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Working on Set Theory from first principles


Going to university in Germany
Edward Teller Scientist
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By the beginning of the new year - I was just a few days short of the age of eighteen - I left for a university in Germany, Karlsruhe, that had an excellent reputation for chemistry. And I studied chemistry. I even worked on experiments, I even am proud of an experimental idea that I had. One of the jobs we had was to determine what salt was discovered- was dissolved in water; sodium chloride or potassium chloride or lithium chloride or cesium chloride - difficult. You pour in this and you get a precipitate and they all behave very similarly. But here I had a splendid idea. In a corner of the laboratory there was a spectroscope. And I took a drop of it and I did not see the yellow sodium line. I did see the red lithium line. And so I had the answer sooner than anybody else. But you might almost say, not with complete justice, that as an experimental chemist I did well, but only by cheating, to a small extent.

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: 2 minutes, 4 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008