inventions inventions inventions inventions inventions

Ernest Lawrence - Famous Inventor

: Ernest Lawrence
: 8-August-1901
: 27-August-1958
: United States
: University of California ,Yale University
: Nuclear scientist ,Inventor

About Inventor

Ernest Lawrence, was an American physicist and Nobel laureate, best known for his invention and development of the cyclotron, a device to accelerate nuclear particles and used in the discovery of the transuranium elements. The cyclotron, led to the development of particle physics and revolutionary discoveries about the nature of the universe. Ernest Lawrence was born in Canton, South Dakota and educated at the universities of South Dakota, Minnesota, and Chicago and at Yale University. Lawrence founded the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, the oldest of the national laboratories, in 1931. He was awarded the 1939 Nobel Prize in physics and the Enrico Fermi Award in 1957. Photo

The invention that would rocket Ernest Lawrence to international fame started out modestly as a sketch on a scrap of paper. While sitting in the library one evening, Lawrence happened to glance over a journal article and was intrigued by one of the diagrams. The idea was to produce very high energy particles required for atomic disintegration by means of a succession of very small "pushes." Ernest Lawrence told his colleagues that he had found a method for obtaining particles of very high energy, without the use of any high voltage. The idea was surprisingly simple, but Lawrence double-checked his theory with physicists from Yale to make sure he had not overlooked a critical detail.

The first model of Lawrence's cyclotron was made out of wire and sealing wax and probably cost $25 in all. And it worked - when Lawrence applied 2,000 volts of electricity to his make-shift cyclotron, he got 80,000-volt projectiles spinning around. He had discovered a way to "smash" atoms, and in doing so he unwittingly paved the way for the U.S. nuclear weapons program that was to follow a decade later.

Ernest Lawrence and Enrico Fermi 

Ernest Lawrence and Enrico Fermi seemed to live parallel lives. They were born only a month apart, though an ocean away - Ernest Lawrence in South Dakota and Enrico Fermi in Rome, Italy. Both Lawrence and Fermi became interested in physics at an early age; both won Nobel Prizes only a year apart for work related to the discovery of radioactive elements; both contributed significantly as leaders in winning the science war during World War II; and sadly, both died premature deaths—Fermi was only 54 years old and Lawrence was 57.

But this was not the end of their similarities. Prestigious science awards were established as memorials for both Fermi and Lawrence by President Eisenhower and the Atomic Energy Commission, now the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Fermi Award is for lifetime achievements of internationally recognized scientists; the Lawrence Award recognizes relatively recent achievements and excellence in nuclear science and technology, and, as Lawrence did, it also encourages and supports the careers of scientists and engineers who show exceptional promise for the future.

Ernest Lawrence was the second-ever recipient of the Enrico Fermi Award in 1957, just a year before his death, and Lawrence's own memorial award was established a year after his death in 1959.

Awards Received by Inventor

Hughes Medal (1937)

Elliott Cresson Medal (1937)

Comstock Prize in Physics (1938)

Nobel Prize in Physics (1939)

Duddell Medal and Prize (1940)

Holley Medal (1942)

Medal for Merit (1946)

Officer de la Legion d'Honneur (1948)

William Procter Prize (1951)

Faraday Medal (1952)

Enrico Fermi Award (1957)

Sylvanus Thayer Award (1958)


Ernest Lawrence's Other Images

Ernest Lawrence-Ernest Lawrence


View Photos
Ernest Lawrence-Ernest Lawrence


View Photos