Memoirs: A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics

By Edward Teller; Judith L. Shoolery | Go to book overview

41
OTHER ISSUES—
PUBLIC AND PRIVATE
1980-1990

THE 1980S HAD two encouraging aspects: Under Reagan's leadership the mood of the country became positive and forward-looking, and the issue of strategic defense was addressed seriously. Unfortunately, the last issue led to yet another political controversy. The result of my taking a strong positive stand was that a sizable part of the opposition to the project concentrated on me.

For the first thirty-five years of my life, I cannot remember any unpleasant disagreements with my colleagues. Most people got along reasonably well with me, and no one charged me with slighting my collaborators, or tried to discredit me as a scientist, or suggested that I was evil. In those days, I could not have imagined that scientists would indulge in such behavior. Such are the pleasures of being uninvolved in political controversy.

The doubtful wisdom of old age and experience have replaced those pleasures. I have been involved in three political controversies: the question of whether to develop the hydrogen bomb; the question of whether to establish a second weapons laboratory; and the question of whether to develop strategic defense. On all three questions, my position differed from the majority of politically active scientists. In the first two cases, my point of view prevailed. The third case, that of developing and deploying a strategic defense system, is still in doubt.

As I look back at this last controversy, I feel I may have made a mistake in ignoring the harshest personal attacks. I had hoped that my lack of response would make it easier for my critics and opponents to collaborate on the

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