Owen Chamberlain, the Antiproton, and Polarized Targets

Resources with Additional Information · Patents

Owen Chamberlain
Photo Courtesy of Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory

Owen Chamberlain is "most remembered for his role in the discovery of the antiproton in 1955, ... for which he shared the 1959 Nobel Prize in physics … .  The discovery of the antiproton, the mirror image counterpart to the proton in ordinary matter, was made possible through the combination of the Bevatron accelerator … and a unique detector, designed by Chamberlain and his colleague, Clyde Wiegand, that was set off only by particles moving at the speed predicted for antiprotons.

In early 1942, at the prompting of [Ernest O.] Lawrence, Chamberlain joined the Manhattan Project, the U.S. government’s secret effort to build an atomic bomb. Working as an assistant to [Emilio] Segrè, first in Berkeley, and then at the laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, he investigated nuclear cross sections for intermediate-energy neutrons and the spontaneous fission of heavy elements."1

"In 1946, he joined Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago, where he conducted research on slow-neutron diffraction in liquids while working toward his Ph.D. in physics, which he obtained in 1948 from the University of Chicago. "2  "His mentor was the great Italian physicist and Nobel Laureate Enrico Fermi, the world’s leading authority on neutrons."1

Chamberlain ' "pioneered the use of polarized targets in high energy scattering experiments, which have helped us to understand the forces acting between particles and allowed us to test the symmetry principles underlying the physics," [colleague Herbert Steiner] said. Symmetry principles state, for example, that some interactions look the same when reflected in a mirror or run backwards in time."

One of Chamberlain's gifts was teaching, which he did best one-on-one and with an informality that included his insistence that students call him "Owen." His unique explanations for physical phenomena came to be called "Chamberlainisms" among the students.'2


Resources with Additional Information

Additional information about Owen Chamberlain, the antiproton, and polarized targets is available in electronic documents and on the Web.


Observation of Antiprotons, DOE Technical Report, October 1955

Antiprotons, DOE Technical Report, November 1955

Experiments on Antiprotons: Antiproton-Nucleon Cross Sections, DOE Technical Report, July 1957

The Early Antiproton Work [Nobel Lecture], DOE Technical Report, December 1959

Personal History of Nucleon Polarization Experiments, DOE Technical Report, September 1984


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