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Discussion with Bethe and Teller on the nuclear test ban
Freeman Dyson Scientist
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[Q] Did you have any discussions with Bethe and with Teller, who clearly were on opposite sides of the issue of the test ban treaty at that stage?

Yes. I think I talked with both of them. I don't remember in detail, but it was certainly true that I was opposed to the test ban for several years when I was involved with Orion. I mean that was inevitable; clearly we had to have tests if we were going to fly Orion, and also, even to fly it of course we needed an international regime that would allow it. So I was definitely against the test ban and I argued with Hans about that. And then later when I was converted, I argued with Teller about it, but without any kind of acrimony. I think we just obviously agreed that we had differences.

Born in England in 1923, Freeman Dyson moved to Cornell University after graduating from Cambridge University with a BA in Mathematics. He subsequently became a professor and worked on nuclear reactors, solid state physics, ferromagnetism, astrophysics and biology. He has published several books and, among other honours, has been awarded the Heineman Prize and the Royal Society's Hughes Medal.

Listeners: Sam Schweber

Silvan Sam Schweber is the Koret Professor of the History of Ideas and Professor of Physics at Brandeis University, and a Faculty Associate in the Department of the History of Science at Harvard University. He is the author of a history of the development of quantum electro mechanics, "QED and the men who made it", and has recently completed a biography of Hans Bethe and the history of nuclear weapons development, "In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe, and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist" (Princeton University Press, 2000).

Tags: Project Orion, Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, Hans Bethe, Edward Teller

Duration: 1 minute

Date story recorded: June 1998

Date story went live: 24 January 2008