Chamberlain, O. (Owen)

Alternative names
Birth 1920-07-10
Death 2006-02-28

Biographical notes:

Interviewee b. 1920.

From the description of Reminiscences of Owen Chamberlain : oral history, 1964. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122586907

Owen Chamberlain (1920- ). Physicist at Los Alamos, Professor of physics, University of California, Berkeley; Nobel Laureate.

From the description of Oral history interview with Owen Chamberlain. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 78178368

Biographical Information

Owen Chamberlain was born in San Francisco on July 10, 1920, the son of W. Edward Chamberlain, radiologist, and Genevieve Lucinda Owen. He obtained his bachelor's degree at Dartmouth College in 1941 and entered graduate school in physics at the University of California, Berkeley. After the United States entered into World War II, Chamberlain began working on the Manhattan Project under Emilio Segrè. In 1946 Chamberlain resumed his graduate studies under Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago. He completed experimental work in 1948 and received his doctorate in 1949.

In 1948 he accepted a teaching position at the University of California, Berkeley. Much of his research subsequent to this involved studies of proton scattering and polarization effects. Chamberlain worked extensively with Emilio Segrè and Clyde Wiegand, Dr. Thomas Ypsilantis, and Dr. Robert D. Tripp. In 1955 Chamberlain, along with Wiegand, Segrè, and Ypsilantis discovered the antiproton, an accomplishment for which he and Segrè were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1959.

Chamberlain was appointed Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley in 1958.

For the next few years he and his colleagues studied the properties of antiprotons and used them to create antineutrons. During the 1960s and 1970s he spent much of his time on the scattering of various subatomic particles using polarized proton targets. During the late 1970s and early 1980s Chamberlain worked with the Berkeley Bevalac accelerator to study nuclear interactions. His last major project was working with Dr. David Nygren on the development of the Time-Projection-Chamber at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.

In addition to his scientific endeavors, Chamberlain was also politically active, concentrating on issues of peace and social justice. He spoke out strongly against the Vietnam War. He was an influential member of Scientists for Sakharov, Orlov, and Shcharansky, three physicists of the Soviet Union imprisoned for their political beliefs. In the 1980s, he helped found the nuclear freeze movement.

Chamberlain was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1959 and throughout his career, received numerous other professional honors. He was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the American Physical Society. In 1957 he studied antinucleons at the University of Rome through the auspices of a Guggenheim Fellowship. Upon his retirement from UC Berkeley, he received the campus's highest honor, the Berkeley Citation.

In 1943 he married Beatrice Babette Copper (dec. 1988). They had three daughters and one son. He subsequently married June Steingart Greenfield (dec. 1991) and Senta Pugh Gaiser.

Chamberlain was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1985 and retired from teaching in 1989. He died of complications from the disease on February 28, 2006, in Berkeley at the age of 85.

From the guide to the Owen Chamberlain papers, 1941-2006, (The Bancroft Library)


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  • Physics
  • Physicists--Interviews
  • Antiprotons
  • Nuclear physics
  • Physics--Research
  • Atomic bomb
  • Nobel prizes


  • Physicists--Interviews.--California--Berkeley


  • California--Berkeley (as recorded)
  • California--Berkeley (as recorded)