Edward Teller’s Eccentricities And Their Effect Upon Nuclear Weapons Development

1798 words - 8 pages

From the development of the atomic bomb to the revocation of Robert Oppenheimer’s security clearance in 1954 (“Oppenheimer Security Hearing”), Edward Teller has been an important figure in the top secret scientific community. He endlessly pursued the hydrogen bomb and was instrumental in Oppenheimer’s security clearance being revoked. These actions and his complete refusal to do calculations or other “grunt work” as he saw it, caused tensions at Los Alamos along with the rest of the scientific community, and slowed the development of nuclear weapons.
Teller, after Enrico Fermi introduced the idea, relentlessly pursued the ignition of a fusion bomb by a fission explosion. He found it ...view middle of the document...

If he had waited, then the fusion bomb could have had the entirety of Los Alamos working on it as the fission bomb had. This would only have happened if the Super was deemed necessary and if research started before the end of the war. In short, if Teller had been working on the fission bomb, as he was assigned, then it could have been finished sooner, and then more manpower could have been diverted to the development of his baby, the hydrogen bomb.
In his process of working on the hydrogen bomb while at Los Alamos, Teller’s interpersonal relationships and ego caused undue friction in the Manhattan Project, Theoretical Division. His ego caused problems when he was passed over in favor of Hans Bethe for Director of T (Theoretical) Division of the laboratory (“Hans Bethe”). Teller was overlooked by Oppenheimer in this decision because he was “more difficult to manage” than Hans (“Hans Bethe”). This was another reason why he refused to help with calculations for the fission devices, his frustration at Bethe being picked over him. Eventually Teller and Bethe’s differing opinions on the priority of research for “the Super” led to the removal of Teller’s group from T Division to being overseen directly by Oppenheimer and a breakdown of the relationship between Bethe and Teller. Their relationship was good before the war, but due to several happenings at Los Alamos, including Bethe’s appointment and their subsequent disagreements, their relationship had deteriorated. Overseeing Teller’s group was an additional thing Oppenheimer had to work into his already busy schedule as he was running the entirety of the Los Alamos laboratory. Oppenheimer dedicated an hour a week to talking with Edward Teller, while he could have been working on other, more relevant, scientific advancements than the news on the Super. Teller’s research division was eventually put under the direction of Enrico Fermi, where it would stay for the duration of the war (“Enrico Fermi”). Though Fermi and Teller’s scientific styles were nigh complete opposites, Teller staying entirely theoretical and not taking part in laborious calculations while Fermi worked as hard as anyone with all parts of his research, there were no notable disagreements between them as far as war research is concerned. Teller’s refusal to do calculations beside the “elucidation of the implosion mechanism” (“Edward Teller”) on the fission bomb was a major detriment to its timely completion because of the social rifts between him and Bethe that were created, and because additional scientists had to be found and recruited to make up for the loss of Teller’s help on the fission bomb.
After the war, Teller was ostracized for his testimony against Oppenheimer in the hearing about Oppenheimer keeping his security clearance. His damning testimony is as follows “To this extent I feel that I would like to see the vital interests of this country in hands which I understand better, and therefore trust more” (“Oppenheimer...

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