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Attempts to make nuclear explosives more effective


Szilárd's help with family (Part 2)
Edward Teller Scientist
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The remarkable thing is that he did, very effectively. I had tried through official connections to get permission for my mother and sister and my nephew to leave Hungary. My nephew actually had escaped by that time, but my mother and sister were still there. No success. Szilárd went to the next conference that carried the name of Pugwash, a conference of people all over the world, but particularly Americans and Russians, to collaborate for peace. The next Pugwash conference occurred in Austria and Szilárd went to the leader of the Soviet delegation- Why don't you let Teller's mother and sister leave Hungary?- Hungary's an independent country. We have nothing to do with that in Moscow. But in a few hours the Hungarian delegate came to Szilárd and asked him the same question, same kind of exchange, almost. The result was that the Hungarian delegate saw my mother and sister within weeks and in a short time they were allowed to come out and join me in the United States. What does that mean? What I was doing, they, my mother and sister had no idea about. My sister was once detained and she was very disagreeably interrogated about what I was doing. She correctly said- I don't know. I was cautious enough not even to correspond with them but do all my correspondence through an aunt. They knew nothing. They could get out- the Soviets could get out of them nothing. But by letting them go they retained a good opinion of Szilárd and I gained the company of my mother in her last years of life and my sister who is still around. Many friends I lost. A few I retained and that of course was particularly valuable. In the meantime our work in Livermore went ahead.

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, 52 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008