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9/16/03 - TRIBUTE TO EDWARD TELLER - 2003-09-16

The brilliant nuclear physicist, Edward Teller, died on September 9th at the age of ninety-five. In a White House statement, President George W. Bush called Edward Teller “a tireless patriot. . .who devoted his life to making Americans more secure.” On July 23rd, Mr. Bush had awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom “for his excellence in science and in education, and for his unwavering commitment to [America]”:

“When liberty was threatened by Nazism, a young Hungarian scientist named Edward Teller left Europe and found his way to the United States. Within a decade, the German Reich was at war with America and in search of the most terrible weapons. Dr. Teller joined the Manhattan Project and applied his disciplined mind to the most urgent task America had ever faced -- to develop the atom bomb before Hitler. Dr. Teller contributed to the success of that mission and helped us to meet other great national security challenges during the Cold War.”

The greatest challenge that Edward Teller helped the U.S. meet was the development of the hydrogen bomb. It was not necessary to use this terrible weapon -- and Americans fervently hope it never will be. But without a strong nuclear deterrent during the Cold War, Americans and people in many other countries might well have lost their freedom to the expansionist forces in the former Soviet Union.

As President Bush pointed out, Edward Teller later “turned his efforts to the great scientific and moral task of building a defense against ballistic missiles.” This task continues today, as the U.S. strives to develop a system that can protect Americans and others against the possibility that rogue states could launch one or more missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction.

“For a long life of brilliant achievement and patriotic service,” said President Bush, “America is in debt to Dr. Edward Teller.” “His notable contributions to the security of our nation will not be forgotten.”