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Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory Physics Division hydrogen bubble chamber logbooks, 1953-1957

Description of Collection

Repository

National Archives and Records Administration. Pacific Sierra Region.

1000 Commodore Drive
San Bruno, CA 94066
USA
http://www.archives.gov/pacific/san-francisco/
sanbruno.archives@nara.gov

Papers created by

Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. Physics Division

Size of collection

1.25 linear feet
1 records box

Short description of collection

These logs document the development of the hydrogen bubble chamber at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL), beginning with the first experiments by Donald Glaser. The collection includes photographs, as well as a sketch of the first liquid hydrogen bubble chamber (1.5-inch diameter), built by John Wood and A. J. Schwemin in 1954.

Language(s) of collection

English

Collection number:

ARO-2487 (NRHS 326-02-010)

Historical Note

The laboratory was founded as the University of California Radiation Laboratory in 1931 by Ernest Orlando Lawrence, a University of California Berkeley physicist who won the 1939 Nobel Prize in physics for his invention of the cyclotron, a circular particle accelerator that opened the door to high-energy physics. It is a United States Department of Energy National Laboratory, operated by the University of California. The name of the laboratory has evolved since its founding: Lawrence Radiation Laboratory (1931-1958), the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (1959-1995), and currently the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (1995-present).

Scope and Contents of Collection

These logs document the development of the hydrogen bubble chamber at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory (LBL), beginning with the first experiments by Donald Glaser. His experience with cloud chambers at Caltech had shown him that they were inadequate in studying strange particles. In a cloud chamber, particles pass though gas and collide against metal plates that obscure the scientists’ view of the event. The cloud chamber also needs time to reset between recording events and cannot keep up with the high-energy accelerators used in studying strange particles.

He experimented with using superheated liquid in a glass chamber. The strange particles would leave a track of bubbles as they passed through the liquid, and their tracks could be photographed. He created the first bubble chamber with ether before experimenting with hydrogen while visiting the University of Chicago, showing that hydrogen would also work in the chamber.

It has often been claimed that Glaser was inspired to his invention by the bubbles in a glass of beer; however, in a 2006 talk, he refuted this story saying that although beer was not the inspiration for the bubble chamber, he did experiments using beer to fill early prototypes.

Glaser's new invention was ideal for use with high-energy accelerators, so he traveled to Brookhaven National Laboratory with some students to study strange particles using the accelerator there. The images that he created with his bubble chamber brought recognition of the importance of his device, and he was able to get funding to continue experimenting with larger chambers. Glaser was then recruited by Nobel laureate Luis Alvarez, who was working on a hydrogen bubble chamber at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Glaser accepted an offer to become a Professor of Physics there in 1959. Glaser took the suggestion seriously and sought a process in a liquid that could register the path of a charged particle and then quickly expunge the marks. He thought that bubbles might be formed in a superheated liquid much as condensation droplets arise in a cloud chamber. He was right, and in April 1953 he showed members at a meeting of the American Physical Society pictures of tracks made by the cosmic-ray muons crossing a small vessel filled with hot ether. By the end of 1953, John Wood of Alvarez's group had made a chamber an inch and a half in diameter and found tracks in liquid hydrogen. He also found that accidental boiling did not impair formation and photographing of the tracks. The point was of great importance: Glaser and others had supposed that useful records can occur only in vessels with smooth glass walls, which give no purchase for formation of unwanted bubbles.

This collection includes a sketch of the first liquid hydrogen bubble chamber (1.5-inch diameter), built by John Wood and A.J. Schwemin in 1954. The logs contain photographs that are secured with tape, which is beginning to deteriorate.

Restrictions on Use and Access

This collection requires permission for access. Please contact the repository for more information, via email at aro@lbl.gov.

Selected Search Terms

These papers have been indexed in the International Catalog of Sources for History of Physics and Allied Sciences (ICOS) using the following terms. Those seeking related materials should search under these terms.

Persons

Glaser, D. A.
Schwemin, A. J.
Wood, John G.

Institutions

Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.
Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. Physics Division
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Lawrence Radiation Laboratory.

Subject terms

Bubble chambers.
Liquid hydrogen.

Genre terms

Logs (records).

Administrative Information

Title

Finding Aid to the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory Physics Division hydrogen bubble chamber logbooks, 1953-1957

Publisher

American Institute of Physics Niels Bohr Library & Archives

One Physics Ellipse
College Park, MD 20740
USA
nbl@aip.org

2012

Encoding Information

Machine-readable finding aid encoded by Melanie J. Mueller in 2012. Any revisions made to this finding aid occurred as part of the editing and encoding process.

Series I: Bubble Chamber logbooks

Box 1 Folder 1 Bubble Chamber Log, 1953
Folder 2 Bubble Chamber Operation, 1954-1955