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Megaton Man

Steven Shapin: The Original Dr Strangelove

25 April 2002
Memoirs: A 20th-Century Journey in Science and Politics 
by Edward Teller and Judith Shoolery.
Perseus, 628 pp., £24.99, January 2002, 1 903985 12 9
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... thought to be very real, so the witnesses to the first atomic explosion at Alamogordo, New Mexico in July 1945 were given strict instructions to turn their backs on the initial blast. The physicist EdwardTeller refused to obey orders. He put on an extra pair of dark glasses under welder’s goggles, smeared his face with ointment, and looked straight at the aim point, not wanting to miss a second of ...
25 June 1987
Klaus Fuchs: The man who stole the atom bomb 
by Norman Moss.
Grafton, 216 pp., £12.95, April 1987, 0 246 13158 6
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... he taught me than in the physicist, I did not mind. People who knew him better thought him a very cold fish. All Fuchs’s former colleagues whom Moss has interviewed have stressed his reticence. EdwardTeller, the Hungarian-born creator of the hydrogen bomb and éminence grise behind Reagan’s SDI, found Fuchs ‘taciturn to a pathological degree’. When Teller heard the news of his arrest, he is ...

Reaganism

Anthony Holden

6 November 1980
The United States in the 1980s 
edited by Peter Duignan and Alvin Rabushka.
Croom Helm, 868 pp., £14.95, August 1980, 0 8179 7281 1
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... much has seeped across the Atlantic – has scarcely done credit to the issues distinguishing the decade ahead from the single-issue elections of the last twenty years. Carter has refused to debate Edward Kennedy, and now John Anderson, and thus Reagan. Reagan in turn has been bound and gagged by his advisers, their hostage rather than their boss, in the apparent belief that he cannot live up to the ...

Nuclear Family

Rudolf Peierls

19 June 1980
Disturbing the Universe 
by Freeman Dyson.
Harper and Row, 283 pp., £6.95, November 1979, 0 06 011108 9
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... he describes how to him real greatness became evident in the way Oppenheimer approached death. One cannot write about Oppenheimer without referring to his ‘trial’ and to the part played in it by EdwardTeller. Dyson does not condone Teller’s actions, but shows some understanding and sympathy, and remains a friend of his. The portrait of Teller does not come off, however, compared with those of ...

Britain’s Thermonuclear Bluff

Norman Dombey and Eric Grove

22 October 1992
... since the mid-Forties was fundamentally flawed. The ‘Super’, as the early hydrogen bomb was known, would have blown itself apart before any appreciable thermonuclear processes were initiated. EdwardTeller and Stanislaw Ulam, émigré scientists from Hungary and Poland respectively, who were working at Los Alamos, found an ingenious solution in 1951. As part of his work on improved fission ...

Platformitis

Edward​ Luttwak: Darpa

1 December 2016
The Pentagon’s Brain: An Uncensored History of Darpa, America’s Top Secret Military Research Agency 
by Annie Jacobsen.
Little, Brown, 560 pp., £12.99, September 2015, 978 0 316 34947 5
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... explosions; and Vela Sierra on detecting nuclear explosions in space. These were truly sinister programmes from the viewpoint of York’s erstwhile mentors in the nuclear weapons business, among them EdwardTeller, because they indicated the nefarious purpose of negotiating the prohibition of nuclear tests with Khrushchev – which was exactly Eisenhower’s aim. By the summer of 1958, Johnson and York ...

Don’t let that crybaby in here again

Steven Shapin: The Manhattan Project

7 September 2000
In the Shadow of the Bomb: Oppenheimer, Bethe and the Moral Responsibility of the Scientist 
by S.S. Schweber.
Princeton, 260 pp., £15.95, May 2000, 0 691 04989 0
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Atomic Fragments: A Daughter’s Questions 
by Mary Palevsky.
California, 289 pp., £15.95, June 2000, 0 520 22055 2
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... had bought America the bomb, and America reckoned the money very well spent. The Los Alamos physicists had signed on to build a few atomic bombs, but the Government now wanted many of them, and EdwardTeller began his public agitation for vast resources to construct the ‘Super’ – the hydrogen bomb. The Japanese had been defeated, but General Groves was reported as saying in March 1944 that ...

Guests in the President’s House

Steven Shapin: Science Inc.

18 October 2001
Science, Money and Politics: Political Triumph and Ethical Erosion 
by Daniel Greenberg.
Chicago, 530 pp., £22.50, October 2001, 0 226 30634 8
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... by campus demonstrations against the Vietnam War, Nixon called his chief scientific adviser into the Oval Office: ‘Ed, how much money does the Federal Government put into MIT every year?’ Edward David didn’t have the exact sum to hand – it was in fact $105 million in 1972 – but Nixon was adamant: ‘I want it all cut off.’ In a dither, David scurried back to his office and phoned ...

