Alvarez, Luis W., 1911-1988

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Luis W. Alvarez (b. June 13, 1911, San Francisco, CA–d. September 1, 1988, Berkely, CA) was an American experimental physicist, inventor, and professor who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1968. After receiving his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1936, Alvarez went to work for Ernest Lawrence at the Radiation Laboratory at the University of California in Berkeley. Alvarez devised a set of experiments to observe K-electron capture in radioactive nuclei, predicted by the beta decay theory but never before observed. He produced tritium using the cyclotron and measured its lifetime. In collaboration with Felix Bloch, he measured the magnetic moment of the neutron.

In 1940 Alvarez joined the MIT Radiation Laboratory where he contributed to a number of World War II radar projects, from early improvements to Identification friend or foe (IFF) radar beacons, now called transponders, to a system known as VIXEN for preventing enemy submarines from realizing that they had been found by the new airborne microwave radars. The radar system for which Alvarez is best known and which has played a major role in aviation, most particularly in the post war Berlin airlift, was Ground Controlled Approach (GCA). Alvarez spent a few months at the University of Chicago working on nuclear reactors for Enrico Fermi before coming to Los Alamos to work for Robert Oppenheimer on the Manhattan project. Alvarez worked on the design of explosive lenses, and the development of exploding-bridgewire detonators.

