Edward Teller

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Teller, Edward,

1908–2003, American physicist, b. Budapest, Hungary, Ph.D. Univ. of Leipzig, 1930, where he studied under Werner HeisenbergHeisenberg, Werner
, 1901–76, German physicist. One of the founders of the quantum theory, he is best known for his uncertainty principle, or indeterminacy principle, which states that it is impossible to determine with arbitrarily high accuracy both the position and
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. Fleeing the Nazis, he came to the United States in 1935 and was naturalized in 1941. He was (1935–41) a professor of physics at George Washington Univ. and during World War II he worked on atomic bomb research at a number of facilities. Later he was (1946–52) professor of physics at the Univ. of Chicago. He was also associated (1949–51) with the thermonuclear research program of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. From 1952, Teller was professor of physics at the Univ. of California and director of the Livermore division of its radiation laboratory. In 1960 he resigned from his laboratory post to devote his time to teaching and research; he retired in 1975.

Teller worked on the physics of the hydrogen bombhydrogen bomb
or H-bomb,
weapon deriving a large portion of its energy from the nuclear fusion of hydrogen isotopes. In an atomic bomb, uranium or plutonium is split into lighter elements that together weigh less than the original atoms, the remainder of the mass
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 from 1941 forward and was instrumental in making possible the first successful U.S. explosion of the device on Nov. 1, 1952. Robert OppenheimerOppenheimer, J. Robert
, 1904–67, American physicist, b. New York City, grad. Harvard (B.A., 1925), Ph.D. Univ. of Göttingen, 1927. He taught at the Univ. of California and the California Institute of Technology from 1929 (as professor from 1936) until his appointment
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 had opposed the develop of the bomb on technical and moral grounds, and Teller later publicly called (1954) for his colleague's removal from positions involving national security, an act that alienated many within the scientific community. Teller received the 1962 Enrico Fermi Award For his contributions to the development, use, and control of nuclear energy; in 2003 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Teller, who distrusted arms control, was a supporter of a nuclear-powered X-ray laser missile defense system and a major proponent of President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense InitiativeStrategic Defense Initiative
(SDI), former U.S. government program responsible for research and development of a space-based system to defend the nation from attack by strategic ballistic missiles (see guided missile).
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. His writings include The Legacy of Hiroshima (with Allen Brown, 1962), The Constructive Uses of Nuclear Explosives (with others, 1968), and Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics (2001).


See biography by P. Goodchild (2005); G. Herken, Brotherhood of the Bomb (2002).

Teller, Edward


Born Jan. 15, 1908, in Budapest. American physicist.

Teller studied at the Technische Hochschule in Karlsruhe, under A. Sommerfeld at the University of Munich, and under W. Heisenberg at the University of Leipzig. From 1929 to 1935 he did research and lectured in Leipzig, Göttingen, Copenhagen, and London. From 1935 to 1941 he was a professor at George Washington University in Washington. Beginning in 1941, Teller took part in the development of the atomic bomb at Columbia University, the University of Chicago, and the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. From 1946 to 1952 he was a professor at the University of Chicago. From 1949 to 1952 he was assistant director of the Los Alamos Laboratory, where he helped develop the hydrogen bomb. In 1953 he became a professor at the University of California.

Teller’s main works between 1931 and 1936 dealt with quantum mechanics and chemical bonds. Beginning in 1936, his research centered on nuclear physics. Together with G. Gamow, Teller formulated a selection rule for beta decay; he also made a substantial contribution to the theory of nuclear interactions. Other research by Teller has dealt with cosmology, the theory of stellar interiors, the problem of the origin of cosmic rays, and the physics of high energy densities.


In Russian translation:
Nashe iadernoe budushchee. Moscow, 1958. (With A. L. Latter.)
Fizika vysokikh plotnostei energii. Moscow, 1974. (With others.)


Teller, Edward

(1908–  ) physicist; born in Budapest, Hungary. He studied theoretical physics in Europe before emigrating to the U.S.A. (1935). At George Washington University, he collaborated with George Gamow in classifications of rules for beta decay, and applications of astrophysics to controlled thermonuclear reactions. Teller worked on the atomic bomb (1941–46), then became a physicist at the University of Chicago (1946–52). After joining the University of California: Berkeley (1953–75), he repudiated Oppenheimer's moral qualms and took the lead in developing the hydrogen bomb (1954). Throughout his career as a physicist and as a government adviser, Teller was an advocate of defensive atomic weaponry and often found himself engaged in controversies.