller would leave
Los Alamos in 1945 due to frustration with the post
war work being done.
To Use the Bomb or Not? Teller was
one of a group of many scientist who believed that the first nuclear
explosion used in war should be for demonstration purposes. The
decision was made by others and two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan.
The first was dropped on Hiroshima at 8:15 a.m., August 6, 1945. The
second was dropped on Nagasaki three days later. The Japanese
surrendered the next day August 10, 1945.
After leaving Los Alamos in 1945 Teller was
one of a minority of advocates of continuing the research into a
Hydrogen bomb. He accepted a professorship at the university of
Chicago and continued to lobby for funding for a hydrogen bomb project.
In 1949 Teller would return to Los Alamos full time to continue
research on the hydrogen bomb. On May 8, 1951 the Greenhouse George
test of a thermonuclear device was successful, Teller was the "father
of the H-bomb". Teller would go on to hold positions as Associate
Director, Director and Director emeritus of Lawrence Livermore
Laboratory, professor of physics at the University of California,
Chairman of the department of applied science at Livermore, and
senior research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
Throughout his career Teller would be a major proponent of strong
national defense and development of the sciences. He would support
Reagan's Star Wars program as well as be a driving force at Lawrence
Livermore Laboratory which would help to develop the careers of many
Edward Teller Died September 9, 2003 in Stanford