Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory


Visit the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Home Page

Online Resource: Lawrence Berkeley History

Online Resource: "Lawrence and His Laboratory" Exhibit

Online Resource: "Lawrence and the Cyclotron" Exhibit

ACAP Topic Guide: "Accelerators: 1945–1960"

Also see the Berkeley Physics Department ACAP Page


Laboratory Directors


This laboratory was founded in 1931 by University of California physics professor Ernest Lawrence. Called the Radiation Laboratory, it served as a venue for the development of cyclotron particle accelerators and associated research. An early model of a large-scale physics research project, the laboratory grew into a semi-autonomous entity at the Berkeley campus.

During World War II, the laboratory became a major site of research for the Manhattan Project. Lawrence emerged from the war an influential figure in the world of federally-supported research. When the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was established in 1947, it became the primary patron of the Radiation Laboratory, and the laboratory was often counted a part of the AEC's system of national laboratories. See Peter Westwick, The National Labs: Science in an American System, 1947-1974 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003).

In ACAP, Radiation Laboratory staff continue to be counted as members of the Berkeley physics department until Lawrence's death in 1958. However, that historical divide should be considered more-or-less arbitrary. Berkeley physics professors, post-docs, and students remained heavily involved in the work of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, and information on this page should be cross-referenced with the ACAP page for that department.

In 1959, the Berkeley Radiation Laboratory was renamed the Ernest O. Lawrence Radiation Laboratory (LRL). In 1970 it was renamed the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL). In 1995, the laboratory was officially designated a "national" laboratory, and the "Ernest O." portion of the name was subsequently officially dropped from the name. These name changes are not always reflected in ACAP biographical entries.

On the laboratory's history, see especially J. L. Heilbron and Robert W. Seidel, Lawrence and His Laboratory: A History of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989).

Laboratory Directors


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