Synopses & Reviews
One Nobel Prize-winning physicist called Edward Teller, "A great man of vast imagination...[one of the] most thoughtful statesmen of science." Another called him, "A danger to all that is important...It would have been a better world without [him]." That both opinions about Teller were commonly held and equally true is one of the enduring mysteries about the man dubbed "the father of the H-bomb." In the story of Teller's life and career, told here in greater depth and detail than ever before, Peter Goodchild unravels the complex web of harsh early experiences, character flaws, and personal and professional frustrations that lay behind the paradox of "the real Dr. Strangelove."
Goodchild's biography draws on interviews with more than fifty of Teller's colleagues and friends. Their voices echo through the book, expressing admiration and contempt, affection and hatred, as we observe Teller's involvement in every stage of building the atomic bomb, and his subsequent pursuit of causes that drew the world deeper into the Cold War--alienating many of his scientific colleagues even as he provided the intellectual lead for politicians, the military, and presidents as they shaped Western policy. Goodchild interviewed Teller himself at the end of his life, and what emerges from this interview, as well as from Teller's Memoirs and recently unearthed correspondence, is a clearer view of the contradictions and controversies that riddled the man's life. Most of all, though, this absorbing biography rescues Edward Teller from the caricatures that have served to describe him until now. In their place, Goodchild shows us one of the most powerful scientists of the twentieth century in all his enigmatic humanity.
"Edward Teller, the 'Father of the H-bomb,' emerges in this readable biography as a brilliant, insecure, sometimes paranoid figure with a significant and decidedly ambiguous historical legacy. Born in Hungary, Teller (1908 2003) absorbed a lifelong hatred of tyranny and a deep distrust of Soviet communism one factor motivating his obsessive and successful advocacy of the hydrogen bomb during the early years of the Cold War. Other powerful forces in Teller's life were limitless scientific curiosity and intense personal ambition: he resented being passed up for the job of theoretical director of the Manhattan Project, and much of his later hunger for political power may have been a reaction to that disappointment. Teller used his influence to block efforts at negotiating a test ban treaty by presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy and fed the Red Scare atmosphere of the '50s; he was the only colleague of J. Robert Oppenheimer's to denounce him as a security threat, a move that endeared Teller to right-wingers in Congress while dividing the scientific community. Teller's final political triumph was winning the support of the Reagan administration for 'Star Wars.' Goodchild, a BBC television producer and author of a biography of Oppenheimer, offers a detailed, studiously balanced portrait drawn from archives and interviews with Teller himself and many who knew (and loved or loathed) him. Photos not seen by PW." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Edward Teller, the 'Father of the H-bomb,' emerges in this readable biography as a brilliant, insecure, sometimes paranoid figure with a significant--and decidedly ambiguous--historical legacy...Goodchild, a BBC television producer and author of a biography of Oppenheimer, offers a detailed, studiously balanced portrait drawn from archives and interviews with Teller himself and many who knew (and loved or loathed) him. Scotland on Sunday
Peter Goodchild demonstrates in this sensitive and fascinating biography, Teller's danger arose from the fact that he was both a brilliant scientist and a skilled political manipulator - but unfortunately also a man of limited wisdom. It would be easy to ridicule [Teller], but Goodchild, to his credit, resists shallow scorn. Teller emerges as a complicated individual whose actions were always logical, if rather warped. He becomes rather more frightening than I had ever previously imagined, for it is no longer possible to dismiss him as a madman. Gerard J. Degroot
An excellent biography of a great physicist-politician and an interesting account of most of the science and politics involved with nuclear weapons. Publishers Weekly
In the story of the man dubbed "the father of the H-bomb," told here in greater depth and detail than ever before, Goodchild unravels the complex web of harsh early experiences, character flaws, and personal and professional frustrations that lay behind the paradox of "the real Dr. Strangelove."
About the Author
Peter Goodchildis an award-winning television producer and the former head of both Science and Features and Drama at the <>BBC. His production of Oppenheimerwon a British Academy Award and spawned an acclaimed biography.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations
Glossary of Characters
2. War, Revolution, Peace and Maths
3. In the Company of Gods
4. Twilight of a Golden Age
5. America the Beautiful
6. The Hungarian Conspiracy Skirmishes
7. Maverick on the Mesa
8. The Little Toe of the Ghost
9. The Legacy of Hiroshima
10. Wilderness Years
11. The Taking of Washington
12. Unholy Alliances
13. A 'Simple, Great and Stupid' Mistake
14. Technically So Sweet
16. 'Soled' to the Californians
18. The Hearing
20. 'Almost like Ivory Soap'
21. A Matter of Detection
23. Confounding Camelot
24. Struggling Uphill
25. Bringing up the Props
28. Brilliant Pebbles
Appendix 1: The New Physics: the Path that Led to Quantum Mechanics
Appendix 2: Basic Information on the History of Fission
Appendix 3: The Sketch for the 'Super' that Evolved During the Berkeley Conference, Summer 1942
Notes and References