, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 169-197

The Paternity of the H-Bombs: Soviet-American Perspectives

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There are major problems in the history of the American and Soviet hydrogen bombs. They are associated with the Teller-Ulam and Teller-Oppenheimer controversies, and the question of whether the design of the Soviet H-bomb was an independent conception. Because of the scarcity of documentary evidence, these problems have little chance of being settled if the histories of the two are considered separately within their national frameworks. Considered comparatively, however, they can help clarify these problems separately and convert them into different facets of this most important segment in the history of the thermonuclear age.The recently disclosed evidence on the history of the Soviet H-bomb, in particular, on Klaus Fuchs’s key idea of radiation implosion, validates Edward Teller’s view on the invention of the H-bomb, including his understatement of his own accomplishment and his concern about the benefits and head start that the Soviet H-bomb program could have gotten from Fuchs’s espionage. In addition, the Russian perspective on the realities of illusory worlds during the Cold War helps us see these illusory worldviews as largely responsible for the intensity of the H-bomb debate in the United States.

Gennady Gorelik is a research fellow in the Center for Philosophy and History of Science at Boston University and is the author of biographies of Matvei Bronstein and Andrei Sakharov.