Luis Alvarez, the Hydrogen Bubble Chamber,
Tritium, and Dinosaurs

Resources with Additional Information · Patents

Luis Alvarez
Courtesy Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory

'Luis W. Alvarez was an adventurer physicist. The two terms may seem an odd combination until one considers Alvarez's career. A member of the National Inventor's Hall of Fame, Alvarez developed the proton linear accelerator, patented three types of radar still used today, designed an instrument that for 15 years served as the universal standard of length, co-discovered the hydrogen isotope tritium, searched for hidden chambers in an Egyptian pyramid, analyzed the Zapruder film documenting John F. Kennedy's assassination, and won the 1968 Nobel Prize in physics. And that's just the short list. ...

Alvarez improved upon [Donald] Glaser's instrument and used it to discover a large number of resonance states, subatomic particles that can't be directly detected because they live for so short a time. ... [U]se of [the] hydrogen bubble chamber and data analysis equipment enabled researchers to deduce the existence of the resonance states. In 1968, Alvarez won the Nobel Prize in Physics "for his decisive contributions to elementary particle physics."1

1 Edited excerpt from Luis Alvarez, Adventurer Physicist, ScienceMatters@Berkeley

Resources with Additional Information

Additional information about Luis Alvarez and his research is available in documents and on the Web.


Berkeley Proton Linear Accelerator, DOE Technical Report Download Adobe PDF Reader, October 1953

High‑energy Physics with Hydrogen Bubble Chambers, DOE Technical Report Download Adobe PDF Reader, March 1958

LRL 25‑inch Bubble Chamber, DOE Technical Report Download Adobe PDF Reader, July 1964

Early Days of Accelerator Mass Spectrometry, DOE Technical Report Download Adobe PDF Reader,  May 1981

The Hydrogen Bubble Chamber and the Strange Resonances, DOE Technical Report Download Adobe PDF Reader, June 1985

History of Proton Linear Accelerators, DOE Technical Report Download Adobe PDF Reader, January 1987


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