MEMOIRS: A Twentieth Century Journey in Science and Politics

Edward Teller, Author, Judith Shoolery, With with Judith Shoolery. Perseus $35 (640p) ISBN 978-0-7382-0532-8

Teller's isn't a household name today, but in the 1950s he was dubbed "the father of the hydrogen bomb." Born in Hungary in 1908, Teller was educated in Germany, where he worked with some of the century's great scientists prior to the Nazi takeover. After arriving in the United States in 1935, he collaborated with other distinguished émigrés, such as Enrico Fermi and fellow Hungarian John von Neumann; he was one of the first scientists dispatched to Los Alamos, where he worked on the theoretical aspects of atom bomb design. After Hiroshima and Nagasaki came troubling years: Teller encountered great opposition to future nuclear research from the scientific community and found former friends unwilling to shake his hand after he testified against J. Robert Oppenheimer in Oppenheimer's 1954 security review. Later, Teller went on to establish the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories as a center for ground-breaking research in many fields, and in the late 1950s became a scientific consultant to Nelson Rockefeller. As is often the case with memoirs, time is relative: the years in the book's last half move much more quickly than those in the first. This is unfortunate, since Teller's work on safe proliferation of nuclear energy, the so-called Stars Wars defense system and the early detection of earth-crossing objects is almost as important as his work during the first part of his career. While waiting for a future biographer to give the latter years their proper due, readers can enjoy these panoramic and beautifully written recollections of one of the great scientific, if controversial, figures of all time. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/22/2001
Release date: 10/01/2001
Paperback - 672 pages - 978-0-7382-0778-0
Hardcover - 640 pages - 978-1-903985-12-0
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