Another Controversial Soul Leaves Us

Edward Teller died Tuesday at the age of 95. IMO, Dr. Teller was wrong to participate in the process that led to Robert Oppenheimer losing his security clearance–as unfortunate as his personal connections with active Communists were, I’ve never seen any convincing evidence that Oppenheimer was anything but a patriotic American. However, Teller was clearly right to support the development of the H-Bomb in the face of Oppenheimer’s opposition–had Oppenheimer’s position prevailed, the Soviet Union–still led by Josef Stalin at the time–would have been the sole nation on Earth with the most destructive weapon ever created by the human race. For that alone, I would suggest that everyone reading these words who is glad that we did not spend the last half century living in such a world (with all of the ominous and horrifying implications of that scenario), take a moment to remember Dr. Teller. Whatever his failings elsewhere, he was right when it really, really counted, and had the courage of his convictions in the face of formidable opposition.

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6 comments

  1. Tom

    Perhaps Oppenheimer was against the H-bomb because of his “personal connections with active Communists”.
    No, IMHO, Teller was right on both counts.

  2. John F

    From what I have read, Oppenheimer’s objection to the H-bomb was on grounds of effectiveness. Given limited amount of plutonium (and of expetise) it would likely to be more militarily efficient to deploy larger numbers of smaller atomic bombs rather than waste time, men, money and fissionable stocks on H-bombs that were if anything too large to be useful.
    After all, who cares if a target is destroyed by one H- or (say) five A-bombs?
    Though Oppenheimer was likely right (at the time) re military effectiveness and economy, he may well have been mistaken about the morale impact, which appears likely to have been a major factor in Truman’s decision.