Date of Birth: 06/13/1911
Place of birth: San Francisco
Citizenship: United States
American physicist Luis Walter Alvarez was born in San Francisco (CA). His mother - Harriet Skidmore (nee Smith) Alvarez, the father - Walter Clement Alvarez, University of California professor, doctor and journalist covering medical topics. In 1926, when his father Louis moved to the Mayo Clinic, the family moved to Rochester (Minnesota). A., one of four children, graduated from the Rochester school in 1928 and enrolled at the University of Chicago. Initially, he specialized in the field of chemistry, but then, encouraged by one of his teachers chose to study physics. After graduating with honors from the University in 1932, he stayed in Chicago for further studies, he became a master in 1934, and doctor in 1936. A big fan of aviation. A., studying at the University, attended simultaneously piloting courses. In this case, he was so talented that he had made his first solo flight after just three hours fifteen minutes of instruction.
Returning to California, A. engaged in research in the field of nuclear physics as an assistant researcher at the University of California at Berkeley, and then became a lecturer there in 1938. In the late 30s, he and Jacob H. Vayensom cyclotron at Berkeley received artificial mercury isotope with an atomic weight of 198. subsequently the US Bureau of standards adopted wavelength of light that emits mercury lamp filled with this isotope pairs, as a reference length. As a result of their further studies A. experimentally proved in 1937 that the nucleus of an atom can capture some of the electrons located at the closest to the nucleus of the atom orbit (K-capture), he developed a method for producing beams of very slow neutrons opened the way for fundamental research neutron scattering and allowed for the first time to measure the magnetic moment of the neutron. Shortly before World War II A with one of his colleagues discovered tritium (a radioactive isotope of hydrogen) and helium-3 (the isotope, which plays an important role in the physics of low temperatures).
In 1940, Alexander took the Berkeley vacation for military research in the Radiation Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Here, together with Lawrence Johnston, he developed three important radar systems, in particular improved microwave radar system will detect the planes lost in the fog over the airport and accompany them to a safe landing. This system is based on ground control, soon became widely used, initially the military service, and then in civilian airports. A. For this he was awarded in 1946 an Honorary necklace highest aviation award in the United States, awarded by the National Society of Aeronautics. Catching up during the war in scientific research at MIT, he also developed a high-altitude radar installation "Eagle", to facilitate accurate bombing at the Japanese bombing of refineries, as well as a microwave early warning receiver, the transmitted image of aerial combat.
In 1943, Alexander left MIT and moved to Los Angeles (New Mexico), where as a member of the Manhattan Project worked with Enrico Fermi. J. Robert Oppenheimer, Edward Teller and other scientists to create a nuclear bomb. A. It is proposed a method by which was blown up by one of the bombs options. Once in 1946 he was present at the first nuclear explosion at the test site in Alamogordo (New Mexico), he was sent to one of the military bases in the Pacific, where he flew on a plane B-29 to observe the explosion of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima. Several lay down later, he was among those scientists who, unlike Oppenheimer and many other members of the Scientific Advisory Council of the Atomic Energy Commission insisted that President Harry S. Truman authorized the work on the creation of the hydrogen bomb.
When he returned after the war, Berkeley, A. Radiation Laboratory in charge of construction for basic research in the field of nuclear energy, including 40-foot linear proton accelerator, the first of its kind.
To study the set of elementary particles produced in the new accelerators, you need to register their tracks, or tracks. The first device that allows to carry out such registration, the ionization chamber was invented in 1911 CH.T.R. Wilson. When Wilson expanded and thereby cooled supersaturated steam in his cell, atomic particles, flying through it leaves a trail of liquid droplets, which can be photographed. Further progress in the field of particle detection were made in the 40s, when Cecil F. Piuell developed a photographic emulsion, which managed to obtain an image of tracks directly. However, with the advent of new, more powerful accelerators in the early 50s, these methods are outdated, since, in such particle accelerators with high energy has a very short lifetime and low track length. To overcome these difficulties have been in 1952, when Donald A. Glizer invented the bubble chamber, in which the particles, runs through superheated liquid-liquid heated above its boiling temperature, - left a trail of bubbles of gas.
Acquainted with Glaser on the work of the conference in 1953, AG significantly improved the bubble chamber. using as liquid hydrogen and liquid. Over the next five years, a series of increases in the diameter of the chamber was set up from 1-inch to 72-inch camera in 1959. In 1960, the first time many new elementary particles observed at Berkeley.
To photograph the tracks of particles colleague Jack A. Frank created a rotating stereographic system. Nicknamed the "Frankenstein", she started to act in 1957, and then repeatedly used by professionals engaged in high-energy physics. In order to analyze the millions of photos taken annually at these facilities, A. and his colleagues used high-speed computers. In the late 50s they developed ingenious computer program that allows you to sort and analyze the data with unprecedented speed and accuracy. As a result of such investigations to the beginning of the 60-ies the number of known particles increased from around 30 to more than 100. Many of them were "resonance" - short-lived particles that can not be observed directly, but whose existence is manifested in a sudden increase in the number of other particles produced at a certain energy. Almost all the resonances were discovered either by A or his colleagues, or other scientists use it bubble chamber and analytical techniques.
In 1968, A. was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics "for his exceptional contributions to elementary particle physics, in particular for the opening of a large number of resonances, which became possible thanks to the technique developed by him using hydrogen bubble chamber and data analysis of the original." When presenting the winner Sten von Friesen, a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, he said: "The creation of a hydrogen bubble chamber opened up entirely new opportunities for high-energy physics research. As a result - the discovery of new elementary particles. Virtually all of the discoveries made in this important area, have been made possible only thanks to the methods developed by Professor Alvarez. "
A scientist with a wide range of interests, headed by A. In 1965, a joint US-Egyptian expedition, which is by probing with the help of cosmic rays was trying to find out whether there are secret rooms in the pyramid of Pharaoh Khafre in Giza (there was no such room). If we look at the area more distant from the physics of elementary particles, then in 1979 he and his son Walter, a professor of geology at Berkeley, has put forward a radical theory explaining the extinction of the dinosaurs and other life forms 65 million years ago. They suggested that some asteroid collided with the Earth with such force that the resulting clouds of dust and smoke stopped her access to sunlight, because of what was lost vegetation, is the food of dinosaurs. This idea was reinforced in 1985 with information about the opening of the widely scattered particles of soot, dating back to the age of 65 million years, and may result from a global conflagration that resulted from the impact of an extraterrestrial alien. However, this theory remains controversial.
In addition, A. received a chain reaction without using uranium, invented a new color system and opened a radioactive isotope of helium. Once he came up with the electrical system for indoor training courses, which enjoyed President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Due to the extreme diversity of the areas in which contributed to AA, he was nicknamed "the physicist with crazy ideas."
In 1936, Alexander married Geraldine Smituik, they have a son and a daughter. The marriage ended in divorce, and in 1958 he married Janet A. Landis, from this marriage he is also a son and a daughter.
Among other prizes A. - John Scott Award of Philadelphia (1953), Albert Einstein Prize Memorial Fund Lewis and Rosa Strauss (1961), the prize "For pioneering research" (1963), Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers and the National Medal `For his scientific achievements` of the National Science Foundation. He was president of the American Physical Society in 1969 and was a member of the US National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering. He was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Chicago, the University of Carnegie - Mellon University, Kenyon College and the University of Notre Dame.