Luis Walter Alvarez

“Luis Walter Alvarez: (1911-1988) U.S. experimental physicist. Born in San Francisco, he joined the faculty of UC-Berkeley in 1936, where he would remain until 1978. In 1938 he discovered that some radioactive elements decay when an orbital electron merges with the atom’s nucleus, producing an element with an atomic number smaller by 1, a form of beta decay. In 1939 he and Felix Bloch (1905-1983) made the first measurement of the magnetic movement of the neutron. During World War II he developed a radar guidance system for landing aircraft and participated in the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. He later helped construct the first proton linear accelerator and constructed the first liquid hydrogen bubble chamber. With his son, the geologist Walter Alvarez (b. 1940), he helped develop the theory that links the dinosaur’s extinction with a giant asteroid or comet impact. For work that included the discovery of many subatomic particles, he received a Nobel Prize in 1968.”

Excerpted/Adapted from: Stevens, Mark A., Ed. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Encyclopedia. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, 2000.

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