3. Selections from the Nobel laureates' papers in the Bancroft Library


he following are selections from the papers of four Berkeley laureates: Owen Chamberlain [BANC MSS 2002/345 z], Emilio Segrč [BANC MSS 78/72 cp], Donald Glaser [BANC MSS 2003/260 c], and Luis Alvarez [BANC MSS 84/82 cz].

Owen Chamberlain (1920 - )


hamberlain came to Berkeley to pursue graduate study in physics in 1941. But his plans were interrupted less than a year later when, like hundreds of physics students across the country, he was drafted into the Manhattan Project. In the atomic bomb effort he worked closely with Emilio Segrè investigating cross-sections for intermediate-energy neutrons and spontaneous fission of heavy elements.

After the war, he resumed graduate study at the University of Chicago with Segrè’s mentor, Enrico Fermi, receiving his doctorate for work on the diffraction of slow neutrons in liquids. In 1948 he accepted a teaching position at Berkeley, and resumed working closely with Segrè.

In 1955, Chamberlain, Segrè, Thomas Ypsilantis, and Clyde Wiegand used the Bevatron at the Lab to discover a new fundamental particle, the antiproton, for which Segrè and Chamberlain received the Nobel Prize in 1959.

Like many Berkeley physicists, Chamberlain’s political interests and activities flourished. On campus he opposed the Loyalty Oath (although he signed the Regents’ pledge), was active for causes of peace and against the Vietnam War, supported the Free Speech Movement, and campaigned against the use of nuclear weapons.

For many years he was chairman of the Berkeley branch of the Federation of American Scientists, and an influential member of Scientists for Sakharov, Orlov, and Shcharansky, a group that actively supported the three Soviet physicists imprisoned for their political beliefs. In the 1980s, he became a co-founder of the nuclear freeze movement.

Loyalty Oath

"I believe that the specific inclusion of any political party in an oath administered by the University would set a precedent which could under different conditions lead to serious conflict with the purpose of the University.”

Chamberlain signed the Loyalty Oath under protest. In this draft letter to President Sproul he declares his opposition to the Regents’ belief that the Communist Party was not “a proper political party,” and enclosed a suggested new version for the Oath.

Chamberlain at Rally for Anti-War Presidential Candidate Eugene McCarthy, Berkeley, 1968
Chamberlain at Rally for Anti-War Presidential Candidate Eugene McCarthy, Berkeley, 1968
[BANC MSS 2002/345 z, Ctn. 21]

Opposition to Vietnam War

“…the rumors …could later have been regarded as a successful trial balloon if we had not said anything.”

In this letter to Emilio Segrè, Arthur Kornberg, and Donald Glaser, Chamberlain acknowledges sending a statement to President Lyndon Johnson voicing the four Nobelists’ objection to the use of nuclear arms in Vietnam, which various officials had hinted at as an open possibility.

Federation of American Scientists

The Federation of American Scientists Brochure
The Federation of American Scientists Brochure
additional pages [cover-back, 1-2, 3-4, 5-6]
[BANC MSS 2002/345 z, Ctn. 19]


he Federation of American Scientists (FAS) was founded by members of the Manhattan Project to serve as a "scientists' lobby" on questions of the use of science and technology, with a special focus on the dangers of nuclear arms.

Chamberlain was the head of the Berkeley branch in the 1950s. Meeting notes describe loyalty and security issues at the University, and the results of the Oppenheimer security trial, as two recurring topics.

Hostages for Peace

“I admit it is a gimmick. However, it seems to me to be a gimmick with more than the usual protection for the dollar.”

In a response to a letter from FAS director Jeremy Stone soliciting new ideas which “might make useful arms control initiatives,” Chamberlain proposes a possibly tongue-in-cheek idea involving the taking of “hostages” – relatives and children of top military and political leaders – from each of the superpowers and having them reside in the opposing country, in an effort to make nuclear war more personal and less likely.