Today we celebrate Luis Alvarez and the many exciting achievements from his long career as a physicist. Alvarez’ work took him from the University of Chicago, to UC Berkeley, to MIT and beyond. During WWII, he was part of the Manhattan Project. Later on, he helped build a proton linear accelerator, the first of its kind.
More on Alvarez’s fascinating career from PBS.
Alvarez’s colleagues sometimes called him the “prize wild idea man” because of the huge range of his activities. He did all kinds of research into the atomic nucleus, light, electrons, radar, and so forth. In 1943 he was part of the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos and developed a detonating device for the atomic bomb. He was on board the bomber Enola Gay when it dropped the bomb on Hiroshima. Alvarez was shocked and sickened by what he saw, but because the war ended so soon afterwards, he never expressed doubts about the bomb’s use. In fact, he was one of few scientists who had worked on the bomb who felt the U.S. should continue weapons development and make a hydrogen bomb. He continued to do varied work in high energy physics and in 1968, received the Nobel Prize.