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Getting funding for, and starting work on, a nuclear reactor


Becoming better acquainted with Fermi
Edward Teller Scientist
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I want to say something about Fermi here, even if it puts a little delay here. In between the long gone days of Europe and Rome, Fermi and I became much better acquainted. He received the Nobel Prize, he came to the United States and then we met at a conference in Stanford. I believe in the summer of '38. And Fermi, my wife and I drove back in the car from Stanford to East Coast. And I remember that conference- that drive because Fermi was not interested in many things, he did want to see Hollywood. And I did not know how to get to Hollywood except again, through a Hungarian who knew everybody and everything, the great aerodynamicist, Theodore von Karman. We drove down to Los Angeles. Fermi and von Karman. Von Karman just came back from China. He rode some Chinese plane there to a strange place on the Yangtse Chiang. And Fermi asked him- Were you not afraid to fly the Chinese plane? And Uncle Theodore said- Well, I decided- I designed it myself. But when I was carried up by four Chinese, in a chair, on top of the mountain where I had an appointment with the President of China, you know, that was bad. Because two of the Chinese, once in a while would stand on one end of the precipice and the other two at the other end, the road curving in between, and I was sitting right on the top of nothing and then I was afraid. Well, Fermi and I discussed that. Fermi and I discussed many other things. In the fall of '39, I went to him- Come and help us plan the atomic bomb. - I went to the Navy, I don't want to have anything more to do with it but listen, said Fermi- you may go as my representative. I tell you what I would say if I went there. So he told something to me.

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, 40 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008