Luis Alvarez

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Luis Alvarez was born on June 13, 1911 to a family of Spanish American descent. Alvarez’s grandfather found a better way to diagnose macular leprosy. Alvarez studied at the University of Chicago where he earned his bachelors degree, masters degree, and Ph.D in 1936. During the fall of 1943, he was asked to contribute in the creation of the Manhattan Project. He loved science and studied all different aspects of physics. His colleagues called him the “prize wild idea man” because he did a lot of research on light, electrons, radar, etc.

One responsibility that Alvarez had was to invent a device that would measure the strength of the blast when the atomic bombs hit. He had to make calibrated transmitters that would parachute from the airplane to the blasting area. This invention was a success and was used to calculate how much energy the bombs gave off. General Leslie Groves wanted Alvarez to think of something that would detect a nuclear reactor that the Germans had. He suggested that an airplane should carry a device with xenon 133 to detect the radioactive gases given off by a reactor. This invention would have work but the Germans did not end up having any nuclear reactors. Alvarez also helped in many radar projects at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and helped create military radar equipment. Alvarez also worked on the Microwave Early Warning system. His idea, once again was a success. He invented a linear dipole array antenna which suppressed side lobes and was electronically scanned. This antenna was also used in the military because you could have precision bombing through poor weather and clouds.

He received a Nobel Prize in 1968 for physics. He also helped develop two other radar systems for the government. His first invention was a very narrow radar beam that would permit a person on the ground to control the landing of an airplane. The next system was named “eagle” which allowed pilots to find objects on the ground and bomb them when they had minimum visibility. Alvarez was one of many scientists who were terrified by the aftermath of what they had created. However, he was not against using the bomb as some scientists were. Once the war was over, Alvarez believed that the United States should continue their research in the effort to create a hydrogen bomb. Alvarez had 22 patents for all of his inventions but died on September 1, 1988 in Berkeley due to cancer.

http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/physics/laureates/1968/alvarez-bio.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luis_Walter_Alvarez
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/boalva.html
http://www.gale.cengage.com/free_resources/chh/bio/alvarez_l.htm
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