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The inspiration of Herman Mark


Permission to become a physicist
Edward Teller Scientist
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The same Einstein was also connected with de Broglie, in other very amusing story. De Broglie, in his French university, wrote a thesis and when the professors read that peculiar thing - electrons like waves - We can't accept that. But there was a problem about that; they couldn't refuse it either, because de Broglie's father was a very famous mathematician - I am sorry - a very famous politician, prime minister or something. You could not throw out his son without very good arguments. So the French professors had a real dilemma and here was a fortunate circumstance - Einstein was visiting and they showed him de Broglie's paper and Einstein got very enthusiastic. De Broglie got a Doctor's degree and, incidentally, later the Nobel Prize. It would have been a spectacle for his not getting the degree but the Nobel Prize only. That almost happened except for Einstein. Einstein then showed the paper, sent it around among others to Schrödinger who then made a theory of the hydrogen atom based on de Broglie's ideas. That was too much for me. This obviously was something I ought to be interested in. And I no longer wanted to become a mathematician. I did want to become a physicist, and told my father. Now, in the meantime, I had been a good boy and studied chemistry for two years. And my father didn't want to say yes, but couldn't quite say no so he decided to come out to Karlsruhe and talk to my professors. I wasn't there at the talks. I suspect my professor might have told him something of the kind- A peculiar guy. If he would be my son I would let him do whatever he wants, it could be worse. At any rate, I got the permission to become a physicist.

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, 6 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008