'Judging Edward Teller'October 25, 2010
Many people know Edward Teller as the "Father of the H-Bomb." 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.
"JUDGING EDWARD TELLER is a serious, well researched attempt to interpret the enigmatic nature of a great scientist, one who had the courage to stand up for his beliefs," says G. A. Keyworth, II, science advisor to President Reagan, 1981. "It's a must read for those whose interests range from how America rose in the 1930's, through immigration, to become the world's leading nation in science, to how the H-bomb was developed, a most counter-intuitive invention, to how effective Soviet intelligence was in penetrating the Manhattan Project and its follow-on efforts, to just how close the U.S. came to losing to the Soviet Union it's post-war lead in nuclear weaponry."
In this definitive and comprehensive biography--with a foreword by Peter Lax, recipient of the National Medal of Science and the Abel Prize and an afterword by Richard Garwin, recipient of the National Medal of Science and the Enrico Fermi Award--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.
Siegfried S. Hecker, professor (research), Stanford University, and director emeritus, Los Alamos National Laboratory calls JUDGING EDWARD TELLER "by far the best and most balanced treatment of the man, his work, and his influence. Splendid, fascinating, masterful--Hargittai's insightful book will be instrumental in how one of the most gifted, influential, yet often despised scientists of the twentieth century will be judged." Hecker adds, "He brings to life both the charming and dark sides of Edward Teller I witnessed during my years at Los Alamos."
Drawing for the first time on hitherto unknown archival material from Hungarian, American, and German sources, Hargittai 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 interviewed such prominent figures as Richard Garwin, Freeman Dyson, George A. Keyworth, and Wendy Teller (Edward Teller's daughter), among others.
The author 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. Hargittai 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 Teller than his previous emigrations. He 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.
Harold M. Agnew, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory and former chairman of the US General Advisory Committee ACDA calls JUDGING EDWARD TELLER "a must read for those who wish an accurate accounting of Teller and his associates who led the free world into the nuclear era."
So 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.
-end-About the Author: Istvan Hargittai, PhD, DSc (Budapest, Hungary) is professor of chemistry at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, head of the George A Olah PhD School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, and author of several acclaimed books including the six-volume Candid Science series; The Road to Stockholm; The Martians of Science; and The DNA Doctor. 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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