Ernest Orlando Lawrence
Born: 8 August 1901, Canton, SD, USA
Died: 27 August 1958, Palo Alto, CA, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA
Prize motivation: "for the invention and development of the cyclotron and for results obtained with it, especially with regard to artificial radioactive elements."
Prize share: 1/1
If the nuclei of atoms are bombarded by beams of particles, such as protons, the atoms can be transformed into different variants of the element with different masses, so-called isotopes. The likelihood that particles can penetrate the atomic nucleus and bring about a nuclear reaction increases if the bombarding particles have a high velocity. In 1929 Ernest Lawrence developed an apparatus known as a cyclotron that used electrical and magnetic fields to accelerate protons to high velocities in a spiral-shaped path before they collide with their target.