At Los Alamos

Jeremy Bernstein

20 December 2012
... The Livermore and Los Alamos weapons laboratories were actively recruiting. In the spring of 1954, while I was still working on my thesis, I’d had an unsuccessful interview in Washington with EdwardTeller, who was recruiting for Livermore. He made an odd comment about preferring physics to politics. It was only much later that I realised my interview had taken place the day after he testified ...

Oh God, what have we done?

Jackson Lears: The Strange Career of Robert Oppenheimer

20 December 2012
Inside the Centre: The Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer 
by Ray Monk.
Cape, 818 pp., £30, November 2012, 978 0 224 06262 6
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... on atomic energy by mocking him for his scientific illiteracy.Another controversy cast Oppenheimer’s loyalty under further suspicion. Since the Manhattan Project, a number of physicists led by EdwardTeller had been pushing for the development of a fusion bomb – the so-called ‘Super’ or, later, hydrogen bomb. Oppenheimer, like most of the other Los Alamos scientists, opposed it as a weapon ...

Uncle of the Bomb

Steven Shapin: The Oppenheimer Brothers

23 September 2010
Something Incredibly Wonderful Happens: Frank Oppenheimer and The World He Made Up 
by K.C. Cole.
Houghton Mifflin, 439 pp., $27, August 2009, 978 0 15 100822 3
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... he did what he thought he could to limit the nuclear arms race, specifically arguing against the crash programme for developing the hydrogen bomb so enthusiastically promoted by his former colleague EdwardTeller. That opposition, combined with continuing suspicion of his left-wing political affiliations before and during the war, led in 1954 to the AEC hearings, which resulted in the withdrawal of his ...

An Example of the Good Life

Steven Shapin: Michael Polanyi

15 December 2011
Michael Polanyi and His Generation: Origins of the Social Construction of Science 
by Mary Jo Nye.
Chicago, 405 pp., £29, October 2011, 978 0 226 61063 4
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... the First World War, many grew up in the same Budapest neighbourhood. They went to a small number of elite schools: the progressive Minta gymnasium alone produced Szilárd and his fellow physicists EdwardTeller (who rejoiced in the initials E.T.) and Nicholas Kurti, the engineer Theodore von Kármán, and the economists Nicholas Kaldor and Thomas Balogh. They were overwhelmingly Jewish or from a ...

Think like a neutron

Steven Shapin: Fermi’s Paradoxes

24 May 2018
The Last Man Who Knew Everything: The Life and Times of Enrico Fermi, Father of the Nuclear Age 
by David N. Schwartz.
Basic, 448 pp., £26.99, December 2017, 978 0 465 07292 7
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... designated Fermi as associate director, deploying him as a general-purpose problem-solver with a brief to get stuck into whatever projects interested him, giving him the special job of dealing with EdwardTeller, who was obsessed with the possibility of proceeding directly to a fusion weapon. With the German surrender in May 1945, attention turned to issues concerning the postwar nuclear world and ...

Venisti tandem

Denis Donoghue

7 February 1985
Selected Poems 
by Tony Harrison.
Viking, 204 pp., £9.95, September 1984, 0 670 80040 6
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Palladas: Poems 
by Tony Harrison.
Anvil, 47 pp., £2.95, October 1984, 9780856461279
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Men and Women 
by Frederick Seidel.
Chatto, 70 pp., £4.95, October 1984, 0 7011 2868 2
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Dangerous play: Poems 1974-1984 
by Andrew Motion.
Salamander, 110 pp., £8.95, October 1984, 0 907540 56 2
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Mister Punch 
by David Harsent.
Oxford, 70 pp., £4.50, October 1984, 0 19 211966 4
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An Umbrella from Piccadilly 
by Jaroslav Seifert and Ewald Osers.
London Magazine Editions, 80 pp., £5, November 1984, 0 904388 75 1
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... s. These poets take it nearly for granted that you can make sense by making connections, one experience with another, and that the main problem is to find a style of being present in the poem. The teller is in the tale, and the artistic effort is to make sure that his presence there is neither assertive nor apologetic. A preoccupied sense of crisis is not obligatory. Tony Harrison’s Selected Poems ...

Oh, you clever people!

Tom Crewe: The Unrelenting Bensons

19 April 2017
A Very Queer Family Indeed: Sex, Religion and the Bensons in Victorian Britain 
by Simon Goldhill.
Chicago, 337 pp., £24.50, October 2016, 978 0 226 39378 0
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... Arthur Benson​ never stopped dreaming about his father. Edward White Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury, dropped dead saying the Confession in 1896 – he sank onto his prayer cushion and didn’t get up again – but nearly twenty years later his son found him ...

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