25-26 November 2011, Berlin

Wissenschaftliche Konferenz

Zum Gedenken an Klaus Fuchs: Vom atomaren Patt zu einer von Atomwaffen freien Welt

 

 In iIllusory worlds of Andrei Sakharov, Edward Teller, and Klaus Fuchs

Gennady Gorelik,
Center for Philosophy and History of Science, Boston
University

 

Three key figures in the history of the H-bomb. 2

Moral responsibility in an illusory world. 9

Isn’t mistrust more dangerous than nukes?. 11

Rational reasoning and humanitarian postulates. 14

Post Scriptum and  Post Mortem... 17

 

 

My presentation is dedicated to the memory of German Goncharov. Without his enthusiasm and persistence in declassifying and publishing the Soviet archival documents, it would be impossible to understand the intricate history of the H-bomb. I disagreed with him on an important issue of the second Soviet H-bomb even after we had debated this issue at a seminar in the Moscow Institute for History of Science, and in press, but I never doubted that he was seeking real historical truth. In my book on Sakharov I thanked him for the knowledge and insights he shared with me. Here and now it is most appropriate to thank him again because his greatest historical discovery was connected with the contribution of Klaus Fuchs into the history of the thermonuclear age.

 

 

Andrei Sakharov in his Memoirs, in the last decade of his life, tried to explain his mourning Stalin’s death in 1953:

Sakharov:
"I already knew a great deal about the horrible crimes … but I didn't put it all together in one picture. Somewhere at the back of my mind was the idea induced by propaganda that brutalities are inevitable during major historic upheavals. ... I was unwittingly …creating an illusory world to justify myself."

 

I would gener­alize this Sakharov’s insight by assuming that any reasonably coherent worldview is an illusory world to justify the worldviewer’s actions. Sakharov, who revised his worldview basing on his experience, understanding and conscience, could be an instructive example for considering the illusory worlds of his colleagues and comrades in thermonuclear arms, – Edward Teller and Klaus Fuchs.

 

Three key figures in the history of the H-bomb

 

All the three were theoretical physicists turned weapon designers. All the three went far beyond their professional domain and, willy-nilly, reached world fame, even if of very different kinds. And none of them repented for their most famous activities.

Their differences were no less impressive. Teller and Sakharov spent their lifetimes on the opposing sides of the Iron Curtain, Fuchs worked for the both sides and finally passed through the Curtain. Different but interconnected were their socio-political worldviews. Fuchs formed his communist worldview in his 20s against the background of Nazi onslaught and apparently never changed his mind. Teller shaped his “bourgeois-democratic” views in his 30s in the late 1930s, after he concluded that Stalin’s Communism was no better than Hitler’s Nazism. [1] Sakharov started with a sort of Fuchs’ worldview in his teenage, as most of his Soviet generation, but in the late 1960s underwent a deep transformation, and finally came to a sort of Teller’s worldview.

How did they perceive each others?

No wonder that Teller praised Sakharov the dissident, and that Sakharov respected Fuchs’ courageous and unselfish decision to inform the USSR about nuclear secrets.[2] 

It’s a real wonder that Sakharov, who strongly disagreed with Teller in two major issues - atmos­pheric nuclear testing and strategic antiballistic missile defense (SABM), - nevertheless believed that American physicists had been “unfair and even ignoble” in their attitude toward Teller because of his conflict with Oppenheimer on the issue of the H-bomb. Sakharov, basing on his first-hand knowledge, defended Teller’s stand as a reasonable and realistic one. In Sakharov’s view the “very fact that Teller was bucking the tide, going against the majority opinion is evi­dence in his favor.”

