The attempt to lynch Edward Teller (the father of the H-bomb)

Edward Teller was a Hungarian Jew who immigrated to the U.S. and became the “father of the H-bomb” (a nuclear bomb that works by fusing Hydrogen atoms together). This was such a powerful weapon that there was much opposition, including by scientists, to any attempt to create it.

Edward Teller was a conservative, politically. He watched the development of the so-called Free Speech Movement in Berkeley (where he worked) with considerable alarm. Later he wrote that “within a year there was no longer free speech in Berkeley. Within a year a vice president of the university was shouted down by the students when he reminded them that if they insist on free speech they must grant the right of speech to those who happen to disagree with them.”

By early November 1970, a flyer was widely circulated on the Berkeley campus. In large black letters across the top it exclaimed EDWARD TELLER – WAR CRIMINAL. The flyer enumerated its charges

1.. Worked on atomic bomb during WW2
2. Father of the Hydrogen bomb
3. Largely responsible for establishment of Livermore Rad Lab.
4. Leading advocate of arms race
5. Leading advocate of nuclear blackmail
6. Has acted as hawk advisor to Washington officials, including Nixon, since WW2

The message continued with the information that “He is living in our community, 1573 Hawthorne Terrace 848-8811”

A student “War Crimes Tribunal” had several speakers talk about the Vietnam war, and then Teller was attacked as a “paranoid anti-Communist” and the Lawrence Livermore Lab where he worked was called a ‘scientific whore-house.”
Eventually the audience cried “Lets get Teller” and “Break Teller’s windows, burn his house, kill him.”

Teller was warned, and called the police. The police thwarted the mob, though the mob did burn Teller in effigy.

And now for the irony. The main reason Teller wanted to research the Hydrogen bomb was that he was afraid the Soviet Union would get it first. And according to the book from which this material is taken, the Russians did indeed get it first. So Teller was right!

Source: “Energy and Conflict – The Life and Times of Edward Teller” by Stanley Blumberg and Gwinn Owens

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