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Discovering an interest projective geometry


Learning the piano
Edward Teller Scientist
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But one of my very important memories of Lugos was connected with piano playing, with music. I started to be taught to use my fingers on the piano two years earlier and I don't- didn't like it very much. I just loved to listen to my mother, who herself intended to become a pianist. She was a good one. I remember the Beethoven sonatas, the Pathétique, the Appassionata, that she liked to play. Now, there in Lugos I got piano lessons that I started really to like. That was a Hungarian official who lost his job and I forgot to tell you why. During our stay in Lugos, that little town was taken off- taken over by the Rumanians. And the Hungarian employees of the state all lost their jobs. And there was - I now remember his name - a very wonderful man, Mr Willer, had no job, was quite willing to give me piano lessons. He was not a piano teacher but he loved music. And he did much more than use my fingers. He started to explain both harmony and the way how, let us say, a piece like a sonata is constructed. Had I stayed with him, I might have satisfied my mother's wish, I might have become a pianist but after a little while we came back to Budapest. We had stayed down there for maybe half a year or a little longer. And my next teacher did not tell me anything about theory, anything about harmony, but told me that to play a piece well you have to play it slowly a hundred times. And in the course of years, she proceeded very far, not all the way but very far, in spoiling all my interest in music. My interest in mathematics, that remained. My father knew very little about it. But he had a friend. I believe they had gone together hiking in the mountains, in a group of them. But the leader of that group, a Professor Klug, was a mathematician. And my father took me to him. Now, by that time, you know, I knew how to handle numbers, but I did not know what mathematics was about. I heard that there is much more to mathematics than handling numbers, but what that was, I did not know.

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: 4 minutes, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008