Ernest O. Lawrence and the Cyclotron

Patents · Resources with Additional Information · Lawrence Honored · Cyclotrons

Ernest O. Lawrence
Photo Courtesy the Lawrence
Berkeley National Laboratory

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is the namesake and legacy of its founder, Ernest Orlando Lawrence, winner of the 1939 Nobel Prize for Physics for his invention of the cyclotron, … the granddaddy of today's most powerful accelerators. … [Lawrence] was the "father of big science," the first to advance the idea of doing research with multidisciplinary teams of scientists and engineers. …

[The University of California at] Berkeley … was most anxious to develop its small physics department. … Lawrence accepted an associate professor position at Berkeley in 1928, just a few days following his 27th birthday. Within three years, he was made the youngest full professor on the Berkeley faculty [and] invented the cyclotron … . The cyclotron would be patented in Lawrence's name, but he never asked for any royalties, and he encouraged and helped other laboratories throughout the world to build cyclotrons. Lawrence was also the legal inventor of the Calutron isotope separator - but he assigned the patent rights to the U.S. government for a fee of one dollar.

[In] 1952 … Lawrence lobbied for and won approval to establish a second national weapons laboratory at Livermore.'1Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory celebrated the Lawrence's centennial birthday with a special issue of LLNL's Newsline newsletter that covered Lawrence's myriad accomplishments as well as his approach to "big science," recollections from his son Robert, and articles by former LLNL directors Edward Teller, Herbert York, and John Foster.2


Resources with Additional Information

Additional information about Ernest Lawrence and his research is available in full-text and on the Web.


The Invention of the Cyclotron
The Production of High Speed Protons Without the Use of High Voltages; Physical Review, Vol. 38, [Issue 4: 834, August 15, 1931
The Production of High Speed Light Ions Without the Use of High Voltages; Physical Review, Vol. 40, Issue 1: 19-35, April 1, 1932

Transmutations of Sodium by Deutons; Physical Review, Vol. 47, Issue 1: 17-27, January 1, 1935

Initial Performance of the 184-Inch Cyclotron of the University of California; Physical Review, Vol. 71, Issue 7: 449-450, April 1,1947

A High Vacuum High Speed Ion Pump, DOE Technical Report Download Adobe PDF Reader, August 27, 1952


Lawrence Honored:

1957 Enrico Fermi Award

Lawrencium – The 103rd element in the Periodic Table, named for E. O. Lawrence

Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award

Lawrence and His Laboratory: A Historian's View of the Lawrence Years – a history of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Lawrence Hall of Science – materials and programs for educational and public use, provided by The University of California at Berkeley


Additional Web Pages:


A Revolutionary Idea that Changed Modern Physics, LBNL
Ernest Lawrence's Cyclotron: Invention for the Ages, LBNL
Lawrence Invents the Cyclotron: 1931, PBS
Cyclotron – Glossary, Jefferson Lab Science Education
Cyclotron – Department of Physics and Astronomy, Georgia State University
Also see documents about the invention of the Cyclotron


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