ENERGY AND CONFLICT: The Life and Times of Edward Teller by Stanley A. & Gwinn Owens Blumberg

ENERGY AND CONFLICT: The Life and Times of Edward Teller

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There is an Uncertainty Principle applicable to the behavior of individuals as well as to atomic particles, the authors acknowledge in their exhaustively documented account of Teller's life. Time affects memories, records are incomplete, the mere probing may alter the accounts. Was it Teller alone who was responsible for the essential design that made a hydrogen bomb practicable? Was it childhood trauma in Hungary under Bela Kun followed by the fascist regime of Admiral Horthy that produced such profound anti-Russian anti-communist sentiments? Was it jealousy that led to the devastating testimony that cost Oppenheimer his security clearance? In this authorized biography Teller and others speak candidly about his life and work. It is not a one-dimensional portrait of a right-wing mad Hungarian. Teller, for example, has always advocated sharing scientific information. Yet he is authoritarian enough to adhere rigidly to the rules if government imposes rules. He declined an offer to teach in California at a time loyalty oaths were demanded; he came close to circulating a petition against dropping the atom bomb on Japan. But after the Oppenheimer affair Teller found himself painfully isolated from most of the scientific community; more and more he sought the comfort of the military, the haws, right-wing groups. The authors have been polite and affectionate in dealing with Teller, allowing his detractors space but generally supporting Teller or remaining neutral. As biography their work is old-fashioned, of the ""little did he know"" school. (Must the physicists always be geniuses, colossi?) Read as a gathering of facts, personal interviews, and contrasting opinions it is a valuable addition to history, to place alongside the accounts of Laura Fermi, Vannevar Bush, and most recently, Stanislaw Ulam.

Pub Date: July 13th, 1976
Publisher: Putnam