(1908–2003), theoretical physicist, coinventor of the U.S. hydrogen bomb.
Born in Budapest, Hungary, Teller studied physics at the University of Leipzig, receiving his doctorate in 1930. Fleeing Germany because of Nazi persecution, Teller and his wife in 1935 immigrated to the United States, where he taught at George Washington University.
In 1943, Teller joined the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, New Mexico, where the atomic bomb was being developed under the direction of the physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. There Teller worked on an even more powerful weapon, the hydrogen bomb (H-bomb). His original concept proved unworkable.
After the war, the H-bomb became a near-obsession for Teller, who joined a politically conservative coalition of government and military leaders to lobby for its development. After the Soviet Union tested an atomic bomb in August 1949, President Harry S. Truman gave a green light to the H-bomb project. In early 1951, Teller and the Los Alamos mathematician Stanislaw Ulam proposed a radically different design for the H-bomb, which was successfully tested the following year. Also in 1952, Teller played an important role in establishing a second weapons-design laboratory, at Livermore, California. In 1954, Teller became a pariah to many in the nation's scientific community for his testimony against Oppenheimer at the latter's security hearing.
As director of the Livermore laboratory from 1958 to 1960 and an outside advocate long after, Teller lobbied for causes he believed in. These included opposition to a nuclear test-ban treaty and support for the civilian nuclear-power industry. In 1983, as a member of the White House Science Council, Teller played a key role in President Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, which envisioned a space-based defense against missile attack.
Stanley A. Blumberg and Louis G. Panos, Edward Teller: Giant of the Golden Age of Physics, 1990.
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William J. Broad, Teller's War: The Top-Secret Story behind the Star Wars Deception, 1992.
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