Trinity Remembered

Ernest O. Lawrence (1901-1958)

Ernest Orlando Lawrence

Ernest Orlando Lawrence was born on August 8, 1901, in Canton, South Dakota. He was awarded his Ph.D. in physics from Yale University in 1925. In 1930 he was appointed Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. There he began working with J. Robert Oppenheimer. In 1936 he became Director of the University’s Radiation Laboratory.

In 1929 he invented the cyclotron, a device for accelerating nuclear particles to very high velocities. Hundreds of radioactive isotopes of the known elements were also discovered. For this development, Lawrence won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1939.

Lawrence was involved with the Manhattan Project from nearly the beginning. He was the program chief in charge of the electromagnetic separation work at Oak Ridge that provided the uranium 235 for the atomic bomb.

After the war he played a part in the attempt to obtain international agreement on the suspension of atomic testing. In 1957, he was awarded the Enrico Fermi Award. Both the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory were named in his honor. He died on August 27, 1958, at Palo Alto, California. Element 103 was named lawrencium (Lr) in his honor.