Ernest Orlando Lawrence
Ernest Orlando Lawrence invented the cyclotron in 1930, paving the way for deep new insights into the innermost nature of matter.
During World War II Ernest Orlando Lawrence made vital contributions to the development of the atomic bomb, holding several official appointments in the project. After the war he played a part in the attempt to obtain international agreement on the suspension of atomic-bomb testing, being a member of the U.S. delegation at the 1958 Geneva Conference on this subject.
Lawrence’s research centred on nuclear physics. His early work was on ionization phenomena and the measurement of ionization potentials of metal vapours. In 1929 he invented the cyclotron, a device for accelerating nuclear particles to very high velocities without the use of high voltages. The swiftly moving particles were used to bombard atoms of various elements, disintegrating the atoms to form, in some cases, completely new elements. Hundreds of radioactive isotopes of the known elements were also discovered. His brother, Dr. John Lawrence, who became Director of the University’s Medical Physics Laboratory, collaborated with him in studying medical and biological applications of the cyclotron and himself became a consultant to the Institute of Cancer Research at Columbia.
Larger and more powerful versions of the cyclotron were built by Lawrence. In 1941 the instrument was used to generate artificially the cosmic particles called mesons, and later the studies were extended to antiparticles.
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Excerpted with permission, www.nobelprize.org