After the war Alvarez was involved in the design of a liquid hydrogen bubble chamber that allowed his team to take millions of photographs of particle interactions, develop complex computer systems to measure and analyze these interactions, and discover entire families of new particles and resonance states. This work resulted in his being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1968. He was involved in a project to x-ray the Egyptian pyramids to search for unknown chambers. With his son, geologist Walter Alvarez, he developed the Alvarez hypothesis which proposes that the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs was the result of an asteroid impact.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Medicus, Heinrich, 1918-. International Congress for Physics [motion picture] / photographed by Heinrich Medicus. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn DuBridge, Lee A. (Lee Alvin), 1901-1994. Papers, 1932-1986. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Cohen, Morrel H. Oral history interview with Morrel H. Cohen, 1981 March 31 and June 5. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Panofsky, Wolfgang Kurt Hermann, 1919-. Oral history interview with Wolfgang Kurt Hermann Panofsky, 1973 May 15 to 1974 June 3. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Teller, Edward, 1908-2003. Oral history interview with Edward Teller, 1980 December. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Richard Rhodes papers, 1938-2011 University of Kansas Kenneth Spencer Research Library Kansas Collection.
referencedIn Alvarez, Luis, Professor Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
referencedIn Nunan, Craig S. 1918-. Interview with Craig Nunan, [videorecording] / recorded by the American Association of Physicists in Medicine History Committee ; 1992 August 28. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Niels Bohr Library. The Emilio Segrè visual archives, A-D, [ca. 1870]-9999. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Lauro Ayestarán Collection, 1830-1966, (bulk 1850-1950) Music Division Library of Congress
referencedIn McCrea, William Hunter. Oral history interview with William Hunter McCrea, 1978 September 22. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Andreĭ Sakharov papers, 1852-2002 (inclusive), 1960-1990 (bulk). Houghton Library, , Harvard College Library, Harvard University
referencedIn Brobeck, William Morrison, 1908-. Oral history interview with William M. Brobeck, 1975 June 19 to 1 February 1976. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Alvarez, Luis Walter, 1911-. Autograph signatures. Smithsonian Institution. Libraries
creatorOf Alvarez, Luis W., 1911-1988. Niels Bohr Library : oral history transcripts, 1924-1978. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Polier, Justine Wise, 1903-1987. Papers, 1892-1990 (inclusive). Harvard University, Schlesinger Library
creatorOf Alvarez, Luis W., 1911-1988. Telegram, [1952] 31 Oct. Smithsonian Institution. Libraries
creatorOf Alvarez, Luis W., 1911-1988. Luis W. Alvarez bubble chamber logs, 1956-1970. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf American Physical Society. Annual Meeting (1968 : Chicago, Ill.). The search for an elementary particle [sound recording] : Joint Symposium of the American Physical Society and the American Association of Physics Teachers on History and Philosophy of Physics, 1968 January 31. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Pickering, Andrew. Interviews conducted for book, Constructing quarks, 1978-1982. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Kistiakowsky, Vera. Oral history interview with Vera Kistiakowsky, 1976 April 27 to September 1. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Roe, Anne, 1904-1991. Papers, 1949-1971 (bulk). American Philosophical Society Library
creatorOf Luis W. Alvarez Scientist Files, ca. 1940 - 1988 United States. National Archives and Records Administration National Archives at San Francisco
referencedIn Smith, Cyril Stanley, 1903-1992. Oral history interview with Cyril Stanley Smith, 1976 September 23. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Lauritsen, Thomas, 1915-1973. Papers, 1922-1974, (bulk: 1952-1973) American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Wilson, Robert R., 1914-2000. Oral history interview with Robert R. Wilson, 1977 May 19. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Alvarez, Luis W., 1911-1988. Letter, 1945 August 9 : to Professor R. Sagane, Imperial University, Tokyo, Japan. Washington State University, Holland and Terrell Libraries
referencedIn Kowarski, Lew. Papers, 1907-1981, (bulk 1930-1981). American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn DR. LUIS ALVAREZ, NOBEL PRIZE WINNER IN PHYSICS United States. National Archives and Records Administration
creatorOf General Records of the Department of Energy. 1915 - 2007. Papers of Luis Alvarez
referencedIn Manhattan Project, 1982 Indiana University Center for the Study of History and Memoryhttp://www.indiana.edu/~cshm
creatorOf Rochester Conference on High Energy Nuclear Physics (7th : 1957 : University of Rochester). The press meets the scientists [sound recording] American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Bryant, John. Selected interviews with notes on the history of radar from the John Bryant collection. American Institute of Physics
referencedIn Lee A. DuBridge papers, 1932-1986 California Institute of Technology. Archives.
creatorOf Luis W. Alvarez papers, 1932-1988, bulk 1943-1987 Bancroft Library
referencedIn Thomas Lauritsen papers, 1922-1974 California Institute of Technology. Archives.
referencedIn Fraser, Lorence. Oral History interview with Lorence Fraser, 1983 March 9. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Alvarez, Luis W. [1945] United States. National Archives and Records Administration. New England Region
referencedIn Chamberlain, O. (Owen). Oral history interview with Owen Chamberlain. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Marcus, David. Collection of correspondence sent to and from David Marcus regarding the bombing of Nagasaki: 1971-1982. Copley Press, J S Copley Library
creatorOf General Records of the Department of Energy. 1915 - 2007. Papers of Luis Alvarez. 1936 - 1988. Letter from Luis Alvarez to His Son
referencedIn Froman, Darol Kenneth, 1906-. Oral history interview with Darol Kenneth Froman, 1976 June 7. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Alvarez, Luis W., 1911-1988. Experimental notebooks on slow neutron beam and magnetic moment of the neutron experiments, 1939-1940. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Luis Alvarez [1943] United States. National Archives and Records Administration. New England Region
referencedIn Wilson, Robert R., 1914-2000. Robert R. Wilson papers, 1936-2000. Cornell University Library
creatorOf Alvarez, Luis W., 1911-1988. Oral history interview with Luis Alvarez, 1967 February 14 and 15. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Bryant, John. John Bryant collection. American Institute of Physics
creatorOf Alvarez, Luis W., 1911-1988. Oral history interview with Luis W. Alvarez conducted by Andrew Pickering for his book, Constructing quarks, 1978 May 30. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Letter signed by members of the Hispano-Roman school to the Palette Club, 1880. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library
creatorOf Alvarez, Luis W., 1911-1988. Telegram, [1952] 31 Oct. Smithsonian Institution. Libraries
