Edward Teller, Physicist


Edward Teller, Physicist
A Principal in the Development of the Hydrogen Bomb

Teller Residence: 1573 Hawthorne Terrace
Office: LeConte Hall, UC Berkeley

Edward Teller was an outstanding theoretical physicist, one of many notable scientists who immigrated to the United States with the rise of fascism in Europe. Influenced by his own experiences, he was an early advocate of the development of nuclear weapons, fearing that if the U.S. did not procure them, the Nazis (or, later, the Soviet Union) surely would.

At the start of the Manhattan Project for which he was recruited by Robert Oppenheimer, Teller was working at the University of Chicago, with Enrico Fermi. He became an influential figure in the Project after moving to Los Alamos and eventually helped convince the government to fund research for and development of the Hydrogen Bomb, as a strategic response to the U.S.S.R.’s acquisition of atomic weapons and its policies in Europe.

Teller was recruited to U.C. Berkeley by Ernest O. Lawrence in 1952. Together they helped initiate the weapons and energy research programs of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he served as Director and Associate Director for many years.  He was Professor of Physics at Berkeley and University Professor at Large from 1953 to 1970.

Although remembered primarily as the “Father of the H-Bomb,” he also provided controversial testimony before the then-Atomic Energy Commission expressing his concerns about his colleague Oppenheimer as a security risk. This episode did much to damage Teller’s reputation, as did his support for an anti-missile defense.

An accomplished classical pianist and formidable table tennis player, he was known also for his devotion to teaching and science education. In his later years, he was a Fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford.

Contributed by Ed Theil, 2012

  • Teller Residence, 1573 Hawthorne Terrace, photo (2012) R. Kehlmann.

  • Time magazine cover (1957).

  • Teller receiving National Medal of Science from President Regan (1983), photo White House.

More information:
“Day at Night,” 1974 video interview on cunytv
Teller recounts his earliest memories, video
Teller biographical profile includes video of him playing a Beethoven piano sonata

Photo credit abbreviations:
BAHA: Berkeley Architectural Heritage Assn.
BHS: Berkeley Historical Society