Burton Richter, Storage Rings,
and the J/psi Particle

Resources with Additional Information · Honors · Interviews

Burton Richter
Credit: P.A. Moore, SLAC
National Accelerator Laboratory

"After receiving his B.S. and Ph.D. degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology [MIT] in 1952 and 1956, respectively, [Burton Richter] accepted a post-doctoral position at Stanford University's High Energy Physics Laboratory. There he was seized with the idea to test the accepted theory of Quantum Electrodynamics by several methods. One of these approaches was the use of electron-electron storage rings at Stanford. That interest in storage rings persisted after he joined the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) Faculty. After heading one of SLAC's research groups, he gathered a team promoting the construction of the … SPEAR, … [a high energy, high intensity] electron-positron storage ring."1

SPEAR was built with "the support of the … U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. [Richter's] team used the machine to discover a subatomic particle in 1974 which they called psi particle. A team led by Samuel Ting [and using the facilities] at Brookhaven National Laboratory made the same discovery independently and called it the J particle."2 Richter and Ting were awarded the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physics for their discovery, now "called the J/psi, that helped verify the existence of the charmed quark and bolstered the theoretical picture - called the Standard Model - that explains nature's fundamental particles and how they interact."2

"After serving two years as [SLAC's] Technical Director, [Richter] became Director … from 1984 through 1999. During his tenure, SLAC prospered and broadened its interests into photon science by incorporating the synchrotron laboratory into its structure."1

"[Richter] is now director emeritus of SLAC, Paul Pigott Professor in the Physical Sciences Emeritus at Stanford University, and senior fellow at the university's Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies. … [He] has devoted increasing time to issues related to energy and sustainable development."2


Resources with Additional Information

Additional information about Burton Richter, storage rings, and the J/psi particle is available in electronic documents and on the Web.



Additional Web Pages:





Interview with Burton Richter, nobelprize.org (video)

Q&A with Nobel Laureate Burton Richter

Richter Takes Readers Beyond Smoke and Mirrors, American Physical Society (APS)

Beyond Smoke and Mirrors - Part 1 (The Book): An Interview with Dr. Burton Richter (video)

Beyond Smoke and Mirrors - Part 2 (The Issues): An Interview with Dr. Burton Richter (video)


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