AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXXIV , No. 2, Fall 2002


New Web Exhibit Shows the Emergence of "Big Physics"

Ernest O. Lawrence is the latest subject of a major new web exhibit offered by the AIP Center for History of Physics. The exhibit follows Lawrence's life and accomplishments, including his invention of the cyclotron. During World War II, Lawrence and his machines played a key role in the Manhattan project and building the first atomic bombs. Lawrence also brought together physics and government during the Cold War by spearheading the creation of our National Laboratory system. Two labs, the Lawrence Livermore Lab and the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, still bear his name as a mark of his important contribution to the field of physics.

Ernest Lawrence Web exhibit
Lawrence's story is also one of personal triumph. His rise from a small prairie town to fame and power traces the 20th-century rise of American science itself. But it wasn't just his scientific accomplishments that won
Lawrence a place on the Center's Web site alongside other Nobelists like Einstein, Sakharov and Marie Curie. The exhibit aims to help young people and the public see how the physics community changed during Lawrence's life.

Peter Westwick, a historian at the California Institute of Technology, wrote the text for the exhibit, which was reviewed by several leading scholars. In addition to the story of Lawrence's career, the site includes more than 60 illustrations showing Lawrence and his laboratories in the context of their times, from the Great Depression to the Cold War. There are also audio clips of Lawrence talking, and Art Roberts' humorous songs about the physics community in the 1940s. Supplementary text with an animation explains how Lawrence's cyclotron worked, and its place in the progress of discovery in the 1930s. Like other major exhibits by the Center, this comes with a no-pictures version accessible to visually impaired people with text readers.

The exhibit may be seen at: /history/lawrence/

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AIP History CenterCenter for History of Physics
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