Edward Teller Biography


Birthday: January 15, 1908 (Capricorn)

Born In: Budapest, Hungary

A controversial figure and one of the most brilliant nuclear and molecular physicists, Edward Teller left an unparalleled legacy in the field of science. Hailed as the ‘the father of the hydrogen bomb’, Teller was one of the most imaginative and creative physicists. He holds a significant position in the development of nuclear energy and has made a major contribution in the fields of nuclear physics, molecular physics and spectroscopy. This weapons research pioneer, whose work on nuclear science was of crucial importance, played a key role in the American War effort. He advocated nuclear energy development, proposed the need for a strong nuclear arsenal and the need for a vigorous nuclear testing program in the country. He also helped to create nuclear reactor safety standards. He also investigated and proposed non-military uses of nuclear explosives and also advised Israel on nuclear matters. To learn more interesting facts about his childhood, personal life and professional achievements in the field of science, nuclear energy and nuclear technology, scroll down and continue to read this biography.

Quick Facts

Died At Age: 95


Spouse/Ex-: Augusta Maria

father: Max Teller

mother: Ilona

Born Country: United States

Quotes By Edward Teller Atheists

Died on: September 9, 2003

place of death: Stanford, California, United States

City: Budapest, Hungary

Founder/Co-Founder: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL)

discoveries/inventions: Thermonuclear Weapon

More Facts

education: University of Karlsruhe, University of Leipzig, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

awards: 1986 - United States Military Academy's Sylvanus Thayer Award
1958 - Albert Einstein Award
1962 - Enrico Fermi Award

1975 - Harvey Prize
1991 - Ig Nobel Prizes for Peace in recognition
1961 - Time Persons of the Year
- National Medal of Science
- Presidential Medal of Freedom

Childhood & Early Life
Edward Teller was born in Budapest, Hungary to Jewish parents, Max Teller, who was an attorney and Ilona Teller, a pianist.
In 1928, he graduated from the University of Karlsruhe with a BS degree in Chemical Engineering. He later obtained his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Leipzig.
In 1935, he moved to the United States of America and worked as physics Professor at the George Washington University, where he taught until 1941.
Continue Reading Below
In 1941, he became a citizen of the United States of America, before which he worked as a theoretical physicist. However, after he earned a U.S. citizenship, he became interested in the study of nuclear energy.
In 1942, he was invited to be a part of seminar on the Manhattan Project, a project that developed the first atomic bomb. During the session, he gave ideas about producing a fission weapon.
In 1943, he began to work at the Los Alamos Laboratory, New Mexico, where he was part of the Theoretical Physics department. Here, he began to give his ideas on fission weapons.
In 1946, he participated in a conference on hydrogen bomb design and the same year he quit his job at the Los Alamos Laboratory and began to work as a Professor at the University of Chicago.
In 1949, after the Soviet Union first detonated an atomic bomb, the then President Truman proposed the development program for the hydrogen bomb. The following year, he went to the Los Alamos Laboratory to work on the project.
In 1951, after his research on hydrogen bomb, along with mathematician Stanislaw Ulam, he published the report titled ‘Hydrodynamic Lenses and Radiation Mirrors’, which was the first workable design of the hydrogen bomb.
In 1952, he quit Los Alamos Laboratory, after he was denied the position of the head of the hydrogen project. He instead joined the University of California Radiation Laboratory.
On November 1, 1952 the ‘Ivy Mike’, the thermonuclear weapon created by him and Stanislaw Ulam was successfully tested at the test site, Enewetak. After the testing, he became known in the press as ‘the father of the hydrogen bomb’.
From 1958 to 1960 he was the Director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which he co-founded along with American physicist Ernest Lawrence.
Continue Reading Below
In 1963, he founded the Department of Applied Science, which was a part of the University of California. The university holds the Edward Teller endowed professorship.
In 1975, he retired as a Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley, after which he became the Director Emeritus of the Livermore Laboratory.
In the 1980, he campaigned for The Strategic Defense Initiative, a program that was initiated by the then U.S President Ronald Reagan in order to protect the country from being attacked by nuclear ballistic missiles.
Major Works
He invented the ‘Teller-Ulam design’, which was a first workable design of a hydrogen bomb. This design was used to create the ‘Ivy Mike’, the thermonuclear weapon that was successfully tested in 1952.
Awards & Achievements
In 1962, he was the recipient of the Enrico Fermi Award that is awarded for pursuit in energy science and technology.
In 1991, he was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize Peace for his ‘lifelong efforts to change the meaning of peace as we know it’.
On July 23, 2003 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which was awarded to him by the then President George W. Bush.
Personal Life & Legacy
When he was a young student, he met with a car accident, which caused a severe injury on his right foot. The accident resulted in a prosthetic foot and he had a lifelong limp.
In February, 1934 he married Augusta Maria ‘Mici’ Harkanyi.
He died on September 9, 2003 at the age of 95, due to a stroke at his campus home in Stanford, California.
He was the inspiration behind the 1964 film ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’.
This acclaimed scientist used to play the piano late in the night, a practice that would frustrate and annoy his neighbours.
Recommended Lists:

See the events in life of Edward Teller in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Edward Teller Biography
- Editors, TheFamousPeople.com
- TheFamousPeople.com

People Also Viewed

Hedy Lamarr Biography
Hedy Lamarr
Richard Feynman Biography
Richard Feynman
Joy Mangano Biography
Joy Mangano
Luis Walter Alvarez Biography
Luis Walter Alvarez
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar Biography
Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar
(American, Indian)
Kip Thorne Biography
Kip Thorne
William Shockley Biography
William Shockley
Dean Kamen Biography
Dean Kamen