And it is a great wonder that Teller felt about Fuchs with clear sympathy. In 1950, soon after Fuchs had been arrested, Teller wrote to a close friend:

[Fuchs] must have been living under an incredible stress. … He probably decided when he was 20 years old (and when he saw Nazism coming in Germany) that the communists are the only hope. He decided that before he ever became a scientist. From that time on his whole life was built around that idea.”[3]

A half-century later, Teller told an interviewer that: “I could not disagree with his actions more than I do, yet he behaved as a friend, and somehow I cannot think about it in very different terms.” [4] 

 

After having pondered the life stories of the three physicists I came to believe that, despite their differences, all the three followed their inner voices of moral responsibility in their most fateful decisions. Though all the three theorists in their social actions relied on their “theoretical” understandings of the world. Taking into account their specific personal circumstances and specific encounters with their social environments, having in mind what they really saw, knew and could understand, one can see that all the three were quite reasonable in their different worldviews.

To substantiate this conclusion let’s focus on the facts about Fuchs’ thermonuclear activity. These facts help to clarify difficult controversies in the history of the H-bomb on the both sides of the Iron Curtain and made the three theoretical physicists to stand out among their colleagues.

Those controversies are about Teller’s or Ulam-Teller’s invention of the H-bomb design of 1951 (tested in 1952), and about inde­pendence of the Soviet Third-Idea design of 1954 (tested in 1955). I have considered these controversies in my publications and showed how Klaus Fuchs’s story helps to settle them.[5] Here let me just summarize.

 

Gamow:
my good friends Edward Teller and Stanislaw Ulam… known as the mother and father of the H-bomb

 

Patent application, 1946, by J. von Neumann and K. Fuchs

 

In 1946 Fuchs invented the idea of radiation compression/implosion to employ in the initiator of the ClassicalSuper design of the H-bomb, and in Spring of 1948 reported this design in details to the USSR. A few months later, to strengthen the Soviet H-bomb program, a new Soviet group was established, and it included Sakharov, who in a few months invented a brand new design – LayerCake. Since then the first Soviet group under Zeldovich continued to work on ClassicalSuper aka Truba, while the second pursued LayerCake. In 1950, in a few months after Fuchs was arrested, Americans realized that the ClassicalSuper was unfeasible as a whole. In 1951 Edward Teller invented a new design based on the idea of radiation compression. He was well aware that it was idea suggested by Fuchs in 1946. And so Teller was greatly concerned that Fuchs’s information might have given the Soviet Union a head start.

 

Bethe on Teller’s contribution

1952: «entirely new approach to thermonuclear reactions», «a matter of inspiration», «therefore, unpredictable», «largely accidental».

1954: «a very brilliant discovery made by Dr. Teller», «a stroke of genius»

1968, 1997: «the crucial invention was made in 1951, by Teller»

 

Teller on his contribution (1952):

«It appears to me that the idea [of 1951] was a relatively slight modification of ideas generally known in 1946»; «The main principle of radiation implosion was developed in connection with the thermonuclear program and was stated at a conference on the thermonuclear bomb, in the spring of 1946. Dr. Bethe did not attend this conference but Dr. Fuchs did»

 

Bethe on Klaus Fuchs, Feb 14, 1950 (two weeks after his arrest):

“extremely brilliant”, “one of the top men in the world on atomic energy”

 

Policy and Progress in the H-Bomb Program: A Chronology of Leading Events (Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, Jan. 1, 1953)

 

 

 

Now we know that those few Soviet physicists who were granted an access to Fuchs’ report of 1948, including Zeldovich, failed to appreciate the idea of radiation compression, - just like American colleagues of Fuchs until Teller’s insight of 1951. The Soviet version of ClassicalSuper – Truba – was pronounced unfeasible as late as by the beginning of 1954, four years later than in the US. In a few months Sakharov re-discovered the idea of radiation compression and developed it together with Zeldovich and other colleagues.

 

Sakharov on the 3rd Idea:
«Apparently, several people … came up with the ‘3rd Idea’ simultaneously. … I think that I understood the basic physics and mathematical aspects of the ‘3rd Idea’ at a very early stage. … my role was perhaps a decisive one. But the role of Zeldovich, Trutnev, and several others was undoubtedly very great and perhaps they understood the prospects and difficulties of the ‘3rd Idea’ as well as I.»

