a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Political persuasions (Part 2)


Political persuasions (Part 1)
Edward Teller Scientist
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments
I have to tell you more about Lev Landau. Later we had many discussions, one of them even resulted in a joint publication. But I want to tell you now something of my political problems at that time. In Leipzig, in Göttingen, I met with many people with whom I could discuss politics in a way I never discussed it before. People like Heisenberg and his close friend and mine, von Reisecker, strong anticommunists, and people like Landau, a convinced idealistic communist. Remember the times around 1930, the time of the Great Depression, a time when it seemed appa-apparent that capitalism has disproved itself. I did not participate in those discussions a great deal but I listened very carefully. I knew communism from a rather unpleasant angle, from the early communism in Hungary but that was way in the past and now we were in the midst of something that looked like successful communism in Russia, unsuccessful capitalism in America and the rise of Hitler in Germany. What to think about all this. I did think. I did not come to a result. I came to doubts. Many people say now about me that I have been an early violent anticommunist. That is simply not true. At that time, I was full of questions. I came to decisions much later. And I came to decisions for a great number of reasons, of which I want to mention two that were decisive. I worked with one of my Hungarian friends, Tisza. He was one who competed with me for the Eötvös Prize and shared with me the Eötvös Prize in mathematics. He and I wrote a paper together. I really loved that paper. It seemed to give- belong, to a rotation of a dipole moment, a rotation of the whole molecule. And Tisza I- and I discovered that it was not due to a rotation, it was due to a peculiar modification of a vibration that looked like a rotation. We worked together, respected- we respected each other. And Tisza was a devoted communist. A little later, in the early '30s, he was arrested for having done some service to the communists in Hungary. I don't know and don't care what it was. It became quite clear that Tisza who was arrested aft- for a short time and then let go, would never have a career in physics - in science - in Hungary and where- he studied there; he did not have any prospects. So I decided to help him. I recommended him to Landau who had gone, gone back to the Soviet Union and who was working in Kharkov. Tisza went there and worked with Landau. And at a la- somewhat later time, maybe it was '34, '35, I think, I was already in the United States, he came back from Russia, completely disillusioned. He was a con- convin- convinced communist and that he certainly was no longer.

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: 6 minutes, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008