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Teller (Edward) papers
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Use
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Processing Information
  • Biographical Note
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Related Collection(s)

  • Title: Edward Teller papers
    Date (inclusive): 1910-2005
    Collection Number: 76074
    Contributing Institution: Hoover Institution Library and Archives
    Language of Material: English
    Physical Description: 560 manuscript boxes, 14 oversize boxes, 3 cubic foot boxes, 2 card file boxes, 1 oversize folder, 2 album boxes, 11 slide boxes, 6 envelopes, 7 motion picture film reels, 8 sound discs, digital files (227.0 Linear Feet)
    Abstract: Correspondence, speeches and writings, reports, studies, memoranda, printed matter, photographs, motion picture film, video tapes, sound recordings, and memorabilia relating to chemical, molecular and nuclear physics; development of new energy resources; national energy research planning; space exploration; and national and international security issues, including nuclear weapons and arms control.
    Creator: Teller, Edward, 1908-2003
    Physical Location: Hoover Institution Library & Archives


    The collection is open for research; materials must be requested in advance via our reservation system. If there are audiovisual or digital media material in the collection, they must be reformatted before providing access.


    For copyright status, please contact the Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

    Acquisition Information

    Acquired by the Hoover Institution Library & Archives in 1976, with increments acquired through 2003.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], Edward Teller papers, [Box no., Folder no. or title], Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

    Processing Information

    The collection was condensed during processing. As a result the following 46 boxes no longer exist within the collection: 79, 209, 214, 217, 223, 231, 309, 310, 312, 313, 325-326, 329, 332, 334, 383, 392, 443-451, 485, 609, 636-654.

    Biographical Note

    1908 January 15 Born, Budapest, Hungary
    1926-1928 Student, Karlsruhe Technical Institute, Karlsruhe, Germany
    1928 Student, University of Munich, Germany
    1929-1931 Research associate, University of Leipzig, Germany
    1930 Ph.D., University of Leipzig
    1931-1933 Research associate, Guttingen, Germany
    1934 Rockefeller fellow, Copenhagen, Netherlands
      Married Augusta (Mici) Harkanyi
    1934-1935 Lecturer, University of London, United Kingdom
    1935-1941 Professor of physics, George Washington University, Washington, D.C.
    1941 Naturalized, Washington, D.C.
    1941-1942 Professor of physics, Columbia University, New York City
    1942-1943 Physicist, University of Chicago, Illinois
    1942-1946 Physicist, Manhattan Engineer District of Columbia
    1943-1946 Physicist, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory, University of California, Los Alamos, New Mexico
    1946-1952 Professor of physics, University of Chicago
    1949 Author (with Francis Owen Rice), The Structure of Matter
    1949-1952 Assistant director, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory
    1952-1953 Consultant, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory, University of California, Livermore, California
    1953-1960 Professor of physics, University of California, Berkeley
    1954-1958, 1960-1975 Associate director, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory
    1958 Author (with Albert L. Latter), Our Nuclear Future
    1958-1960 Director, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory
    1960-1970 Professor of physics-at-large, University of California
    1962 Author (with Allen Brown), The Legacy of Hiroshima
    1963-1966 Professor emeritus and chairman, Department of Applied Science, University of California, Davis and Livermore
    1968 Author (with Gerald W. Johnson, Wilson K. Talley, and Gary H. Higgins), The Constructive Uses of Nuclear Explosives
    1969 Author (with Segre, Kaplan, and Schiff), Great Men of Physics
    1970 Author, General Remarks on Electronic Structure and the Hydrogen Molecular Ion, and General Theory of Electron Structure
    1970-1975 University professor, University of California
    1972 Author, The Miracle of Freedom
    1975 Author, Energy: A Plan for Action
    1975- Senior research fellow, Hoover Institution on War, Revolution and Peace, Stanford, California
      Director emeritus and consultant, Lawrence Livermore Laboratory
      University professor emeritus, University of California
    1977 Author, Nuclear Energy in the Developing World
    1979 Author, Energy from Heaven and Earth
    1980 Author, The Pursuit of Simplicity
    1987 Author, Better a Shield than a Sword: Perspectives on Defense and Technology
    1989 Presidential Citizens Medal,
    1991 Author, Conversations on the Dark Secrets of Physics
    1998 Awarded a Magyarsag Hirneveert Dij, the highest official Hungarian government award
    2001 Author, Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics
    2002 Department of Energy Gold Award
    2003 July Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom
    2003 September 9 Died at his home on Stanford campus

