of a Beautiful Mind
By Doug Patton
years ago, in the late summer of 1997, a selfless paragon
of virtue, Mother Theresa, died as she had lived, serving
others, in the squalor of Calcutta, India. But news of her
death was almost totally eclipsed by the violent, late-night
demise, in a mangled car in a Paris tunnel, of Britain’s
week, there was a similar eclipse, as the death of two entertainers
almost completely overshadowed the passing of one of the
towering intellects of the 20th Century. As the premature
death of actor John Ritter and the long-expected death of
country singer Johnny Cash captured the attention of the
media, a 95-year-old giant quietly slipped away at the end
of a truly remarkable life.
Edward Teller was a brilliant nuclear physicist whose contemporaries
included J. Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein. Though
he was known as “the Father of the H-Bomb,” Teller always
said he would have preferred to be a concert pianist. If
he was to be known as the “father” of anything, he once
said, he really wanted to be known simply as the father
of his children. As for his work, he wrote that he wanted
to be remembered as “a founding member of the Lawrence Livermore
National Laboratory in California, which
worked on the H-Bomb and contributed to our winning the
in Budapest in 1908, Teller was educated in Germany. He
came to the United States in 1935 during the rise of Nazi-sponsored
anti-Semitism in Europe.
and Oppenheimer worked on the Manhattan Project, developing
the first atomic bomb, Teller’s mind was already formulating
the theories for the next generation of nuclear technology,
the hydrogen bomb.
the 1950s, he co-founded the Livermore Laboratory and served
as its director. He remained a director emeritus there until
his death last week.
life-long believer in peace through strength, Teller was
in his seventies when he headed up President Ronald Reagan’s
Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the project many believe
broke the back of the Soviet Union and ended the Cold War.
years ago, at 93, Edward Teller was awarded the Corvin Medal,
bestowed by the Hungarian government for exceptional achievement
in the arts and sciences. At the ceremony, it was explained
that the Hungarian Prime Minister had revived the Corvin
Medal, which was last awarded in 1930, specifically to honor
am standing face to face with history,” said one of
the Hungarian delegates. “The name of Edward Teller
is more than just a person, it is a symbol for Hungary.
Edward Teller is the most distinguished Hungarian living
in the world today.”
delegate said that the prime minister considered Teller’s
contributions toward ending the Cold War to be “the primary
force behind the fact that Hungary is again a free nation.”
had the honor of meeting Dr. Teller on two different occasions
when he came to Omaha in 1994 to campaign for a young, conservative
congressional candidate for whom I was working at the time.
The first time Dr. Teller came to town, I remember putting
him on a local radio talk show and listening to him explain
for ten minutes the difference between fusion and fission
technology. None of us understood any of it, but it was
fascinating to listen to this man hold forth on the mysteries
the second trip, I arranged a press conference for Dr. Teller
and our congressional candidate at the SAC Museum, which
at that time was still located at Offutt Air Force Base.
we walked around the museum, looking at the displays. As
we rounded a corner, I suddenly realized that we were looking
at a display of the H-Bomb – the very weapon Dr. Teller
had invented – and I understood the feeling described by
that Hungarian delegate. I was standing next to a legend,
a giant, a man who had developed the most terrible weapon
ever devised by man, and who had spent the rest of his life
making sure it never had to be used. I was in the presence
of a truly beautiful mind.
men can ever say they saved the lives of millions. Dr. Edward
Teller is gone now, but his legacy lives on through the
generations whose security was assured by his work.
Patton is a freelance columnist who has served
as a political speechwriter and public policy advisor at
the federal, state and local levels. His weekly columns
can be read in newspapers across the country, and on www.GOPUSA.com,
where he serves as the Nebraska Editor.
He also writes for Talon News Service (www.TalonNews.com).
Readers can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.