The Tragedy of Edward Teller, István Hargittai


Title: The Tragedy of Edward Teller

Author: István Hargittai

Typology: Drama

Language: English

Year: 2005

Publisher: Hungarian Academy of Sciences

ISBN: 963-508-484-6

Synopsis: The main thrust of this play is that Edward Teller sets out to save the world and it may just be that he saves it. He persuades the United States to build the hydrogen bomb to serve as a deterrent against the Soviet hydrogen bomb. During the process, however, he is being viewed as a warmonger rather than a savior by some parts of the public and most of his scientific peers.

Whether Teller saved the world or not could not be decided by scientific methods. However, the Third World War did not break out and the Cold War was won by the Free World. The proof would have been if he had failed in persuading the United States to go ahead with the hydrogen bomb, and the Soviet Union – as a sole possessor of thermonuclear weapons – had gained dominance of the world. There is thus an ambiguity and Teller died knowing that he may have saved the world, but there may be feew other people crediting him with this deed.

Building up a deterrent and forcing the Soviets into an arms race they could not afford may be Teller’s true legacy. However, he has been accused that he was driven by obsessive anti-communism, that he destroyed the popular Robert Oppenheimer, that he sought power rather than pursuing a scientific career for which he was eminently qualified, and that by virtually forcing SDI onto the United States he almost caused its bankrupcy.