Dr. Edward Teller
The History of Atomic Weapons
Wednesday, October 16th, 1996
Efforts in Germany and Russia prior to 1945 led to no practical results. The Soviet Union, using the American design, produced their first atomic bomb in 1949.
The Soviet success introduced a competition connected with the Cold War on the construction of explosives based only partly on the fission of uranium and utilizing reactions between hydrogen nuclei similar to those proceeding in the stars and the sun. The development goes under the name of the hydrogen bomb.
The winning of the Cold War was in part due to initial developments of defense against delivery of atomic bombs by missiles in the United States.
The development of nuclear reactors for the generation of electricity at first proceeded worldwide but was soon stopped in the United States and other places while the use is strongly supported in France and Japan. The stopping of nuclear reactors was primarily due to fear of radioactivity and nuclear energy in general. This fear, clearly connected with the shock caused by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, has given rise to widespread antiscientific sentiment, particularly in Germany and the United States.
In the last few decades, the question has been raised whether too much knowledge may become dangerous. This trend is worrisome. In the last fifty years, it has been connected with environmentalism and has become progressively more influential.
Consider this example: The number of people who are known to have died as a result of Chernobyl is less than one hundred. Fear of radioactivity connected with Chernobyl has given rise to more than ten thousand abortions.
Born in Budapest in 1908, Dr. Teller received his Ph.D. in physics in 1930 at the University of Leipzig. With the rise of the Nazis, he left Germany, and in 1935 was appointed Professor of Physics at The George Washington University in Washington, DC. The possibilities of fission, together with the menace of Nazi Germany, led him to work on the Manhattan Project. At an early stage, the potential of releasing energy via nuclear fusion became apparent and much of his attention was subsequently devoted to this development.
After World War II, Dr. Teller became Professor of Physics at the University of Chicago, where he remained until the threat of Soviet developments motivated him to return as Assistant Director to Los Alamos. In 1952 at the time of the first test of the hydrogen bomb, Dr. Teller joined the University of California at Berkeley and started work at the newly-founded Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. He retired in 1975 and now holds the positions of Director Emeritus at Livermore and Senior Research fellow at the Hoover Institution.
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