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1. The Department at Mid-Century

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n the post-War era, the Physics Department, with its long history of academic successes and its presence as a premier research center for particle physics, made important contributions in a number of outlying fields including medical physics, radar, lasers, microwaves, vacuum technology, electrical engineering, and computation.


The expansion of the department’s faculty and facilities continued. This, and the physical density – in terms of proximity – contributed to the physicists’ ability to connect with the theoretical and research needs of other disciplines. The opening of the LeConte Addition (1950) and Birge Hall (1964) again nearly doubled the department’s space on campus.


Growth, however, presented its own problems. On many sides, impatience with the department’s admittedly energetic expansion deepened during this era. Yet, faculty remained committed to its underlying principal of hiring faculty who would “make the peaks higher” – even if that meant waiting for them to hit their stride later on in their professional career. For instance, future Nobel laureate Donald Glaser was rejected for employment at Los Alamos in 1950, then hired in 1959.



Aerial View of Campus, 1967
Aerial View of Campus, 1967
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Looking Back – Preparing for the Future

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eginning in the 1960s, Raymond Birge published an extraordinarily comprehensive History of the Physics Department. Most of the text in Birge’s History ... is organizational – tracing in minute detail the arrival and accomplishments of virtually every person affiliated with the Physics Department since its inception almost 100 years earlier.


Birge’s memoir reveals something deeply personal and significant – a human desire to know more about the past, as well as an account from one whose unique vision set the department on its path to greatness. It was as if he and the Physics Department, poised to enter into more collaborative research than ever before, felt the need to take a long and affectionate look at their past before they bade much of it farewell.


There was a need to inventory who they were and how they lived, to fix in history their department and their high achievements, so as to measure the distance traveled into the next scientific frontier.


History of the Physics Department, Volumes I – V, 1868-1950, By Raymond T. Birge, Berkeley, 1966-[1975?]
History of the Physics Department, Volumes I – V, 1868-1950, By Raymond T. Birge, Berkeley, 1966-1975? [ vol 1-3 cover] additional [Table of Contents vol 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 5(2)]
[308m p.5861 h vol3]


Birge Hall, North and West Facades, 1975 by J. C. Catton
Birge Hall, North and West Facades, 1975 by J. C. Catton

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