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Ernest Lawrence

Ernest LawrenceAKA Ernest Orlando Lawrence

Born: 8-Aug-1901
Birthplace: Canton, SD
Died: 27-Aug-1958
Location of death: Palo Alto, CA
Cause of death: Cerebral Hemorrhage
Remains: Cremated, Chapel of Memories Columbarium, Oakland, CA

Gender: Male
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Inventor of the cyclotron

Military service: Royal Naval Reserve (to Lt. Commander, 1939-45)

American physicist Ernest Lawrence conceived and oversaw construction of the first cyclotron in 1929, which was tested in 1930 a magnetic resonance particle accelerator designed to blast and disintegrate atoms. Within several years he had constructed a more powerful cyclotron capable of producing protons of energy beyond 1 million electron volts, and over subsequent years he was involved the the planning and design of increasingly powerful cyclotrons. For his work with cyclotrons, Lawrence was the first North Dakota native elected to the National Academy of Sciences (1934), and he won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1939.

During World War II he was a key player in the American project that developed the first atomic weapons, and toward this goal he converted a cyclotron into a huge mass spectrograph for isotope separation. Lawrence was an outspoken advocate for having Robert Oppenheimer's security clearance stripped in 1953, motivated at least as much by Oppenheimer's opposition to building a more powerful hydrogen fusion bomb as by any genuine security concerns. With virtually limitless funding from the US Atomic Energy Commission and, later, the US Department of Energy, Lawrence's Berkeley lab became a focal point for nuclear research.

He has been remembered as a "father of big science", for his involvement in organizing enormous, collaborative, mega-scale scientific projects. He is the namesake of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California's Berkeley campus, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in nearby Livermore, California, and the synthetic radioactive metallic element lawrencium (Lr). He was a boyhood friend of Merle Tuve, and his father-in-law, George Blumer (1872-1962), was dean of the medical school at Yale.

Father: Carl Gustav Lawrence (school superintendent, b. 1871)
Mother: Gunda Jacobson Lawrence (b. 1875)
Brother: John Lawrence (physicist)
Wife: Mary Kimberly Blumer ("Molly", b. 1910, m. May-1932, d. 2003, two sons, four daughters)
Son: John
Daughter: Margaret
Daughter: Mary
Son: Robert
Daughter: Barbara
Daughter: Susan

    High School: Canton High School, Canton, SD (1918)
    University: St. Olaf College (attended 1918-19)
    University: MA, University of Minnesota (1923)
    Scholar: University of Chicago (1923-24)
    University: PhD Physics, Yale University (1925)
    Teacher: Yale University (1925-28)
    Teacher: University of California at Berkeley (1928-30)
    Professor: University of California at Berkeley (1930-58)
    Administrator: Radiation laboratory, University of California at Berkeley (1936-58)

    National Research Council Fellowship, 1924
    General Electric Research, 1929-30
    National Academy of Sciences 1934
    Comstock Prize 1937
    Elliott Cresson Medal 1937
    Hughes Medal 1937
    Nobel Prize for Physics 1939
    IOP Duddell Medal 1940
    Wheeler Award 1945
    Royal Society of Edinburgh 1946
    French Legion of Honor 1948 (Officer)
    IET Faraday Medal 1952
    Enrico Fermi Award 1957
    West Point's Sylvanus Thayer Award 1958
    Manhattan Project 1940-45
    Norwegian Ancestry
    Chemical Element Namesake lawrencium (Lr, 103)
    Lunar Crater Lawrence (7.4 N, 43.2 E, 24 km. diameter)

Appears on the cover of:
Time, 1-Nov-1930

Author of books:
Science in Progress (1939, collected lectures)


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