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An influence by Wigner and deciding to start a family
Edward Teller Scientist
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Now, let me tell you the opposite of this. While we were working in Chicago, my good friend Eugene Wigner and I, we did not work on the same thing. Eugene told me- It's enough, if we prepare the materials to put together the atomic bomb will be an easy thing, don't go to Los Alamos. I thought I knew otherwise. But I also was influenced by Wigner in other ways. The war was going on, as the Nazis moved forward in the Soviet Union. I saw Wigner once a week or once in two weeks- How does it go? And Eugene will say- It's terrible. A counter offensive was beginning to go and Eugene said- Well, we take back a village here, a town there, it does not make much difference, it's terrible. Then came the day that the Nazi armies in Stalingrad were surrounded and I now was expecting to see something new; an optimistic Wigner- How does it go? So Eugene shakes his head and he says, in the old voice- It is terrible. What kind of a peace will we make? We knew at that time, and I say it for this reason, we knew at that time that we are working on terrible problems in connection with the war and in connection with everything that would follow the war. When it came time, early in 1943, to go to Los Alamos, I had some difficulties. By that time, Mici and I had been married for a few years. We did not have any children. We ha- did not have enough confidence in the future. But when America entered the war, then I began to be a little optimistic about defeating Hitler. Then we started to work seriously on a family and early in 1943, our first- first child was to arrive and did - Paul was born beginning of February. But I had to leave for Los Alamos and Mici and the little boy could not follow immediately, so I went alone. There was- there was the boy high school in Los Alamos, with a few houses for the administrative leaders. The rest of us were given small rooms in what was- in what was called The Big House. I remember my discomfort there due to the fact that I had a room next to Dick Feynman. And Dick Feynman preferred to make very loud and not very melodious music late into the night. I had plenty of opportunity to find out later that his physics was incomparably better than his music.

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, 14 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008