News Scan Briefs; November 2003; Scientific American Magazine; by Gary Stix, Charles Choi, Philip Yam; 2 Page(s)
Edward Teller, 1908-2003 When I interviewed Edward Teller in 1999, he was already suffering from myriad health problems, his memory impaired by a stroke, his vision clouded by ocular ulcerations [see "Infamy and Honor at the Atomic Cafe," Profile, Scientific American, October 1999]. I worried that he may have lapsed into a gerontological stupor. But after a few moments, the same voice that had made the case for thermonuclear weapons, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Star Wars missile defense emerged as strong and unmistakable as it had been to J. Robert Oppenheimer, Nelson Rockefeller and Ronald Reagan.
Teller is best known as the father of the hydrogen bomb. But his technological optimism-trying to teach the world, as Dr. Strangelove did, to love the bomb-combined with an unrelenting anti-Communism, occasioned by the experiences of his youth in Hungary to project him relentlessly into the eye of the maelstrom. Bad-mouthing Oppenheimer. Militating for bomb shelters to survive a fusion-induced holocaust. Hyping the x-ray laser. His style of hawkishness may have helped push the Soviet Union over the brink, but it also risked global thermonuclear annihilation. A whole generation could have done without duck-and-cover drills.