Reines, Frederick, 1918-1998

Alternative names
Birth 1918-03-16
Death 1998-08-26

Biographical notes:

Frederick Reines was a particle physicist and educator internationally recognized for his verification of the existence of the neutrino and investigation of its properties.

From the description of Frederick Reines papers, ca. 1931-1999. (University of California, Irvine). WorldCat record id: 43601433

Physicist (nuclear fission, free neutrinos, cosmic rays).

From the description of Papers, 1956-1966. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 82630827

Physicist (nuclear fission, free neutrons, cosmic rays). Professor emeritus of physics and radiological science at University of California Irvine. Nobel laureate.

From the description of Papers, ca. 1954-1996. (American Institute of Physics). WorldCat record id: 79973548


Frederick Reines was a particle physicist and educator internationally recognized for his verification of the existence of the neutrino and investigation of its properties. He was born March 16, 1918 in Paterson, New Jersey. Reines attended Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he completed his Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1939, and then went on to complete a Master's Degree in Mathematical Physics two years later. He continued his graduate studies in Physics at New York University, receiving his doctorate in 1944. His dissertation was entitled The Liquid Drop Model for Nuclear Fission.

While writing his dissertation in 1944, Reines was recruited as a staff physicist in the Theoretical Division at Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. Although he trained as a theoretician, Reines spent his career working as an experimentalist. During his fifteen years at Los Alamos, he worked on the Manhattan project; as director of the Operation Greenhouse experiments at Eniwetok atoll; and on various experiments testing for spontaneous fission, shock waves, and cosmic and gamma rays. Reines' early neutrino experiments at Los Alamos helped to redirect the agenda of the national laboratory towards other research objectives, in that these experiments constituted the first attempt by the national laboratory to broaden its research programs to include applications in nuclear physics other than weapons production.

In 1953 Reines and his colleague Clyde Cowan began to explore the possibility of verifying the existence of neutrinos, which had been theorized earlier by Wolfgang Pauli and Enrico Fermi. The first experiments were conducted in 1953 in Hanford, Washington, using a nuclear reactor as a source for neutrinos. In 1956 Reines and Cowan confirmed the existence of the neutrino at the new Savannah River Plant reactor in South Carolina. In the following years the Savannah River Plant served as a site for numerous other experiments exploring the nature of neutrinos. Reines maintained his association with the Savannah River Plant throughout his career.

From 1959 to 1966 Reines was a professor and chair of the Department of Physics at Case Institute of Technology. In 1963 he formed a collaboration between Case and the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa (CW); when Reines left Case for the University of California, Irvine (UCI), this collaboration became known as Case-Witwatersrand-Irvine (CWI). The primary site for this collaboration, which lasted until 1979, was the East Rand Proprietary Mine (ERPM) in South Africa, and its purpose was to investigate cosmic rays.

In 1966 Reines assumed a new position as Dean of Physical Sciences at UCI. Serving as the founding Dean, he developed the curriculum, standards, and facilities, and attracted fellow scientists to the Southern California campus. Reines also continued to cultivate productive professional associations in the physics community. He served on national and regional committees for the development of particle physics and participated in conferences and workshops promoting this nascent subfield of physics. Reines was a member of, and from 1985-1988 chaired, the Scientific and Academic Advisory Committee (SAAC), which advises the President of the University of California on the administration of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). Reines maintained his association with the LANL, as both a consultant and as adviser, throughout his career.

In the 1980s Reines initiated the formation of a new collaboration with physicists from the University of Michigan and Brookhaven National Laboratory. Known as IMB (Irvine-Michigan-Brookhaven), the primary purpose of the collaboration was to search for proton decay. Reines and Jack vander Velde of the University of Michigan initially acted as co-spokespersons for the collaboration; Reines later became the sole spokesperson. The principal site for the IMB collaboration was in a salt mine located in Painesville, Ohio. In 1987 IMB detected a burst of neutrinos from a supernova. The result of the detection of the Supernova 1987A neutrinos was the receipt in 1989 of the Rossi Prize, which the IMB collaborators shared with members of the Kamiokande collaboration in Japan.

The collaboration represented by IMB reflects Reines' scientific research priorities and also demonstrates his ability to envision future fields of investigation within physics. Reines started his proton decay research in the 1950s, when the concept was not generally accepted by the physics community as a field of inquiry. He furthered this research interest through independent proton decay experiments in the Painesville salt mine during the 1960s. When the Standard Model of Particle Physics was developed in the early 1970s, the concept of proton decay gained recognition as a valid area of scientific exploration. With the advent of this model, funding for proton decay experiments became a primary objective within the field, and IMB developed out of this interest. The time frame for Reines' earlier independent proton decay experiments in the Painesville salt mine was circa 1960 to the late 1970s, while those experiments conducted as part of the IMB collaboration occurred between the late 1970s and 1989.

Another collaboration spearheaded by Reines at UCI was the Deep Underwater Muon and Neutrino Detector (DUMAND). The primary purpose of the collaboration was to detect cosmic neutrinos. The detector was to be located on the ocean floor near Hawaii. The time period of DUMAND was the mid-1970s to 1988.

From the mid 1970s to 1998 Reines was involved in the preliminary stages of development of other collaborations such as Gamma Ray and Neutrino Detector (GRANDE); Los Alamos Meson Physics Facility (LAMPF); and Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO). Most of these collaborations were not actualized in Reines' lifetime.