 

Where did Andrei Sakharov's Third Idea come from? (Sci.Am. online poll )

Fuchs's report of 1948 reemerged in the spring of 1954

9%

A reactivated Soviet agent provided the clue in the spring of 1954

19%

Sakharov conceived the idea and was misled to think others had, too

69%

Something else entirely

3%

 

A sketch of a design for the H-bomb (including “radiation implosion”) in Fuchs's 1948 intelligence report presented at the International Symposium "History of the Soviet Atomic Project," Dubna, Russia, 1996

 

After the conference on the history of H-bomb at Livermore Lab, 1997.
Left to right: German Goncharov, G. Gorelik, Lev Feoktistov, Thomas Reed and John Nuckolls

 

This picture, based on the evidence about Fuchs activity, disproves the canonical American version, according to which Teller was an evildoer manipulating politicians by greatly overstating Fuchs’ knowledge and talent. [6] 

Now it is clear that as far as the story of the H-bomb is concerned, Teller was honest and reasonable. And this moral rehabilitation gets to the main subject of my presentation – the issue of moral responsibility of Sakharov, Teller, and Fuchs in their social actions.

 

Moral responsibility in an illusory world

 

This issue has to be considered against the background of a person’s worldview in the world sharply divided by ideology and security services which resulted in closed society, closed minds and deep mistrust. That is why for pro-Soviet persons the atomic monopoly of the US replaced the fascist threat so quickly after Nazism was destroyed. The Iron Curtain was opaque in both directions, and its opaqueness contributed to illusions on both sides of it. Quite a few Westerners idealized the “real Soviet social­ism” for too long due to their ignorance of Soviet realities, and too many Soviet peo­ple were enchanted by socialistic fairytales due to the total Soviet control of infor­mation. As a result, most American physicists did not share Teller’s attitude toward the Soviet system, and were not prepared to liken Stalin to Hitler.

Teller was not so much smarter, but he was uniquely informed about Soviet realities. He had got important insights into the Sovi­et regime from his two pro-Soviet friends the theoretical physicists Laszlo Tisza and Lev Landau. Teller knew Tisza since their teen age in Hungary and he became friends with Landau in 1930 while being at Bohr’s Institute in Copenhagen. While Tisza’s and Landau’s primary passion was physics, both believed in socialism and believed that the socialism was implemented in the USSR. Teller was not predisposed to socialism, but this did not hinder his friendship with them. In the early 1930s, the passionate Landau never tired of mocking bourgeois life and was proud of his Soviet homeland, while the even-tem­pered Tisza was arrested as a communist by the Hungarian government. Teller visited Tisza in jail and helped him complete his Ph.D. dissertation. After his release from jail, Tisza could not find a position in Europe, so Teller wrote a letter of rec­ommendation for him to Landau, who at that time was launching his now-famous school of physics in Kharkov.

Tisza spent three years in Kharkov, learned Russian, and completed his (second) dissertation under Landau. He had begun lecturing when the Great Terror struck in 1937. He witnessed the destruction of one of the best scientific centers in the country when scientists dedicated to their “socialist homeland” were arrested. Landau had to flee to Moscow but was arrested as well. Tisza slipped out of the Soviet Union, leaving his socialist illusions behind. When he arrived in the US in 1941, he stayed with Teller and told him about what he had seen in Russia and about his disillusionment with socialism. [7] Teller had good reasons to trust his friend’s eyewitness account.[8] 

 

On the other side of the Curtain the fathers of the Soviet H-bomb, Andrei Sakharov and Vitaly Ginzburg, mourned Stalin’s death in March 1953. Soon thereafter they felt ashamed for doing so, but it took time for them to comprehend the nature of the Soviet regime.[9] Finally, in the 1970s, Sakharov compared his homeland to a “gigantic concentration camp” and called its system “totalitarian socialism.”

