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Testifying and the repercussions


Oppenheimer's secret testimony and Chevalier
Edward Teller Scientist
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This is the testimony of Oppenheimer and in particular he is being asked about one of his friends, I think originally from Norway and then teaching at Berkeley, by the name of Haakon Chevalier. According to what I read, and it was new to me then, Oppenheimer while director at Los Alamos, being investigated and being asked about his associates, said- Chevalier is connected with the Soviets. Information may get to the Soviets through him. Watch him. Actually I am simplifying this a little unduly. Oppenheimer said all this and not mentioned Chevalier's name. He was then for weeks, perhaps even months, pressed to name someone who should be particularly watched and, under pressure, as Director of Los Alamos, he gave the name of Chevalier. He was asked about this in his sworn testimony and he said- Chevalier was not really suspicious. I was wrong, says Oppe- Oppenheimer- to give his name. - Then why did you do so? Here is Oppenheimer's literal and complete answer, under oath- Because I was a fool. That's all he said. But Chevalier lost his job. I did not know it then, I found out later that Chevalier wrote two books about all of this, the second quite explicit, has the title "Oppenheimer: The Story of a Friendship". I read all this and Robb asked me- Now, will you say that Oppenheimer should be cleared? And my answer said, was- I don't know.

The late Hungarian-American physicist Edward Teller helped to develop the atomic bomb and provided the theoretical framework for the hydrogen bomb. During his long and sometimes controversial career he was a staunch advocate of nuclear power and also of a strong defence policy, calling for the development of advanced thermonuclear weapons.

Listeners: John H. Nuckolls

John H. Nuckolls was Director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1988 to 1994. He joined the Laboratory in 1955, 3 years after its establishment, with a masters degree in physics from Columbia. He rose to become the Laboratory's Associate Director for Physics before his appointment as Director in 1988.

Nuckolls, a laser fusion and nuclear weapons physicist, helped pioneer the use of computers to understand and simulate physics phenomena at extremes of temperature, density and short time scales. He is internationally recognised for his work in the development and control of nuclear explosions and as a pioneer in the development of laser fusion.

Duration: 3 minutes, 4 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008