Nov. 27, 2002

Teller receives DOE's highest honor

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham on Tuesday presented Director Emeritus Edward Teller with the prestigious Gold Award, the Department of Energy’s highest honor.

The award, consisting of a plaque with citation, a medallion and rosette, is in recognition of Teller’s "outstanding contributions to science and the security of the nation." The secretary presented the award before a packed Bldg. 123 auditorium, following a special all-hands address to employees (see related story).

"Dr. Teller is one of the most remarkable of people," Abraham said just before presenting the award. "He is regarded, certainly, 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 believe that Edward Teller should also be regarded as one of the most important figures of the 21st century," Abraham added. "Dr. Teller did not just help make the world safe from tyranny and aggression, he helped usher in the era of supercomputing that drives so much of our current science. His unwavering support for scientific education has inspired countless young men and women to pursue lives in science.

"As the history of the 21st century unfolds, to be marked by fabulous advances in physics, computing, engineering and other fields, it will be to the visionary Edward Teller that so much is owed."

In making his presentation, Abraham noted this was his second meeting with Teller, the first coming last November. Abraham joked about how the conversation turned to visionary science and technology, and "his technical insights left me at the starting blocks."
The Gold Award has been given to only a handful of recipients, most recently to Gen. John Gordon, the first administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration and now a member of President Bush’s National Security Council.

Reading from the citation, Abraham presented the award to Teller "in recognition of your outstanding contributions to science and the security of our nation. Your visionary role in the development of thermonuclear explosives, the establishment of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the secure second strike deterrence and missile defense, as well as advising many U.S. presidents, is especially appreciated. Your broad and far-reaching vision, brilliant technical insights, and strong leadership have inspired generations of scientists, students, policy makers and leaders."

Upon receiving the award, Teller was greeted with a standing ovation. He humbly thanked the secretary, then outlined a few of what he felt were the significant achievements of the Laboratory, among them the submarine-based missile system and what he calls a next frontier — bioscience, including the Human Genome Project. He praised DOE for "doing everything to meet the challenges" during his 60 years of work with Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore, then turned his praise to Lab employees as well as the future corps of researchers "to do much more than I have done."

Teller closed by noting "the best of imaginations will create a new world in the 21st century," then congratulated all affiliated with the Lab and DOE because they are "able to work under the leadership of a man like Spencer Abraham."

Teller was a physicist at Los Alamos Laboratory during World War II and later became its assistant director. His efforts led to his co-founding of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 1952. He served as director of the Lab from 1958-60, taught physics at the University of California and founded and chaired the UC Davis Department of Applied Science. In 1975, he was named Director Emeritus, and was also appointed Senior Research Fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, a position that he still holds.