Edward Teller Quotes

For the things we [scientists] are working on no amount of protesting or fiddling with politics will save our souls. The accident that we worked out this terrible thing [nuclear weapons] should not give us the responsibility of having a voice in how it is to be used. The responsibility must in the end be shifted to the people as a whole and that can only be done by making the facts known.

This quotation not only illustrates the discomfort of the atomic scientists who developed the atomic bomb regarding the ethics and decision making regarding use, but also how complex a man Teller himself was. Here he sounds like a left-leaning centrist. A little later he would side with the hawks in the military and the political world and slander his colleague Oppenheimer publicly advocating an arms race and the development of the hydrogen bomb when the existing technology of the atom bomb could wipe out Russia or any other nation. His new allies however kept everything about nuclear weapons a secret and thus the public could never weigh in and influence any nuclear decision making. This state existed until President Eisenhower declassified much of the nuclear weapons information as part of his Atoms for Peace program.
Edward Teller
Edward Teller
  • Born: January 15, 1908
  • Died: September 9, 2003
  • Nationality: Hungarian Jew
  • Profession: Physicist

Edward Teller was a Hungarian-American theoretical physicist who is known colloquially as "the father of the hydrogen bomb", although he did not care for the title. He made numerous contributions to nuclear and molecular physics, spectroscopy (in particular the Jahn–Teller and Renner–Teller effects), and surface physics. His extension of Enrico Fermi's theory of beta decay, in the form of Gamow–Teller transitions, provided an important stepping stone in its application, while the Jahn–Teller effect and the Brunauer–Emmett–Teller (BET) theory have retained their original formulation and are still mainstays in physics and chemistry. Teller also made contributions to Thomas–Fermi theory, the precursor of density functional theory, a standard modern tool in the quantum mechanical treatment of complex molecules. In 1953, along with Nicholas Metropolis, Arianna Rosenbluth, Marshall Rosenbluth, and Augusta Teller, Teller co-authored a paper that is a standard starting point for the applications of the Monte Carlo method to statistical mechanics. Throughout his life, Teller was known both for his scientific ability and for his difficult interpersonal relations and volatile personality.