Foreword by Peter Lax
Recipient of the National Medal of Science and the Abel Prize
Afterword by Richard Garwin,
Recipient of the National Medal of Science and the Enrico Fermi Award
"Excellent. An interesting, thorough, and objective discussion of the life of Edward Teller, a brilliant but controversial scientist."
—Charles Townes, Nobel laureate, University of California at Berkeley
"Edward Teller did not avoid controversy in a life filled with superb science, invention, and human drama. Istvan Hargittai's honest account is the first balanced reading we have of the character and achievements of this remarkable, thrice-exiled scientist, the father of the hydrogen bomb."
—Roald Hoffmann, Nobel laureate, Cornell University
Many people know Edward Teller as the “Father of the H-Bomb.” His name tends to generate extreme views. To his supporters he was a hero of the Cold War. To his detractors he was evil personified. Between these extremes was the life of the real man.
In this definitive and comprehensive biography, Hungarian scientist Istvan Hargittai, a personal acquaintance of Teller’s, presents a balanced portrait of the multifaceted and enigmatic scientist against the backdrop of a turbulent period of history. Taking pains to avoid bias and preconceptions, Hargittai critically examines Teller’s personality, family background, and the experiences that guided his actions—correcting many of the myths that others and Teller himself promulgated.
Drawing for the first time on hitherto unknown archival material from Hungarian, American, and German sources, the author provides fresh insights that help the reader to understand Teller’s motivations, his relationships with friends and foes, and his driven personality. In addition to this research and his own memories of Teller, Hargittai has interviewed for this book such prominent figures as Richard Garwin, Freeman Dyson, George A. Keyworth, and Wendy Teller (Edward Teller’s daughter), among others.
Hargittai reviews the significant facets of Teller’s life: his Jewish-Hungarian origins, forced emigrations, brilliance in science, and devotion to the defense of the United States. He also discusses Teller’s ruthless Machiavellism in achieving his goals, which included his pivotal role in the creation of the hydrogen bomb and the second weapons laboratory at Livermore, as well as his damaging testimony against physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer. Teller’s peers viewed this testimony as a betrayal and, in effect, sent him into internal exile, which Hargittai describes as more tormenting to him than his previous emigrations.
The author notes that Teller was sometimes called “a monomaniac with many manias,” such as his fierce opposition to nuclear test bans during the Cold War and, toward the end of his life, his role as propagandist for the Strategic Defense Initiative. Yet, his very excesses may have in fact contributed to the demise of the Soviet Union.
Who was Edward Teller—the real “Dr. Strangelove,” the driven crusader for the H-Bomb, the villain who destroyed Oppenheimer, or the devoted husband, loyal friend, patriot, and strongly idealistic scientist? This monumental work will reveal the contradictory nature of this complex man in all his strengths, flaws, and brilliance.
MORE PRAISE FOR JUDGING EDWARD TELLER:
"This penetrating analysis of Teller’s energetic—and enigmatic—career gives new ways to understand his testy and troubled life. Hargittai explains both Teller’s brilliant scientific achievements in the 1930s and his wacky fascination with 'Star Wars' technology in the 1980s, and much more worth discovering in between."
William Lanouette, author of Genius in the Shadows:
A Biography of Leo Szilard, the Man Behind the Bomb
“Judging Edward Teller is a serious, well researched attempt to interpret the enigmatic nature of a great scientist, one who had the courage to stand up for his beliefs. It's a must read for those whose interests range from how America rose in the 1930s, through immigration, to become the world's leading nation in science, to how the H-bomb was developed, a most counterintuitive invention, to how effective Soviet intelligence was in penetrating the Manhattan Project and its follow-on efforts, to just how close the U.S. came to losing to the Soviet Union its postwar lead in nuclear weaponry.”
—G. A. Keyworth, II, science advisor to President Reagan, 1981–86
"I learned a lot from the book. Hargittai did an excellent job."
—Janos Kirz, physicist, Edward Teller's nephew, Berkeley
Pages: 575 (photos)
Shipping Weight: 2lbs
Istvan Hargittai, PhD, DSc (Budapest, Hungary), is the author of the critically acclaimed Judging Edward Teller; the six-volume Candid Science series of interviews with famous scientists; The Road to Stockholm: Nobel Prizes, Science, and Scientists; The Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century; and The DNA Doctor: Candid Conversations with James D. Watson. Dr. Hargittai is Research Professor at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics. He is a member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, a foreign member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, and a member of the Academia Europaea in London. He has honorary doctorates from Moscow State University, the University of North Carolina, and the Russian Academy of Sciences.