Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Physics Division

Physics Division Seminars

Physics Division Seminars bring us speakers on a variety of physics related subjects. Usually these are held in the Building 6008 large Conference Room, at 3:00 pm on the chosen day, but times and locations may vary. For more information, contact our seminar chairman,

Alfredo Galindo-Uribarri
Tel (Office): (865) 574-6124  (FAX): (865) 574-1268


Tue., November 07, 2006, at 11:00 a.m. (refreshments at 10:40 a.m.)

Edward Tellerís Scientific Legacy

Stephen B. Libby Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Building 4500N, Weinberg Auditorium

Edward Teller (1908-2003) was one of the great physicists of the 20th century. His career began just after the key ideas of the quantum revolution of the 1920ís had opened vast areas of physics and chemistry to detailed understanding. Thus, his early work in theoretical physics focused on applying the new quantum theory to the understanding of diverse phenomena. Topics included chemical physics, diamagnetism, and nuclear physics. Later he made key contributions to statistical mechanics and to the physics of surfaces, solids, and plasmas. In many cases, the ideas in his papers are still rich with important ramifications.

In this seminar, I will attempt to illuminate his intellectual origins, as well as some of his many major discoveries and their continuing significance. In some cases, such as Gamow-Teller transitions, the Jahn-Teller effect, or the Metropolis et. al. method, the initial, compelling discovery and the subsequent developments over the decades are well known. Others, such as Tellerís generalization of the Wigner-von Neumann level crossing theorem that led Herzberg and Longuet-Higgins to discover Berryís Phase are perhaps less well known. Further examples include Tellerís physical explanation of Landau diamagnetism in terms of the Ďskipping orbitsí at the edges of the material in question, and the Goldhaber-Teller proposal of universal, giant photonuclear resonances. The latter discovery was itself influenced by Tellerís earlier work with Lyddane and Sachs on the asymptotic behaviors of the dielectric function of polar crystals.

Additionally, I will discuss Tellerís work on topics that arose in connection with his applied interests. These include his long-standing interest in the Thomas-Fermi method as well as his work on the stability of motion in dipole magnetic fields.

Lastly, the importance of his collaborations with scientists such as Lev Landau, George Gamow, Gerhard Herzberg, and Maria Mayer will be discussed as well his role as a great teacher and mentor to the next generation that included Chen Ning Yang, Marshall Rosenbluth, Arthur Kantrowitz, Marvin Goldberger, and many others.