August 8, 2011 - Happy Birthday, Ernest Lawrence

Ernest Lawrence was born in South Dakota on this day in 1901. But his long career as a physicist occurred at the University of California, Berkeley.

Lawrence invented the cyclotron, a type of particle accelerator and atom smasher, in 1929. 

His first model only cost around $25 in materials, could be held in one hand—and it worked! That small model accelerated protons to a remarkable 1% of the speed of light! (Remember that today's particle accelerators and atom smashers, such as the Large Hadron Collider, cost billions of dollars and are many miles wide! Of course, such huge machines achieve far great speeds and smashing-power than that first model!)

Berkeley's Lawrence Hall of Science is named for Lawrence, as is the chemical element lawrencium. Lawrence won the Nobel Prize in 1939.

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