Los Alamos D3, AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Fermi Film Collection; McKibben Joseph D1, Los Alamos National Laboratory, courtesy of AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Fermi Film Collection, Physics Today Collection
Summertime always brings around memories of being a kid; on vacation from school, biking around my neighborhood, relishing the lack of homework, going to summer camp, and family trips to National Parks. I was lucky enough to travel to parks throughout the United States, from Acadia in Maine to Yosemite in California to Glacier Bay in Alaska. Visiting and learning more about the natural lands that make up our country instilled in me an early appreciation for the outdoors. This month, in honor of the National Park System’s 105th birthday, I’ve selected photos from the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives of physicists who also have traveled to and throughout National Park land - and not just U.S. parks!
Los Alamos Laboratory scientists on a 1945 hike in Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico. In the first photo are John Clark, David Inglis, Theodore Jorgensen Jr., and Emilio Segrè; the second photo shows Joseph McKibben, Richard Feynman, Edwin McMillan, Bengt Carlson, Theodore Jorgensen Jr., Emilio Segrè, David Inglis, and Dorothy Jorgensen in the Frijoles Canyon area of Bandelier.
Located just south of Los Alamos, New Mexico, it makes sense that a number of scientists would visit this National Monument. Beyond providing visitors opportunities to hike and gaze upon beautiful views of New Mexico, Bandelier is home to Ancestral Puebloan settlements that date back to 1150 CE. You can take a virtual tour of some areas of the Monument from the comfort of your own home here!
The Lamont-Hussey Observatory sits within the Franklin Nature Reserve in Bloemfontein, South Africa, circa 1950. Although the observatory closed in 1972, the building has since been converted into the Naval Hill Planetarium.
The Franklin Nature Reserve is entirely within the city of Bloemfontein, and visitors can enjoy views of the city, local wildlife and plant sightings, and walking/biking trails. Along with its Nature and Game Reserves, South Africa has 19 National Parks.
John Irwin poses for a picture atop Pinnacle Peak in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington. Mount Rainier is visible in the background of the shot. John Irwin was an astronomer, world traveler, and photographer - our Emilio Segrè Visual Archives contains over 1,300 of his slides, taken between 1950 and 1988.
Fun fact: Professor and former Superconducting Super Collider director Roy Schwitters worked as a mountain guide at Mount Rainier one summer, in between semesters at MIT!
Michael Newman, Donald Clayton, and W. Michael Howard sit on the porch of Buck Meadows Lodge near the entrance to Yosemite National Park.
Hideki Yukawa, Ryōkichi Sagane, and John Cockcroft in Japan’s Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park; this picture was taken in 1958, 22 years after the park was first established.
This park, located just south of Tokyo, consists of four main regions: Mount Fuji, the Hakone area, the Izu Peninsula, and the Izu Islands, which extend into the Pacific Ocean. From the still-active Mount Fuji volcano to the park’s many hot springs and lava tunnels, the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park gives visitors an opportunity to witness the power of volcanic activity in its many forms.
The Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station building atop Sulphur Mountain in Banff National Park, Canada.
Built for the 1957-1958 International Geophysical Year, the Station was in operation and used by geophysicists to study particles until 1978, and then was demolished in 1981. Today, travelers to Banff National Park can see the concrete foundation where this building stood and visit the original stone weather station (located just up the stairs to the left of this picture’s view) which was built in 1902 and still stands.
Carl Borgmann and Edward Ackerman at Bosque de Fray Jorge National Park in Chile. It’s likely that Borgmann and Ackerman stopped at this park while in Chile to visit the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory site. In October, 1965, when this photo was taken, Carl Borgmann was the director of the Ford Foundation’s science and engineering division and Edward Ackerman was the director of the Carnegie Institute.
The Bosque de Fray Jorge National Park is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve due to a unique feature; despite being mostly desert, there is a small portion of the park that is made up of dense Valdivian temperate rainforest. The forest maintains its moisture due to the coastal fog that gathers along the mountains, creating an environment that is typically found 700 miles further south along Chile’s coastline.
Carl Sagan stands in the desert of Death Valley National Park in California with a mockup of the Viking Mars Lander. Because of its similarities to the surface of Mars, Death Valley is the almost-perfect test site for landers, rovers, and tools that will eventually be sent to the Red Planet.
If you’d prefer to experience America’s lowest, driest, and hottest National Park from your air-conditioned home (and I wouldn’t blame you!) view the National Park Service’s images of Death Valley here.
While I have fond memories and experiences of America’s National Parks, I want to acknowledge that this is not the case for all Americans. Many of America’s National Park lands were forcefully or violently taken from indigenous communities and continue to represent American colonialism. While being far from perfect solutions, there have been recent steps towards more Native American representation in the management of National Parks, such as this call to transfer the National Parks to Native communities. Just this month, President Biden nominated Charles F. Sams III to be the next director of the National Park Service. Sams, who is Cayuse and Walla Walla and lives on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, is the first Native American to be nominated for the position.