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2. New Directions and New Machines

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xtending the reach of their research interests, some in the Physics Department tested the scientific frontier in nuclear medicine; some like Glaser helped found Berkeley’s Molecular Biology Department and the Cetus Corporation, the first biotechnology company; some like Alvarez (investigating with his son Walter the extinction of the dinosaurs) found new answers in old books. Others simply tested the limits of accepted orthodoxy, such as Birge’s later work in telepathy and parapsychology.


In all cases, a collaborative research project that drew on the technical and intellectual resources of Berkeley’s Physics Department almost certainly promised an entirely new way of thinking.


Medical Physics

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ne of the most prominent and longest tenured collaborative research programs at Berkeley is medical physics, the origins of which can be traced back to well before the war. By 1937, Lawrence’s brother John Lawrence, M.D., who had come to Berkeley from the department of internal medicine at Yale, was running advanced neutron radiation therapy and artificial radioisotope programs in Donner Laboratory with a neutron beam. Early successes in destroying a deadly kind of sarcoma in mice did not necessarily ensure that the treatment would be safe and effective for human beings.


So confident did John Lawrence become in his work that he would soon open his lectures by serving an audience member a radiosodium cocktail, then use a Geiger counter to demonstrate the progress of the isotope through the bloodstream. Important discoveries continued to pour out of the Medical Physics program in the post-War era, including one of the earliest helium-neon lasers and advanced EKG monitoring equipment eventually produced by industry.


John H. Lawrence; Nuclear Medicine Pioneer and Director of Donner Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley. An Interview Conducted by Sally Smith Hughes, Ph. D., in 1979 and 1980. Berkeley, Regional Oral History Office, 2000
John H. Lawrence; Nuclear Medicine Pioneer and Director of Donner Laboratory, University of California, Berkeley
An Interview Conducted by Sally Smith Hughes, Ph. D., in 1979 and 1980
Berkeley, Regional Oral History Office, 2000
pages shown [34-35] additional [title]


"… When I came in ’35 I discovered that they were working around a radiation that they didn't know anything about, that is, neutrons. So I borrowed a microscope from Herbert Evans, and some rats and mice.”


The Berkeley Lab Accelerators: Bevatron and HILAC

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onducting research in physics at Berkeley was not a problem in the immediate aftermath of the war. If anything, the Physics Department’s principal worry was not finding new projects but finding too many. Major additions to Big Science at Berkeley were the HILAC and the Bevatron.


In 1956 the antineutron was discovered by four scientists using the Bevatron (a cyclotron that imparts to particles energy of several million electron volts): William Wenzell, Bruce Cork, Glenn Lambertson, and Oreste Piccioni. Less than year later, Chamberlain and Segre discovered the antiproton using the same machine.


In 1958 element 102 was discovered by four scientists using the HILAC (heavy ion linear accelerator): Albert Ghiorso, Torbjorn Sikkeland, John R. Walton, and Glenn T. Seaborg.



Discoverers of the Antineutron: Wenzell, Cork, Lambertson, Piccioni, 1956
Discoverers of the Antineutron: Wenzell, Cork, Lambertson, Piccioni, 1956

[Courtesy Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory]


William Wenzell, Bruce Cork, Glenn Lambertson, and Oreste Piccioni are shown with one of the magnets used in the experiments in which the antineutron was identified.


Three of the Discoverers of Element 102: Ghiorso, Sikkeland, Walton, May 1958
Three of the Discoverers of Element 102: Ghiorso, Sikkeland, Walton, May 1958

[Courtesy Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory]


Sikkeland is holding a conveyer belt used to collect the precious element 102 atoms from the target which was bombarded in the HILAC (heavy ion linear accelerator).