    Scope and Content of Collection

    Edward Teller was a nuclear physicist whose work was instrumental in the development of the hydrogen bomb. His papers, which document his life and career, include correspondence, speeches and writings, reports, studies, memoranda, printed matter, photographs, motion picture film, video recordings, sound recordings, and memorabilia related to chemical, molecular and nuclear physics; development of new energy resources; national energy research planning; space exploration; and national and international security issues, including nuclear weapons and arms control.
    The majority of the material was received as an increment to the original collection, with documents originating from offices at the Hoover Institution, where Teller was a fellow, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, an organization which Teller helped to found and where he later served as director. The original accession contains Correspondence with Hans Bethe, Cresson Kearny, Nelson A. Rockefeller, and Lewis Strauss, as well as documents concerning the Commission on Critical Choices for Americans.
    Born in Hungary in 1908, Teller received his Ph.D. while studying in Germany. In 1935, he immigrated to the United States, where he became a professor at George Washington University and was later employed at Los Alamos National Laboratory as a member of the Manhattan Project. During his career, Teller taught at various universities and authored several books. The Incremental biographical file contains book-length works written about Teller's life, as well as a booklet created from an exhibit on Teller at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The file also includes calendars and documents related to Teller's birthday celebrations. See the Incremental oversize material for a scrapbook of letters given to Teller upon his retirement and certificates awarded to Teller.
    The incremental correspondence is arranged in three series based on provenance of material. The Incremental general correspondence includes letters of Teller's family members, in addition to correspondence from both offices where he worked. The Incremental Hoover Institution correspondence contains letters of Hans Bethe, Sidney Drell, Freeman Dyson, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Henry A. Kissinger, Eugene Wigner, and Lowell Wood, as well as autograph requests that Teller received. The Incremental Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory correspondence as well as the Incremental Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory alphabetical file include letters related to Teller's scientific work, political advocacy, and business dealings. The correspondence regarding his professorial work is related to his research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and his position at the Department of Applied Science, a joint program of LLNL and the University of California, Davis. In addition, these series include correspondence with colleagues at other research facilities, especially from Los Alamos National Laboratory. The bulk of Teller's political papers fall into two categories: correspondence with public figures regarding his support for the development of a thermonuclear deterrent arsenal and anti-ballistic missile defense systems, and documents related to his position on various governmental advisory boards and committees. For additional correspondence, see also the research files for Teller's memoirs.
    The Incremental Hoover Institution alphabetical file consists of files on political and scientific topics, mainly relating to nuclear weapons. This file contains material on the atomic bomb, nuclear reactors, radiation, and the Strategic Defense Initiative.
    Teller maintained two offices, one at the Hoover Institution and one at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. The Incremental general office file consists of Teller's calendars, documenting a hectic schedule that required him to switch between his two offices and travel frequently. Additional schedules and correspondence can be found in the Incremental Hoover Institution office file, which documents Teller's working life as a Hoover Institution fellow. The Incremental Lawrence Livermore Office file contains a publicity file that includes news stories concerning Teller, interview correspondence, and autograph requests. Teller's extensive lecturing and consultation work required frequent travel, and this aspect of Teller's life is particularly well-represented in the travel file.
    In addition to publishing numerous scientific papers, Teller wrote on issues of defense and the use of nuclear weapons. The Incremental general speeches and writings contain drafts and working material for several of Teller's monographs, as well as for the unpublished work Technology in Warfare. The Incremental Hoover Institution speeches and writings include files on Teller's speeches for various organizations and venues, while the Incremental Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory speeches and writings consist of a chronological file of Teller's writings.
    While working on his memoirs, Teller gathered correspondence of significance written and received over his long career and, along with his editor Judith Shoolery, conducted interviews with people who played a role in his life. The research material in the Incremental memoirs file includes correspondence of notable scientists and politicians such as Hans Bethe, Niels Bohr, Freeman Dyson, Barry Goldwater, Werner Heisenberg, Herbert Hoover, Lyndon B. Johnson, Leo Szilard, and Harry Truman, as well as research material related to Project Plowshare and Teller's time as a professor at the University of Chicago. In 1954, Teller testified in a hearing concerning the security clearance of J. Robert Oppenheimer, a physicist who served as an adviser to the Atomic Energy Commission. Teller's testimony provoked responses from members of the scientific community who felt that his testimony was a factor in the decision to revoke Oppenheimer's security clearance. The most extensive files on Oppenheimer in the collection can be found in the research files for Teller's memoirs.
    Teller was an active proponent of Project Plowshare, a government program that aimed to use nuclear explosions for peaceful purposes, such as canal construction. The Incremental Project Plowshare file includes materials on Project Chariot, which was an attempt to construct a harbor in Alaska using nuclear explosions, and the Kra Canal. For addition material on Project Plowshare, see also research materials used for Teller's memoirs.
    Throughout his career, Teller served in a variety of professional roles, including as a professor, consultant, and member of various boards. The Incremental professional activities file documents several of these roles, including his position at the Department of Applied Science, a UC Davis program conducted at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In addition, this file includes information on Teller's involvement in the Hertz Foundation and the Edward Teller Center for Science, Technology, and Political Thought.
    The Incremental writings by others series contains monographs inscribed by various authors such as Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, as well as writings by members of Teller's family.
    The Teller papers include a sizable amount of audio-visual material. There are Incremental photographs of Teller at various stages of his life and photographs of Teller accompanied by prominent figures such as Ronald Reagan and Andrei Sakharov. Also included are digital photographs available on the computer workstation in the Hoover Archives reading room. The Incremental sound recordings and Incremental video recordings include recordings of Teller's speeches and interviews, as well as of Teller playing the piano. Several transcripts of recordings are interspersed within these series. Also included are Incremental motion picture film, containing an interview of Teller, and Incremental computer discs, containing data on Uranium.

    Related Collection(s)

    A is for atom, B is for bomb : video tape, Hoover Institution Library & Archives Ultimate weapon: the H-bomb dilemma video tape, Hoover Institution Library & Archives Maria Goeppert Mayer Papers, Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego Leo Szilard Papers, Mandeville Special Collections Library, UC San Diego

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Video tapes
    Sound recordings
    Slides (Photography)
    Motion pictures
    Nuclear energy
    Nuclear weapons
    Arms control
    United States -- Defenses
    Energy policy -- United States
    Space sciences