Throughout his career, Reines concentrated his efforts as a scientist and academic on investigating the fundamental principles of physics. His interests in the neutrino, the gravitational constant, and baryon conservation reflect his commitment to explore and verify the accepted parameters of physics. Most of the experiments represented in this collection demonstrate his capabilities as both a theorist and experimentalist.

Reines received numerous awards and honors from his colleagues and the community-at-large throughout his career. Some of the more prestigious awards were the conferment of membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1966); membership in the National Academy of Sciences (1980); J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize (1981); Franklin Medal (1992); National Medal of Science (1995); and the Nobel Prize in Physics (1995) for the detection of the neutrino.

Frederick Reines died on August 26, 1998. A biographical article on Reines is available through University of California: In Memoriam." (available online at


  • 1918: Born on 16 March in Paterson, New Jersey.
  • 1939: B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Stevens Institute of Technology.
  • 1941: M.A. Mathematical Physics, Stevens Institute of Technology.
  • 1944: Ph.D. Physics, New York University.
  • 1944: Sigma Xi.
  • 1944 - 1959 : Staff member and group leader, Theoretical Division, Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory.
  • 1951: Director, Los Alamos experiments, Operation Greenhouse, Eniwetok atoll.
  • 1953: Detection of the free neutrino: first indication at Hanford.
  • 1956: Centennial Lecturer, University of Maryland.
  • 1956: Detection of the free neutrino: confirmation at Savannah River Plant.
  • 1956 - 1988 : Experiments at Savannah River Plant.
  • 1957: Fellow of the American Physical Society.
  • 1958 - 1959 : Guggenheim Fellow.
  • 1959 - 1963 : Alfred P. Sloan Fellow.
  • 1959 - 1966 : Professor and Head of the Department of Physics, Case Institute of Technology.
  • 1959 - 1966 : Chairman, Joint Case-Western Reserve High Energy Physics Program.
  • 1961 - 1964 : Trustee, Argonne National Laboratory.
  • 1962 - 1964 : Fulbright Physics Screening Committee.
  • 1963 - 1979 : Case-Witwatersrand-Irvine (CWI) collaboration.
  • 1965 - 1969 : Consultant, Institute of Defense Analysis.
  • 1966 - 1974 : Founding Dean of Physical Sciences, University of California, Irvine (UCI).
  • 1966 - 1988 : Professor of Physics, UCI.
  • 1966: Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
  • 1966: Honorary Doctor of Science Degree, University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
  • 1968 - 1995 : Consultant, Los Alamos National Laboratory.
  • 1969: Phi Beta Kappa.
  • 1970 - 1998 : Professor of Radiological Sciences, Medical School, UCI.
  • 1971: Stevens Honor Award.
  • 1972 - 1985 : Los Alamos Meson Physics Facility (LAMPF) collaboration.
  • 1975 - 1995 : Member, University of California Scientific and Academic Advisory Committee (SAAC).
  • 1975 - 1988 : Deep Underwater Muon and Neutrino Detector (DUMAND) collaboration.
  • 1979: Distinguished Faculty Lecturer, UCI.
  • 1979: Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science.
  • 1979 - 1990 : Irvine-Michigan-Brookhaven (IMB) collaboration.
  • 1980: Member, National Academy of Sciences.
  • 1981: J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize.
  • 1984: Honorary Doctor of Engineering, Stevens Institute of Technology.
  • 1985: Medal for Outstanding Research, UCI.
  • 1985: National Medal of Science.
  • 1985 - 1988 : Chair, University of California Scientific and Academic Advisory Committee (SAAC).
  • 1986 - 1992 : Gamma Ray and Neutrino Detector (GRANDE) collaboration.
  • 1987 - 1989 : Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) collaboration.
  • 1987: UCI Medal.
  • 1988: L.I. Schiff Memorial Lecturer, Stanford University.
  • 1988: Albert Einstein Memorial Lecturer, Israel Academy of the Sciences and Humanities, Jerusalem.
  • 1988 - 1989 : AAAS Cominating committee.
  • 1988 - 1998 : Distinguished Professor of Physics, Emeritus, UCI.
  • 1989: Bruno Rossi Prize, American Astronomical Society.
  • 1990: Michelson-Morley Award, Case Western Reserve University.
  • 1990: Goudsmit Memorial Lecturer.
  • 1990: New York University Plaque.
  • 1990: Distinguished Alumnus Award, New York University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
  • 1992: W. K. H. Panofsky Prize.
  • 1992: The Franklin Medal, awarded by the Benjamin Franklin Institute, Committee on Science and Arts.
  • 1994: Foreign Member, Russian Academy of Sciences.
  • 1995: Nobel Prize in Physics.
  • 1998: Dies on August 26 in Newport Beach, California.

From the guide to the Frederick Reines papers, circa 1931-1999, (University of California, Irvine. Library. Special Collections and Archives.)


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  • Nuclear arms control--Archival resources
  • Nuclear arms control
  • Neutrinos--Archival resources
  • Elastic scattering
  • Elastic scattering--Archival resources
  • Neutrino astrophysics--Archival resources
  • Protons--Decay--Archival resources
  • Nuclear weapons--Testing
  • Cosmic ray muons--Archival resources
  • Nuclear physics--Archival resources
  • Neutrino astrophysics
  • Neutrino
  • Nuclear physics
  • Neutrino interactions
  • Neutrinos--Experiments
  • Nuclear weapons--Testing--Archival resources
  • Cosmic ray muons
  • Proton--Decay


  • Physicists
  • Nuclear physicists


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