Judging Edward Teller

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Prometheus Books, Dec 31, 2010 - Biography & Autobiography - 575 pages
Foreword by Peter Lax, Recipient of the National Medal of Science and the Abel PrizeAfterword by Richard Garwin, Recipient of the National Medal of Science and the Enrico Fermi AwardMany people know Edward Teller as the Father of the H-Bomb. His name tends to generate extreme views. To his supporters he was a hero of the Cold War. To his detractors he was evil personified. Between these extremes was the life of the real man.In this definitive and comprehensive biography, Hungarian scientist Istvan Hargittai, a personal acquaintance of Teller's, presents a balanced portrait of the multifaceted and enigmatic scientist against the backdrop of a turbulent period of history. Taking pains to avoid bias and preconceptions, Hargittai critically examines Teller's personality, family background, and the experiences that guided his actions-correcting many of the myths that others and Teller himself promulgated.Drawing for the first time on hitherto unknown archival material from Hungarian, American, and German sources, the author provides fresh insights that help the reader to understand Teller's motivations, his relationships with friends and foes, and his driven personality. In addition to this research and his own memories of Teller, Hargittai has interviewed for this book such prominent figures as Richard Garwin, Freeman Dyson, George A. Keyworth, and Wendy Teller (Edward Teller's daughter), among others.Hargittai reviews the significant facets of Teller's life: his Jewish-Hungarian origins, forced emigrations, brilliance in science, and devotion to the defense of the United States. He also discusses Teller's ruthless Machiavellism in achieving his goals, which included his pivotal role in the creation of the hydrogen bomb and the second weapons laboratory at Livermore, as well as his damaging testimony against physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. Teller's peers viewed this testimony as a betrayal and, in effect, sent him into internal exile, which Hargittai describes as more tormenting to him than his previous emigrations. The author notes that Teller was sometimes called a monomaniac with many manias, such as his fierce opposition to nuclear test bans during the Cold War and, toward the end of his life, his role as propagandist for the Strategic Defense Initiative. Yet, his very excesses may have in fact contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union.Who was Edward Teller-the real Dr. Strangelove, the driven crusader for the H-Bomb, the villain who destroyed Oppenheimer, or the devoted husband, loyal friend, patriot, and strongly idealistic scientist? This monumental work will reveal the contradictory nature of this complex man in all his strengths, flaws, and brilliance.Istvan Hargittai, PhD, DSc (Budapest, Hungary), is the author of several acclaimed books including the six-volume Candid Science series of interviews with famous scientists; The Road to Stockholm: Nobel Prizes, Science, and Scientists; The Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century; and The DNA Doctor: Candid Conversations with James D. Watson. Dr. Hargittai is professor of chemistry at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics and head of the George A Olah PhD School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering. He is a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, a foreign member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, and a member of the Academia Europaea in London. His work on this book was assisted by a generous grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
 

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Judging Edward Teller: A Closer Look at One of the Most Influential Scientists of the Twentieth Century

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Hargittai (chemistry, Budapest Univ.) has written an excellent, in-depth biography of Hungarian-born physicist Teller (1908–2003), known as the "father of the hydrogen bomb," who became a U.S. citizen ... Read full review

Contents

Foreword by Peter Lax 15
Gimnázium Experience 43
Higher Learning Begins 49
ROAD TO SCIENCE 61
TRANSITIONS 91
ATOMIC BOMB QUEST 123
NO CALM BEFORE THE STORM 165
FATHERING THE HYDROGEN BOMB 205
FALLOUT AND TEST BAN 317
A MONOMANIAC WITH MANY MANIAS 353
WARRING THE STARS 389
FINAL THOUGHTS 425
Afterword by Richard Garwin 457
Biographical Names 469
Notes 489
Index 549

FROM WORRIER TO WARRIOR 243
TELLER AND OPPENHEIMER 277

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About the author (2010)

Istvan Hargittai PhD, DSc (Budapest, Hungary), is the author of the critically acclaimed Judging Edward Teller; the six-volume Candid Science series of interviews with famous scientists; The Road to Stockholm: Nobel Prizes, Science, and Scientists; The Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century; and The DNA Doctor: Candid Conversations with James D. Watson. Dr. Hargittai is Research Professor at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. He is a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, a foreign member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, and a member of the Academia Europaea in London.

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