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Staying in Rome and Fermi's work with uranium


Going to Rome with Placzek to visit Fermi
Edward Teller Scientist
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And now I want to forget about physics and talk for a moment about people. Placzek wanted to continue with his work in the holidays while Göttingen was closed. I wanted to go home to Budapest and he said- No. I, Placzek, want to visit with Fermi in Rome and you come along. In a way, I was interested but I had just started to make my own money, needed little help from home. Didn't quite know how to pay for my stay in Rome. Oh said Placzek- I will take care of that. I'll ask Fermi. Here I get a copy of a letter from Fermi, that he has written to appropriate authorities in Hungary- I hear that Doctor Teller is considering to visit Rome for a few weeks. He's a very famous physicist, and I want his cooperation. Could you please help him to get to Rome and to stay there? Fermi and I never met. That he had reason to consider me as a famous physicist was, to say the very least, an impudent exaggeration. But what makes the story particularly enjoyable for me is that together with the copy of the letter to the Hungarian authorities, I got, attached, a little note from Fermi- Dear Doctor Teller, I am sending you this copy. I want you to know that actually I would be really very happy to see you in Rome. So he took back the exaggeration but replaced it with a, a premature offer of friendship which, of course, became a very real friendship in the course of time.

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, 54 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008