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Giving a seminar to Bohr in English


The Rockefeller Fellowship and marriage (Part 2)
Edward Teller Scientist
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By that time I was very impatient. I had postponed my marriage by a few weeks already and I was not terribly happy about the arrangement and I told Bohr that I was a little unhappy. And so Bohr said- Let's talk again. And for the next few days, whenever I saw Bohr at the end of one corridor, he turned his back and ran away. After a week he came to me and he said- I talked with my brother - the very great mathematician, Harold Bohr - he told me that probably you should accept that letter. You should ac- you should complain to Franck. You know, the real problem was that Franck's suggestion that I'm so unhappy about not being married that I can't work. And Bohr said to me- had said to me- You know, that is not quite true, you have been working. And I wanted to lie and Bohr didn't let me. But then he came back and he said- Perhaps you should lie. And there was Placzek and he told me- Now, go ahead and write immediately, just as Franck suggested. And I did. Dropped the letter. It came with a delay of three weeks. And after I dropped the letter, I remembered that I had not explained to Franck why my re- reply came so late. At any rate, the result was a letter I got from the Rockefeller Fellowship- from the Rockefeller Institute that was perhaps the funniest letter that I ever got. It was quantum mechanical in the sense that it was full of contradictions- It is quite clear that if you are getting married, you should not get a fellowship. But in your case- on the other hand- it went on and on with arguments for and against, justifying their earlier position. I did not know what to do about it, except for the last sentence. The last sentence was- Please inform us of the date of your marriage. Then I thought, I cannot possibly do that without getting married so I promptly went back to Budapest, got married and brought out my new wife to Copenhagen and worked happily ever after with a number of little remarkable incidents. One was that in Copenhagen I met a newly- another newly married couple, Johnny Wheeler and his wife. A very good friend who later, together with Bohr, wrote the essential paper on uranium fission, discovering- giving arguments that not all uraniums are equally apt to undergo fission. But the light isotope, that is, cons- makes up less than 1% of natural uranium, that is the real stuff. And then even later, Johnny Wheeler did remarkable, and I think a little doubtful things, about far-out speculations concerning the consequences of Einstein's general relativity, including id- ideas such as black holes, things that I believe actually exist and have the property that you can get into them but not out of them, that's why they are black.

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

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008