Edward Teller Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom During White House Ceremony

July 23, 2003

Edward Teller Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom During White House Ceremony

LIVERMORE, Calif. - Director Emeritus Edward Teller was presented with the prestigious Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nationi?1/2s highest civil honor, during a special ceremony at the White House Wednesday.

President Bush presented the award to Teller's daughter Wendy, who accepted on behalf of her father. Also in attendance was Eric Teller, Edward Teller's grandson.

"Edward Teller helped to shape the course of human history," Bush said in presenting the medal, awarded for Teller's lifetime of achievements.

Reading from the citation, Bush lauded Teller's "pivotal role in ending the Cold War," from his work on the Manhattan Project and at Los Alamos National Laboratory, to his co-founding of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and his work at the University of California and the Hoover Institution, to his central role on the Strategic Defense Initiative.

"He has been a strong advocate for national defense and the cause of human freedom," Bush said. "The United States honors him for his excellence in science and in education, and his unwavering commitment to the nation."

"I am deeply grateful for the great honor of receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom," Teller said. "In my long life I had to face some difficult decisions and found myself often in doubt whether I acted the right way. Thus the medal is a great blessing for me, and I am particularly happy to receive it from a president whom I admire for his firm action in difficult circumstances, carried out with patience and absolute minimal use of force. This is what I mean by saying "Thank you, Mr. President.'"

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, who last year personally awarded Teller with the Gold Award, the Department of Energy's highest honor, said "Dr. Teller is a remarkable person. He is regarded as one of the giant figures of the 20th century, whose contributions to winning both World War II and the Cold War are immeasurable."

"But I also believe that Edward Teller should be regarded as one of the most important figures of the 21st century. His unwavering support for scientific education has inspired countless men and women to pursue lives in science."

"I'd like to congratulate Dr. Teller on winning one of the nationi?1/2s highest honors," added Laboratory Director Michael Anastasio. "From his days on the Manhattan Project to his efforts to help our country win the Cold War, Dr. Teller has devoted his life to preserving freedom."

"Throughout his career Dr. Teller has established himself not only as one of the premier figures in science, but in the history of our nation as well."

Now 95, Teller has often found himself at the forefront of some of the 20th century's most dramatic and history-making events.

Born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1908, Teller received his Ph.D. in physics at the University of Leipzig. It was Teller who drove Leo Szilard to meet with Albert Einstein, who together would write a letter to President Roosevelt urging him to pursue atomic weapons research before the Nazis could develop such a weapon.

Teller went on to work on the Manhattan Project at the fledgling Los Alamos National Laboratory and eventually became assistant director. His efforts were instrumental in creating the Livermore site of the University of California Radiation Laboratory in 1952. Teller strongly advocated development of the hydrogen bomb and promised and delivered a submarine-launched nuclear weapons system. Teller served as director at Livermore for two years and then as associate director for physics.

He taught physics at the University of California, then created and chaired the Department of Applied Science at UC Davis' Livermore site.

In 1975 he was named Director Emeritus of the Lab and was also appointed Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institute, positions that he still holds. And in the 1980s Teller served as a determined advocate for the development of a ballistic missile defense system to protect the nation from nuclear attack. These efforts contributed to the end of the Cold War.

Teller has received numerous awards for his contributions to physics, his dedication to education and his public life. He has published more than a dozen books on subjects ranging from energy policy and defense issues, to his own memoirs.

"Edward Teller is a scientific visionary whose work changed the course of world history," said University of California President Richard C. Atkinson. "He is an esteemed statesman of the University of California, and we watch with pride as he continues his lifelong quest for new knowledge and viable solutions to many of the issues that challenge our nation and world. He is an asset to our university and our country, and is truly deserving of this great honor."

Teller was one of 11 recipients receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom Wednesday. Other recipients include: author and professor Jacques Barzun; master chef Julia Child; Hall of Fame baseball hero and humanitarian Robert Clemente; pianist Van Cliburn; playwright and Czech Republic President Vaclav Havel; actor Charlton Heston; restaurant founder R. David Thomas; Supreme Court Justice Byron White; author and professor James Wilson; and UCLA basketball coach John Wooden. Images of Teller are on the Web at http://www.llnl.gov/llnl/06news/NewsMedia/teller_presidential_medal.html

Founded in 1952, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is a national security laboratory, with a mission to ensure national security and apply science and technology to the important issues of our time. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

Laboratory news releases and photos are also available electronically on the World Wide Web of the Internet at URL http://www.llnl.gov/PAO and on UC Newswire.