Ernest Orlando Lawrence

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Biography Ernest Orlando Lawrence was born on August 28, 1901 in Canton, South Dakota. Ernest was the Gunda Jacobson and Carl Lawrence’s eldest son. Both Gunda and Carl were both children of Norwegian immigrants. Ernest had great curiosity since he was young. At the age of two his mom found him playing with matches and setting his clothes of fire.
They both met while teaching in the Canton schools where Carl Lawrence was also the superintendent. Ernest Lawrence went through the Canton schools system as well and then went on to Saint Olaf College. He earned his B.S in Chemistry on 1922 from the University of South Dakota, his M.A. from the University from Minnesota. Ernest then went on to Chicago University for physics and received his PhD in physics from Yale University on 1925. He remained in Yale University for a few years and researched the photoelectric effect. A few years later he was hired as an Associate’s Professor of Physics at the University of California and in 1930 he became the youngest Professor in the University of California. While at Yale he met Mary “Molly” Blummer a premed student at Vassar whom he later married in 1932.

Career The research that Ernest Lawrence centered on was on nuclear physics. He was known as the “Atom Smasher” and the man
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who knew about atomic energy. The invention of the Cyclotron made Ernest Lawrence famous. His main goal was to produce high-energy particles, with a series of small pushes, which are required for an atomic disintegration. Lawrence told his colleagues about the accelerator he was creating, after more than a hundred turn on a circular accelerating chamber between the poles of an electromagnet the protons impacted the target as a high-beam of energy particles. The first Lawrence cyclotron was four inches in diameter and only costs around $25. He invented the cyclotron in 1929.
There were times that the high speed particles that the cyclotron had ended up creating new completely new elements by disintegrating atoms. The first element that was made artificially was made by one of Lawrence’s cyclotron, and it is called technetium. Lawrence built the Radiation Laboratory in the University of California around his cyclotron and in 1936 it became an official department where Lawrence was appointed director. In November 1939, Lawrence was awarded the Noble Prize on Physics for his creation of the cyclotron. Lawrence was able to create radioactive phosphorous and many other isotopes that in the end were used for medical. He was the first to introduce neutron beams for cancer treatment. Lawrence kept building his creation of the cyclotron into larger and more powerful versions. In 1941 the cyclotron created the artificial comic particles called mesons and later studies were made about antiparticles.

World War II & Manhattan Project During WWII, Ernest Orlando Lawrence had great contributions to the Manhattan Project. Lawrence served as program chief in charge of electromagnetic separation working in Oak Ridge which provided the Uranium 235 for the atomic bomb. His radiation laboratory in the University of California became one of the main centers used for atomic research during wartime. Lawrence manufactured calutrons which were similar to his cyclotron invention for massive isotope separation. Calutrons plants were used to purify Uranium. By using electromagnetic separation was used to separate highly enriched Uranium 235 from Uranium 238. It was Lawrence who first introduced Oppenheimer, the “father of the atomic bomb,” to the Manhattan Project.

Post War
After the war Lawrence became a huge advocate for government sponsorship for large scientific programs such as “Big Science.” He was also a huge advocate for public interest for science especially among schoolchildren. Lawrence also invented a color-television tube that is still used today. In 1958, Lawrence was requested by President Eisenhower to go to Geneva, Switzerland to negotiate a treaty with the Soviet Union to ban nuclear weapons testing. While on Geneva Lawrence got sick and even though he was rushed to the hospital in Standford University immediately, Lawrence died a month later on August 27, 1958 at the age of 57.
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Awards  In his honor the element 103, Lawrencium named after him. The element was created on Feb. 14, 1961 in the Radiation Laboratory in the University of California.Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory at Berkeley; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory at Livermore, California were also named after him. Lawrence received many awards for his inventions and his dedication and service for his country. He was awarded the Elliott Cresson Medal of the Franklin Institute, the Comstock Prize of the National Academy of Sciences, the Hughes Medal of the Royal Society, the Duddell Medal of the Royal Physical Society, the Faraday Medal, and the Enrico Fermi Award. He also received the Medal for Merit and was an Officer of the Legion of Honour. He also held honorary doctorates from 14 universities, one in Britain and thirteen in the US. The Lawrence Hall of Science, a public science education center was also established in his honor in 1968.