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.
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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.
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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.
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’.