Such a drastic change in Sakharov’s understanding of the Soviet system was prompted by the insight he obtained in his attempts in 1967-68 to provide the Soviet leaders with a perspective of his and his colleagues on the problem of the SABM. In my biography of Sakharov I have described this turning point in Sakharov’s life.

 

Bitter personal experiences in building their illusory world helped the fathers of the Soviet H-bomb to understand the illusory world of their American coun­terparts. Sakharov believed that the illusory hope of Oppenheimer and other Ameri­can opponents of the H-bomb was that the US should serve as a good exam­ple to Stalin. Here is what Vitaly Ginzburg had to say:

“While I visited the US [in the early 1990s] I saw a film on J. R. Oppenheimer and felt bitterness. All the good guys… were lefties, and all of them believed that the U.S. should not make an atomic weapon, that Russians were good guys and so on. At the same time the bad guys, including security officers, understood the situation. Now we know this. How Stalin might be given superiority?! This scoundrel – I am convinced – would not hesitate to strike the West.” [10] 

History of science confirms that to err is human. The greatest sci­entists, like Einstein and Bohr, were mistaken more than once. Sakharov too was mistaken when, in 1961, he trusted Khrushchev, that making the Soviet 100-megatonthe H-bomb would help to ban the testing of nuclear weapons. Teller also was qualified to make mistakes, but his alleged “overvaluing” the idea of the H-bomb, his “exaggerated concern” about Fuchs’s help in making the Soviet H-bomb, and his anti-Soviet “paranoia” – all these “obsessions” look quite reasonable with the ben­efit of hindsight.

As to most respected – morally and scientifically – opponent to Teller, Hans Bethe, in 1950 he “was hoping to prove that ther­monuclear weapons could not be made,” and in 1954 he did not believe that “the Russians were indeed already engaged in a thermonuclear program by 1949.” [11] 

Sakharov knew that the Russians had been engaged in the H-bomb research before he conceived his Layercake design in 1948, and, basing on his first hand knowledge, he was sure that the Soviet leaders

“would never give up attempts to create new kinds of weaponry. All steps by the Americans of a temporary or permanent rejection of developing thermonuclear weapons would have been seen either as a clever feint, or as the manifestation of stupidity. In both cases, the reaction would have been the same—avoid the trap and immediately take advantage of the enemy’s stupidity.

Klaus Fuchs knew nothing like this. So he had to create his own worldview.

In the realm of international politics and strategic balance, Fuchs, Sakharov and Teller made their fateful decisions depending on their quite different worldviews as well as universal rational logics of theoretical physicist. However a key element in their decision making was such an unphysical element as mistrust.

 

Isn’t mistrust more dangerous than nukes?

 

Let’s start with an intriguing question why Fuchs in his interrogations in 1950 denied that he passed to the USSR an information on radiation implosion, a key idea for the true H-bomb. He had disclosed enough about his actions to provide the USSR with information about really tested A-bomb, and it was clear that his information had proved useful for the USSR since the first Soviet A-bomb had been successfully tested in August 1949. Even if he overestimated feasibility of the H-bomb design he had passed to the USSR, it was still just an untested design.

My hypothesis is that the main reason was his personal responsibility. Apparently he considered the whole picture of international relations as the island of Socialism in the ocean of Capitalism. By the time of his arrest the Soviet A-bomb was a reality. As to the H-bomb, he could be worrying that if the leaders of the US would have reasons to think that the USSR had had a head start in the H-bomb project, they could decide to prevent the Soviet H-bomb by preventive (nuclear) war against the first Socialist country.

Within the framework of communist worldview Fuchs had to mistrust the Capitalist government and to disbelieve capitalist media. The closed Soviet society and ingenious communist propaganda contributed into creating sturdy self-sustaining illusory world. In the world divided by irreconcilable class struggle mistrust was the only way of reasonable politics.

