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Teller, Ede

Born: 1908 AD
Died: 2003 AD
Nationality: Hungarian
Categories: Physicists

1908 – Born on January 15th in Budapest, Hungary, Austria-Hungary. Hungarian-born American nuclear physicist who participated in the production of the first atomic bomb (1945) and who led the development of the world’s first thermonuclear weapon, the hydrogen bomb.

1930 – After attending schools in Budapest, he earned a degree in chemical engineering at the Institute of Technology in Karlsruhe, Germany. He then went to Munich and Leipzig to earn a Ph.D. in physical chemistry.

1931-1933 – During the years of the Weimar Republic, Teller was absorbed with atomic physics, first studying under Niels Bohr in Copenhagen and then teaching at the University of Göttingen.

1935 – Teller and his bride, Augusta Harkanyi, went to the United States, where he taught at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

1939 – Together with his colleague George Gamow, he established new rules for classifying the ways subatomic particles can escape the nucleus during radioactive decay.

         – Following Bohr’s stunning report on the fission of the uranium atom and inspired by the words of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had called for scientists to act to defend the United States against Nazism, Teller resolved to devote his energies to developing nuclear weapons.

1941 – Teller had taken out U.S. citizenship and joined Enrico Fermi’s team at the University of Chicago in the epochal experiment to produce the first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.

1943 – Teller then accepted an invitation from the University of California at Berkeley to work on theoretical studies on the atomic bomb with J. Robert Oppenheimer; and when Oppenheimer set up the secret Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico, Teller was among the first men recruited.

1946 – Teller accepted a position with the Institute for Nuclear Studies at the University of Chicago but returned to Los Alamos as a consultant for extended periods.

1949 – The Soviet Union’s explosion of an atomic bomb made him more determined that the United States have a hydrogen bomb, but the Atomic Energy Commission’s general advisory committee, which was headed by Oppenheimer, voted against a crash program to develop one.

1952 – Teller was instrumental in the creation of the United States’ second nuclear weapons laboratory, the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, in Livermore, California.

         – These new ideas provided a firm basis for a fusion weapon, and a device using the Teller-Ulam configuration, as it is now known, was successfully tested at Enewetak atoll in the Pacific on November 1st; it yielded an explosion equivalent to 10 million tons (10 megatons) of TNT.

1953 – Concurrently he was professor of physics at the University of California at Berkeley and was professor-at-large there.

1954 – Teller was associate director of Livermore  and he was its director four years after.

1982-1983 – Teller remained a prominent government adviser on nuclear weapons policy, and he was a major influence in President Ronald Reagan’s proposal of the Strategic Defense Initiative, an attempt to create a defense system against nuclear attacks by the Soviet Union.

2003 – Teller was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

         – Died on September 9th in Stanford, California.