Donald Arthur Glaser
The Nobel Prize in Physics 1960
Born: 21 September 1926, Cleveland, OH, USA
Died: 28 February 2013, Berkeley, CA, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA
Prize motivation: “for the invention of the bubble chamber”
Prize share: 1/1
Donald Glaser was born in Cleveland, Ohio to Russian immigrants. His father was a businessman. After first studying at Case School of Applied Science in Cleveland, he later received his PhD in physics from California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, in 1949. He then moved to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, where he carried out the research that led to his Nobel Prize, before moving to the University of California, Berkeley, in 1959. Beginning in the 1960s, Glaser devoted himself to molecular biology. He was married twice and had two children from his first marriage.
Our ability to study the smallest components of our world took a giant leap forward when C.T.R. Wilson invented the cloud chamber, where the trails of charged particles can be observed. Donald Glaser's invention of the bubble chamber in 1952 made it possible to study particles with higher energies. When charged particles rush forward through the chamber filled with a liquid at near-boiling point, they ionize atoms they pass by. When the pressure inside the chamber is then reduced, bubbles form around these charged atoms. The particles' tracks can then be photographed and analyzed.