 Mistrust acted also on personal level. After Fuchs had engaged in secret pro-Soviet activity, his natural reservedness had to be especially strengthen as soon as Soviet socialism emerged as a topic in his conversations with his colleagues. Thus he deprived himself of opportunity to get information from the USSR he could trust – from Teller’s pro-socialist friend and from Peierls’ Russian wife Genia.

In the late 1950s, when nuclear missiles had become a strategic reality, deep international mistrust resulted in the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction, or MAD, as the only reasonable peacekeeper in the deeply divided world. However a decade later, an idea of SABM became a key issue in U.S.-Soviet relations, and the same deep mistrust - despite the defensive purpose of the new weapons system - was about to undermine this MAD preventer of nuclear war in the new race of defensive and offensive strategic weapons.

This apparently paradoxical conclusion was made by Sakharov and other strategic physicists in the USSR and US in the late 1960s. Thus in the equation of world strategic balance the term of mistrust proved to be no less important than nuclear missiles.

American theorists, like Hans Bethe, succeeded to persuade the US government to accept this conclusion, and in the spring of 1967 the US President proposed to the USSR a moratorium on developing SABM. Since the Soviet leaders rejected this proposal, Sakharov wrote a detailed secret memorandum explaining why such a moratorium was necessary:

“Johnson and McNamara are apparently bringing up this issue out of election considerations, but objectively, in my opinion and the opinion of many of the major workers at our institute, it corresponds to the fundamental interests of Soviet policy, because of a number of technical, economic, and political considerations.”

To decrease mistrust, Sakharov also prepared a nontechnical article on the issue and suggested that its publication in the open press would help “foreign scientific intelligentsia to restrain their ‘hawks.’ ”

However Soviet leaders rejected Sakharov’s advice and did not permit him to initiate a public discussion. Having realized the unrestrained power of the Soviet hawks and incompetence of the Soviet political leaders, Sakharov decided to make his views public. He wrote his famous essay “Thoughts on Progress, Peaceful Coexistence and Intellectual Freedom”, and started it with the threat of nuclear war as a result of the SABM race.

Intellectual freedom was the first human right discovered by Sakharov as a strategic prerequisite of international security. Seven years later, in 1975, in his Nobel Lecture, he worded his humanitarian discovery in such a way: “Peace, progress, human rights—these three goals are insolubly linked to one another: it is impossible to achieve one of these goals if the other two are ignored”. (The Soviet authorities did not allow Sakharov to travel to Norway to accept the Nobel Prize, and he was represented by his wife Elena Bonner, who happened then to be abroad for eye surgery).

In his 1968 essay Sakharov also advocated a convergence of Socialism and Capitalism. Popular is mistaken interpretation of his “convergence” as a tool to improve Socialism or as the concept borrowed from Western political thinkers like John Galbraith, who believed that the technological and industrial development itself had to implement convergence in managerial, governmental, and political structures of both socialist and capitalist systems. Sakharov borrowed the term but not the meaning. His convergence was not a result of objective history, but a subjective social and political way to decrease mistrust and the only alternative to the global suicide in the era of nuclear missiles and anti-missiles. And to his mind intellectual freedom together with other human rights were indispensable tools to implement mutual international trust. Actually Sakharov’s convergence was akin to Bohr’s idea of open world. Both were aimed at overcoming antagonistic international division and mistrust.

One could argue that divisive mistrust is more dangerous than nuclear weaponry as such.

First, the absence of nukes didn’t prevent WWII twenty years after WWI, while the presence of nukes didn’t facilitate WWIII for more than 65 years.

Second, to the question what kind of WMD is more terrible, I think, one should answer: “The weapon by which more innocent people were knowingly killed ”. In the 20th century it was definitely not nuclear, - it was old fashioned starvation combined with some low-tech weapon. It was so both in the Soviet GULAG and in the “free” zones of Soviet peasantry, and in Nazi camps as well as in Cambodia and Ruanda.

