AUTHORGoodchild, Peter
TITLEEdward Teller: The Real Dr. Strangelove
PUBLISHERHarvard University Press
CITYCambridge, MA

This excellent biography illuminates the enigmatic character of the powerful twentieth century physicist, Edward Teller, and gives perspective on the intersection of science and technology with United States policies in the last half of the 20th century. Initially, it describes Teller’s early years in Hungry, which molded his personality and formed his views of an untrustworthy Soviet Union. It then narrates significant events in his education and early academic career including his doctorial work with Werner Heisenberg and migration to an academic position in the United States in 1935. The narrative then describes his work in the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos under the leadership of J. Robert Oppenheimer, where Teller pursued the idea of a hydrogen bomb, a more powerful weapon than the fission bomb developed by the Project. After the end of World War II, he continued the development of the hydrogen bomb, which was successfully tested in 1952. Throughout the Cold War, Teller’s obsession with the Soviet threat led him to oppose nuclear arms control, continue development of nuclear weapons, and strongly support the Star Wars anti-ballistic missile program of the Reagan administration. Those views brought him into conflict with Oppenheimer and other members of the scientific community. Teller was an important witness in the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) hearing that denied Oppenheimer’s security clearance in 1954. The biography contains extensive endnotes and references.

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