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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Edward Teller, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


Edward Teller was a theoretical nuclear physicist, an early participant in the Manhattan Project and a leading proponent of developing the hydrogen bomb. He served as Director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory from 1958-1960. In this interview he discusses the early U.S. nuclear program. He recalls the fear of emigre physicists that the Nazis would be the first to develop and use an atomic weapon. He also discusses the petition circulated at the Los Alamos Laboratory calling for the U.S. not to drop the atomic bomb on Japan before demonstrating it to the Japanese. He describes his reaction to the Soviet atomic test in 1949, the eventual decision, after some resistance, for the U.S. to develop a hydrogen bomb, and related topics such as the debate over the feasibility of the device. He says that he was not surprised by the launch of Sputnik because since the end of World War II he has believed that the Soviets' military technology capabilities have consistently been underestimated. He explains why he is for nuclear testing, especially since there is no way to verify a test ban, and ends by expressing the view that nuclear weapons should not have been used in 1945, but having been used, the world will never resort to them again.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Weapon of Choice, The
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Interview with Edward Teller, 1986

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

The United States and the Soviet Union, former allies, become adversaries in a “Cold War,” and nuclear weapons become the weapon of choice for both sides.

From 1947 to 1953 the threat to use nuclear weapons became the principal currency of conflict. During the Korean War, Texas Congressman J. Frank Wilson said, “We are dealing with mad dogs ... we must treat them accordingly. I urge the atomic bomb be used if it can be used efficiently.” Against this background, President Harry Truman made crucial decisions that affected the history of the Nuclear Age. The United states deployed the B-36, a huge intercontinental bomber. It started mass production of atomic bombs. In 1952, the US exploded the first hydrogen bomb, a quantum leap in destructive force. Less than a year later, the Soviet Union exploded its own hydrogen bomb.



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United States
Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945
Sakharov, Andrei, 1921-1989
Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971
Alvarez, Luis W., 1911-1988
Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 1904-1967
Nuclear fission
Hiroshima-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
Hydrogen bomb
Lawrence Livermore Laboratory
Truman, Harry S., 1884-1972
Lovett, Robert A. (Robert Abercrombie), 1895-1986
World War II
Nuclear weapons
Strauss, Lewis
Hitler, Adolf, 1889-1945
Wigner, Eugene Paul, 1902-1995
Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963)
Nagasaki-shi (Japan) -- History -- Bombardment, 1945
Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory
Szilard, Leo
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. General Advisory Committee
Nuclear weapons -- Testing
Lawrence, Ernest Orlando, 1901-1958
Edicia Sputnik
Stalin, Joseph, 1879-1953
Palo Alto, CA
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Teller, Edward, 1908-2003 (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Edward Teller, 1986,” 02/24/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Edward Teller, 1986.” 02/24/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Edward Teller, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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