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Two typewriters and a mirror


Trying to understand World War I
Edward Teller Scientist
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My other early memory is very much less agreeable. It is connected with the beginning of the First World War. I remember sitting at the table and hearing the discussion about the murder, murder of the Crown Prince, Franz Ferdinand, in Sarajevo, a terrible thing. But there will be no war. And you know, I used a privilege of children and I asked- Why? Why will there be no war? Well, because there is no reason that there should be war. But if there is no reason, then why do you say that there will be no war? I remember very clearly my confusion about the issue and in the course of years and decades, this confusion really did not change very greatly. I still don't know why there had to be a First World War, but that lack of understanding is one of my earliest memories. Well, of course, as a six year old, I was born in 1908, I was just a little over six years when the Second World War started. And seeing all these people with their equipment, even guns, marching down the main street in Budapest, was obviously very interesting. Also, my father - he was a lawyer - had a map in his office, in which the position of the armies was represented, so I learned geography. I don't see why I should now repeat the sad and terrible story of that war. I want to repeat one little circumstance. In the early phases, the Russian armies got- occupied Lemberg, just north of Hungary, proceeded to a border of Hungary, the Carpathian Mountains, perhaps a little beyond that. Now, in those days, my father took my somewhat elder sister and me out for a walk every Sunday. And I remember on such a Sunday being see- being shown- having seen a model of a dug-out, you know, where- that you could hide from bullets. That, together with the knowledge that the Russians were not very far, made all things very much more real to me. So, the First World War was not a concept, was not something I understood, but was something that gave me a peculiar connection between the love of one's country and having to fight. I won't even say that that was a problem. I do remember the end of it. And I do remember, when crowds in Budapest demonstrated against the war, how that brought on a Socialist government that after a short time was thrown over by the Communists. By that time I had started my high school education.

The late Hungarian-American physicist Edward Teller helped to develop the atomic bomb and provided the theoretical framework for the hydrogen bomb. During his long and sometimes controversial career he was a staunch advocate of nuclear power and also of a strong defence policy, calling for the development of advanced thermonuclear weapons.

Listeners: John H. Nuckolls

John H. Nuckolls was Director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1988 to 1994. He joined the Laboratory in 1955, 3 years after its establishment, with a masters degree in physics from Columbia. He rose to become the Laboratory's Associate Director for Physics before his appointment as Director in 1988.

Nuckolls, a laser fusion and nuclear weapons physicist, helped pioneer the use of computers to understand and simulate physics phenomena at extremes of temperature, density and short time scales. He is internationally recognised for his work in the development and control of nuclear explosions and as a pioneer in the development of laser fusion.

Duration: 5 minutes, 7 seconds

Date story recorded: June 1996

Date story went live: 24 January 2008