As to the popular symbol of nuclear horror – Hiroshima bombing, was it really more horrible than previous nonnuclear bombing of Tokyo and Dresden with the same orders of victims? There is hardly a moral difference between different ways to kill a human being.

I came to such an understanding after thinking over Sakharov’s Memoirs and many interviews with physicists the bomb-makers, especially after my talk with Hans Bethe in 1996. His moral standing was beyond any doubts, but he was sure that nuclear bombing of Japan was justified by the specific real circumstances of the early August 1945. And it was just a rational way of reasoning of humanitarian theoretical physicists.

 

Rational reasoning and humanitarian postulates

 

In his way of reasoning, Fuchs did not differ much from Sakharov and Teller. For example, in a problem of energy sources, all the three were of the same view that in the long run nuclear energy is the only promising source, despite the incidents like Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. Of course all the three theorists were concerned about safety and worked to improve designs of nuclear reactors, but I believe, even in the anti-nuclear public environment of today, they would advocate this source of energy basing on their rational logics and technological optimism.

Considering actions of a physicist beyond science, one should take into account both his picture of the world and his professionally rational way of reasoning.

Rational does not means overrational and unemotial. There is a popular universal rationale for any scientist who used to design and develop nuclear weapon, - that all of them just worked for nuclear balance to prevent nuclear world war.

Sakharov’s and Teller’s motivations were much simpler. In the late 1940s Sakharov’s feeling was to prevent the US nuclear attack, and Teller’s was to deter Soviet non-nuclear attack. Fuchs’ motivation was close to Sakharov’s but based on a developed communist, or Marxist-Leninist, outlook on antagonistically divided world.

Any rational reasoning in the realm of social life starts with some humanitarian postulates to which added are also some political or historical postulates. Humanitarian postulates of Fuchs, Sakharov, and Teller apparently were the same - “inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family” as it’s put in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Their social postulates were quite different and based on their different social experiences. But no doubts they were able to rationally explain their views and to discuss their differences.

Among physicists involved in the nuclear affairs, there were not many of the similar moral nature and social responsibility as the main characters of this presentation, to whom applicable are Sakharov’s “ bucking the tide, going against the majority opinion”. The majority of their colleagues in military-scientific complex were just doing their job and did not went beyond it.

An important counter-example to the scientific rationality is presented by the most popular nuclear physicist in the 1940s-60s – J. Robert Oppenheimer. A prominent theorist, an excellent head of Los Alamos Lab in the time of WWII dubbed “the father of the A-bomb", he is featured in the history of Nuclear age as the main opponent to making the H-bomb for it was immoral, unfeasible, politically undesirable and… hindered producing A-bombs. His most famous nuclear phrases are:

 

J.R. Oppenheimer:

“… the physicists have known sin…” (1947)

When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you've had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb” (1954)

 

None of Oppenheimer’s close colleagues agreed with these statements. Neither Oppenheimer nor his biographers were able to explain what sin exactly did he mean, why the H-bomb was more immoral than the A-bomb , why its immoral and political features mattered, if it was unfeasible, and so on. Oppenheimer himself quite definitely and more than once stated that he did not regret participating in the making of the A-bomb. He decried "improvisations which were contrary to history and to the nature of the people involved", but it was too late, - playwrights made their improvisations basing on his words.

Many years later, in 1988, a Russian writer tried to get Sakharov to speak about his own “Oppenheimer complex,” and could not believe his ears when the humanitar­ian Russian physicist told him that he felt no such guilt at all. Sakharov, like other concerned scientists, felt professional and moral responsibility to explain the nature of the nuclear-missile threat, but this had nothing to do with a notion of sin.