referencedIn Alvarez, Luis W. United States. National Archives and Records Administration. New England Region
referencedIn Fowler, William A. Papers, 1929-1972. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Robert R. Wilson papers, 1936-2000. Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library.
referencedIn Anne Roe papers, 1949-1974 (bulk), 1949-1974 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Shankland, Robert S., 1908-. Oral history interview with Robert S. Shankland, 1974 August 20 and 21. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Wright, Byron T. (Byron Terry), 1917-. Clips of my life, n.d. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Hutchisson, Elmer, 1902-. Papers, 1919-1982. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
contributorOf Interview with Luis Alvarez [1943] United States. National Archives and Records Administration. New England Region
referencedIn Reynolds, Wallace B. Oral history interview with Wallace B. Reynolds, 1975 December 12. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Rhodes, Richard, 1937-. [Richard Rhodes papers]. University of Kansas Archives / MSS / Rare Books, Kenneth Spencer Research Library
referencedIn Professor Luis Alvarez Awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics - December, 1968 United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Papers, 1892-1990 Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute
creatorOf Records of Luis Alvarez related to the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory Research and Projects, 1936 - 1980 United States. National Archives and Records Administration National Archives at San Francisco
referencedIn Cranberg, Lawrence, 1917-. Papers, 1962-2000. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Flatté, Stanley M. Oral history interview with Stanley Martin Flatté, 1986 July 2. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Serber, R. (Robert). Oral history interview with Robert Serber, 1967 February 10. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn General Records of the Department of Energy. 1915 - 2007. Photographs Documenting Scientists, Special Events, and Nuclear Research Facilities, Instruments, and Projects at the Berkeley Lab
referencedIn Lubliner, Malcolm. Glenn T. Seaborg and Luis W. Alvarez [graphic] / photographed by Malcolm Lubliner. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf American Physical Society. Meeting (1969 : Washington, D.C.). Banquet of the American Phhsical Society [sound recording] 1969 April 30. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
childOf Alvarez, Walter C. (Walter Clement), 1884-1978 person
associatedWith American Physical Society. Annual Meeting (1968 : Chicago, Ill.) corporateBody
associatedWith American Physical Society. Meeting (1969 : Washington, D.C.) corporateBody
associatedWith Ayestarán, Lauro. person
associatedWith Bethe, Hans A. (Hans Albrecht), 1906-2005. person
associatedWith Bloch, Felix, 1905- person
associatedWith Brobeck, William Morrison, 1908- person
associatedWith Bryant, John. person
associatedWith Bush, Vannevar, 1890-1974. person
associatedWith Chamberlain, O. (Owen) person
associatedWith Cherwell, Frederick Alexander Lindemann, Viscount, 1886-1957. person
associatedWith Churchill, Winston, 1874-1965. person
associatedWith Cohen, Morrel H. person
associatedWith Columbia University corporateBody
associatedWith Compton, Arthur Holly, 1892-1962. person
associatedWith Cranberg, Lawrence, 1917- person
associatedWith Dibner, Bern, person
associatedWith DuBridge, Lee A. (Lee Alvin), 1901-1994. person
associatedWith Fermi, Enrico, 1901-1954. person
associatedWith Flatté, Stanley M. person
associatedWith Fowler, William A. person
associatedWith Fraser, Lorence. person
associatedWith Frisch, Otto Robert, 1904- person
associatedWith Froman, Darol Kenneth, 1906- person
associatedWith Haworth, Leland J. (Leland John), 1904- person
associatedWith Hoag, J. Barton. person
associatedWith Hutchisson, Elmer, 1902- person
associatedWith Indiana University Center for the Study of History and Memory corporateBody
associatedWith JUSTINE (WISE) POLIER, 1903-1987 person
associatedWith Kistiakowsky, Vera. person
associatedWith Kowarski, Lew. person
associatedWith Lauritsen, Charles Christian. 1892-1968. person
associatedWith Lauritsen, Thomas, 1915-1973. person
associatedWith Lawrence, Ernest Orlando, 1901-1958. person
employeeOf Lawrence Radiation Laboratory. corporateBody
associatedWith Livingston, M. Stanley (Milton Stanley) person
associatedWith Loomis, Alfred L. (Alfred Lee), 1887-1975. person
associatedWith Los Alamos National Laboratory. corporateBody
associatedWith Lubliner, Malcolm. person
memberOf Manhattan Project (U.S.) corporateBody
associatedWith Marcus, David. person
associatedWith Massachusetts Institute of Technology. corporateBody
associatedWith McCrea, William Hunter. person
associatedWith McMillan, Edwin M. (Edwin Mattison), 1907- person
associatedWith Medicus, Heinrich, 1918- person
associatedWith Millikan, Robert Andrews, 1868-1953. person
associatedWith Morrison, Philip J. person
associatedWith Mulliken, Robert Sanderson. person
associatedWith Niels Bohr Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Nunan, Craig S. 1918- person
associatedWith Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 1904-1967 person
associatedWith Panofsky, Wolfgang Kurt Hermann, 1919- person
associatedWith Pickering, Andrew. person
associatedWith Polier, Justine Wise, 1903-1987. person
associatedWith Reynolds, Wallace B. person
associatedWith Rhodes, Richard, 1937- person
associatedWith Richman, Barry, person
associatedWith Rochester Conference on High Energy Nuclear Physics (7th : 1957 : University of Rochester) corporateBody
associatedWith Roe, Anne, 1904-1991. person
correspondedWith Sagane, R. person
associatedWith Sakharov, Andreĭ, 1921-1989 person
associatedWith Segrè, Emilio. person
associatedWith Serber, Robert. person
associatedWith Serber, R. (Robert) person
associatedWith Shankland, Robert S., 1908- person
associatedWith Smith, Cyril Stanley, 1903-1992. person
associatedWith Snell, Arthur H. person
associatedWith Stanford University. corporateBody
associatedWith Teller, Edward, 1908-2003. person
associatedWith Tizard, Henry Thomas, 1885-1959. person
associatedWith University of California, Berkeley. Dept. of Physics corporateBody
associatedWith University of California, Berkeley. Dept. of Physics. corporateBody
alumnusOrAlumnaOf University of Chicago. corporateBody
associatedWith Weiner, Charles. person
associatedWith Wilson, Robert R., 1914-2000. person
associatedWith Wright, Byron T. (Byron Terry), 1917- person
Place Name Admin Code Country
United States 00 US
Berkeley CA US
San Francisco CA US
Subject
Particles (Nuclear physics)--History
Physicists--Interviews
Dipole moments
Leaflets dropped from aircraft
Cloud chamber
Nuclear warfare--Moral and ethical aspects
Research grants
Nuclear physics
Ionization chambers--History--Sources
World War, 1939-1945--Science
Physicists
Physics--Study and teaching
Electrostatics
Transuranium elements
Bubble chambers
Betatrons--Design and construction
Cyclotrons
Quarks--History
Physics--Research
Particles (Nuclear physics)
Nuclear fission
Neutron sources--Spectra
Positrons--Emission
Particle accelerators
Neutrons
Occupation
College teachers
Physicists
Function

Person

Birth 1911-06-13

Death 1988-09-01

Americans

English

Information

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