Edward Teller

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Edward Teller

Edward Teller (1908-2003) was a theoretical physicist who was born in Austria-Hungary, educated in Germany, and who immigrated to the United States in 1935 to escape Hitler. Teller was a brilliant scientist who was denied the Nobel Prize due to his conservative views, most notably his justified criticism of the liberal icon J. Robert Oppenheimer.


His specialty was nuclear energy, both fission and fusion. He discovered the Jahn-Teller Effect in 1939, describing the geometrical distortion of electron clouds undergo in chemical reactions of metals he also helped develop the the Brunauer-Emmett-Teller (BET) isotherm for surface physics and chemistry.

Work on the atomic bomb

In 1942, Teller worked with Leo Szilard at the University of Chicago in the early stages of the Manhattan Project, and a year later headed the Theoretical Physics division at Los Alamos in New Mexico.

When the Soviet Union detonated an atomic bomb in August 1949 based on secrets stolen from the United States, Teller began advocating construction of a far more powerful hydrogen bomb. A series of design attempts and work with mathematician Stanislaw Ulam resulted in the Teller-Ulam design.

Relationships in the scientific community

Teller's testimony against J. Robert Oppenheimer in 1954 created a backlash against him by liberal scientists.[1] The hearings resulted in the United States Atomic Energy Commission taking away Oppenheimer's security clearance. Teller testified, "I feel I would prefer to see the vital interests of this country in hands that I understand better and therefore trust more." The clearance was taken away because of other evidence that Oppenheimer had many associations with communists, and had lied about them.

Teller set up the second major US atomic research lab, Lawrence Livermore National Lab

Advisor to president Reagan

A conservative academic physicist, Teller later supported President Ronald Reagan's missile defense proposal known as the Strategic Defense Initiative

Global warming

In the years before his death, Teller began speaking out about the hysteria over global warming, writing in The Wall Street Journal in 1997 that "the jury is still out" on whether gases such as carbon dioxide cause global warming, but in the event it does occur, science and technology can address any such effects far cheaper than overregulating the market with emissions restrictions.[2] He suggested the cooling caused by volcanic eruptions could serve as a model for the deliberate introduction of fine particles similar to those produced by volcanoes into the upper atmosphere, which would mitigate any warming at a cost of between 0.1% and 1% of the cost of implementing the restrictions called for by environmentalists.[3]

Edward Teller is also a signatory to the Global Warming Petition Project, a petition urging the United States government to reject the Kyoto Protocol, a petition which also reads in part, "There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse [gases] is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth's atmosphere and disruption of the Earth's climate."[4]

References and notes

  1. http://www.nytimes.com/2003/09/10/obituaries/10TELL.html?ex=1378612800&en=527a0430768a87c7&ei=5007
  2. Teller, Edward. "The Planet Needs a Sunscreen". The Wall Street Journal, October 17, 1997. Also reprinted in the Hoover Institution's Hoover Digest 1998, No.1, full text at http://www.evolutionquebec.com/site/archives/teller.htm
  3. http://www.ncpa.org/pi/enviro/envpd/pdenv125.html
  4. http://www.oism.org/pproject/pproject.htm