Back in 1954 having then stated his confidence in Oppenheimer’s loyalty to the US, Teller admitted that for him it was “exceedingly hard to understand” Oppenheimer’s actions. Even in hindsight it is really hard to understand in a rational way Oppenheimer’s shift from stating the immorality of the H-bomb in 1949 to the sweetness of its design of 1951.

I am aware of the only way to make sense of this, it is by reversing the chronological sequence of his quoted sayings. For example, in such a way:

Before the bomb was made, Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet you go ahead and do it.” After the bomb was dropped on Hiroshi­ma <>, in a chilling speech <> in 1947, he said:“<>the physicists have known sin<>.”[12]

Trying to find rationale for Oppenheimer’s puzzling irrationality people saw in him either a Soviet agent, or a Don Quixote fighting with the Military-industrial complex, or a new Faust, or an American Prometheus.

To my mind, the real solution to the puzzle of Oppenheimer’s “irrationality” was found by Silvan Schweber, a student and biographer of Hans Bethe and a prominent historian of science. In Oppenheimer he saw a Proteus (rather than Prometheus) who knew a lot but could not integrate his views and actions into a coherent whole. [13] Changes in Oppenheimer’s external circumstances destroyed his temporary coherence. He was brilliant in his rational reasoning, but he had real problems with choosing his humanitarian postulates. It is too difficult to stand on shaky ground (of changing postulates) and to stand upright indeed. It was Oppenheimer’s personal tragedy of internal nature.

In the biographies of Andrei Sakharov, Edward Teller and Klaus Fuchs there are tragic pages and chapters, but their tragedies were of external nature. With all their differences and in quite different situations, each of the three physicists stood upright bucking the tide and bearing full responsibility for their actions in their real and theoretical worlds.

Basing on the history and epistemology of science one can say that any theory is an illusory world substantiated by an inevitably limited experience. Nevertheless some theories were so successful and so much advanced human understanding of Mother Nature that one can call such a theory really true one even if it was replaced by a more successful theory. As to the understanding of Step-Mother Society its history was not equally successful. But a really responsible moral conscience demands a human being to act rather than just to contemplate and theorize.

After having acted by following his conscience more than once, Sakharov contemplated on a theoretical question of limited base of knowledge in social and political affairs:
Without giving a final answer, we must still constantly think about it and advise others as our minds and conscience prompt. And God is your judge, as our grandparents would have said.”

Let me end with this simple moral recipe from the theoretical physicist and human rights advocate.

 

Post Scriptum and  Post Mortem

 

Andrei Sakharov met Edward Teller in Nov 1988. It was their first and the only meeting. It was too short, and both of them were not satisfied. Sakharov died in 1989

Klaus Fuchs died in Jan 1988.

 

A historian could be dreaming about a good meeting of the three of them after the fall of the Berlin Wall in Nov 1989.

And a biographer of Klaus Fuchs should be dreaming about his answers to questions asked by Albert Einstein in his article «Why Socialism?» (1949):

“The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems:
How is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening?
How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?...”

 



[1] Teller, Edward. "The History of the American Hydrogen Bomb//The international Symposium: "History of the Soviet Atomic Project" Dubna, May 14-18, 1996.

[2] Sakharov: “As it is known, Klaus Fuchs, a German emigre, worked in the theoretical physics department at Los Alamos during the war and between 1943 and 1945 passed on to the USSR, on his own initiative and for ideological reasons, exceptionally important information about the atom bomb” [Sakharov, Andrei. Memoirs. New York : Knopf, 1990]

[3] Teller to Maria Goeppert-Mayer, in Edward Teller with Judith L. Shoolery, Memoirs:A Twentieth-Century Journey in Science and Politics (Cambridge, Mass: Perseus Publishing, 2001), p. 275.

[4] Michael Lennick, “A Final Interview with the Most Controversial Father of the Atomic Age, Edward Teller,” American Heritage of Invention & Technology 21, No. 1 (Summer 2005), p. 46.

