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Edward Teller (in Budapest, January 15, 1908 – Stanford, United States, September 9, 2003) was a physicist of Hungarian origin, nationalized American in 1941, a country that had emigrated in 1935 fleeing from the persecutions of Hitler’s Germany.
Teller is especially remembered for his involvement in the manufacture of the hydrogen bomb, so he is credited with the nickname of father of the bomb H. His public figure was always controversial because of his hardness in his decisions. He received important honors and was criticized by many of his colleagues for his lobbying.
He studied Physical Sciences at the famous University of Technology and Economics in Budapest, Hungary, and then continued his studies in Munich and Leipzig as well as the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany, finishing with a postgraduate course in Copenhagen with Niels Bohr in Denmark, pioneer of quantum mechanics and nuclear physics.
Teller was marked in his youth by the communist revolution of Béla Kun in Hungary and by the loss of a leg in a traffic accident. His early work was aimed at studying the rules of selection of quantum mechanics working in fields as diverse as solid state physics and cosmology.
Being a very talented physicist, he acquired a pre-eminent position among the North American scientific community. In 1939 he accompanied Leó Szilárd to see Albert Einstein to persuade him to write a letter to President Franklin Roosevelt in which he suggested the development of a nuclear weapons program in the fear that Nazi Germany could develop such weapons. Soon after, he was an important part of a secret program for the development of the first atomic bomb. The name of this project was Manhattan Project , and its main facilities were located in a base built for that purpose in Los Alamos.
Teller worked with Enrico Fermi (physicist of Italian nationalized American origin) for more than ten years. Both collaborated on the Manhattan Project and other projects at the universities of Chicago, Columbia, Los Alamos and New Mexico.
One of the most criticized actions of Teller is during the so-called Security Audit promoted by the FBI where he made a serious accusation against the father of the atomic bomb Robert Oppenheimer sindicating him as a spy of communism and that was supported by J. Edgar Hoover what caused the exit of the scenario of Oppenheimer leaving Teller free to co-produce the bomb H, to which Oppenheimer was opposed.
From 1952 he devoted himself to teaching as professor of physics at the University of California until his retirement in 1975. Between 1958 and 1960 he was director of the radiation laboratory at the University of California, known today as the National Laboratory Lawrence Livermore, one of the main arms research centers of the United States together with the National Laboratory of Los Alamos. After his retirement in teaching he continued to be director emeritus of this laboratory.
He died on September 9, 2003 at the age of 95, after suffering a heart attack, in his home on the university campus of Stanford University, where he was in his last years a leading researcher and defender of energy policy in the Hoover Institution. In life he had been an influential member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the American Nuclear Society. Among the most important honors he received in life were the Albert Einstein Prize, the Enrico Fermi Prize and the National Medal of Science. Less than two months before his death he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.
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