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The Rockefeller Fellowship and marriage (Part 2)


The Rockefeller Fellowship and marriage (Part 1)
Edward Teller Scientist
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I actually did not stay long in London on that occasion because I had applied for a Rockefeller Fellowship to study for a year with Bohr in Copenhagen. And I got in that connection a questionnaire which looked as though I would get the job. I filled it out, sent it back, got it back, with a letter saying- Here it says in the quest- in your answers, that you intend to get married. Can you tell us when and how are you really going to get married? That sounded a little fishy to me. So I went to Donnan- How shall I answer that? And Donnan said- Now look, that is not a very well put question. It should not say get married or not get married, it also should say you are married, will you get divorced? Will you get divorced by killing your wife? There are a lot of possibilities. Somehow I agree with you, this is a funny question. You get a be- go down to Paris, to the headquarters of the Rockefeller Foundation and not answer them but tell them. So, I took the next train and boat and got to Paris. And that was my first meeting with an American official. A very peculiar meeting. The man whom I met seemed a little embarrassed and he said- I don't want you to get the wrong impression. We in America are really not against the institution of marriage. But I have to tell you that if you get married in that period you can't get the fellowship. I don't know how and in what way - I found out that they had a sad experience with another Hungarian who got married while he was a fellow and gave all his attention to the marriage and none of it to the science. But at any rate, I had to make up my mind to get married or go to Copenhagen. So I called up my prospective wife, Mici, and she said- By all means, we can get married a little later. Go to Copenhagen. And I accepted and went. But that was not the end of the story. On an earlier occasion, James Franck, about whom I have to- told you, he and I were together in Copenhagen and he knew about my plans to get married. And so I wrote him a letter, not complaining, but telling him what happened and I got a letter with return mail- This is a scandal. Will you please write to me all the details and I will arrange it that you can get married. At that point I made a mistake. Instead of answering Franck, I thought- This is something concerning my fellowship, I better tell Bohr about it. So I did. And he took me down to have a cup of coffee and he listened to everything and he said- The Rockefeller people are so nice to us, so helpful to us. You must not talk to anybody else about that. Write back to Franck and tell him, ask him why he's saying these things. You cannot answer. - But Franck already gave his advice. - No matter, write to Franck.

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: 5 minutes, 36 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008