[6] Soon after Fuchs's arrest Bethe described him “as extremely brilliant and as one of the top men in the world on atomic energy” (Hans Bethe’s statement to the FBI on Klaus Fuchs, February 14, 1950 <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/bomb/filmmore/reference/primary/hansbethestate.html>).

[7] Laszlo Tisza interview by the author, February 28, 1998, May 28, 1999.
Laszlo Tisza, Adventures of a Theoretical Physicist // Physics in Perspective, 2009, Volume 11, Number 1, 2.

[8] Teller never saw Landau again and did not know that after the Great Ter­ror of 1937 he agreed fully with Landau politically. Transcripts of KGB wiretaps let us know what Landau thought of the Soviet regime in 1957:
“Our regime, as I know it from 1937 on, is definitely a fascist regime, and it could not change by itself in any simple way….As long as this regime exists, it’s even ludicrous to hope that it will develop into anything decent…. If our regime is unable to fall down in a peaceful way, then a third World War with all its attendant horrors is inevitable.... Our leaders are fascists from head to toe. They can be more liberal or less liberal, but their ideas are fascist”.
By that time Landau knew that Nikita Khrushchev was a much more liberal Soviet leader than Stalin had been, but he also understood that the Soviet system of government had not changed – it had remained Stalinist. It was after Khrushchev had exposed Stal­in’s “cult of personality” (the Soviet euphemism for the Stalinist terror), that Sovi­et troops crushed the popular Hungarian uprising. As Landau put it:
“The Hungarian revolution means that virtually the entire Hungarian population rose up against their oppressors, that is, against a small Hungarian clique, but main­ly against ours…. Ours stands in blood literally up to their waists. I consider what the Hungarians did the greatest achievement. They were the first in our time to do severe damage, to deal a real stunning blow to the Jesuit idea of our time [that is, Soviet Communism].

[9] In Sakharov’s words:
“I very quickly banished Stalin from that world.… But state, country, and Communist ideals remained. It took years for me to understand and feel how much substitution, speculation, deceit, and lack of correspondence with reality there was in those con­cepts. At first I thought, despite everything that I saw with my own eyes, that the Soviet state was a breakthrough into the future, a kind of prototype (albeit a still imperfect one) for all countries (such is the power of mass ideology). Then I came to view our state on equal terms with the rest: that is to say, they all have flaws – bureaucracy, social inequality, secret police, … espionage and counterespionage, and a distrust of the actions and intentions of other states. That could be called the the­ory of symmetry: all governments and regimes to a first approximation are bad, all peoples are oppressed, and all are threatened by common dangers…. But then, in my dissident years I came to the conclusion that we cannot speak about symmetry between a cancer cell and a normal one. Yet our [Soviet] state is similar to a cancer cell – with its messianism and expansionism, its totalitarian suppression of dissent, the authoritarian structure of power, with a total absence of public control in the most important decisions in domestic and foreign policy, a closed society that does not inform its citizens of anything substantial, closed to the outside world, without freedom of travel or the exchange of information.”

[10] Vitaly Ginzburg interview by the author, March 28, 1992

[11] Hans A. Bethe, “Comments on The History of the H-Bomb,” Los Alamos Science 3, No. 3 (Fall 1982), 42–53; quotations on 51. Although Bethe termed this essay “a (slightly edited) version” of his “Observations [1954]” (ref. 12), these quotations do not appear in Appendix II to York, Advi­sors (ref. 12), which explains why Bethe wrote in his 1988 introduction to Appendix II that it was “adapted” from his 1954 essay.

[12] Gina Kolata, Clone: The Road to Dolly, and the Path Ahead (New York: William Morrow & Company, 1998), p. 8.

[13] Schweber, Silvan S., “J. Robert Oppenheimer: Proteus Unbound,” Science in Context 16 (2003), 219–242, p. 239); Einstein and Oppenheimer: The Meaning of Genius. Harvard University Press, 2008.

Disclaimer