Ernest Lawrence


Ernest Orlando Lawrence

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Ernest Orlando Lawrence
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1939

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.

To cite this section
MLA style: Ernest Lawrence – Facts. Nobel Prize Outreach AB 2024. Thu. 29 Feb 2024. <>

Back to top Back To Top Takes users back to the top of the page

Nobel Prizes and laureates

Eleven laureates were awarded a Nobel Prize in 2023, for achievements that have conferred the greatest benefit to humankind. Their work and discoveries range from effective mRNA vaccines and attosecond physics to fighting against the oppression of women.

See them all presented here.

Explore prizes and laureates

Look for popular awards and laureates in different fields, and discover the history of the Nobel Prize.