How did the Hall get its name?
UC Berkeley’s Ernest O. Lawrence invented the atom-smashing machine called the cyclotron. His achievement in atomic energy research won him the 1939 Nobel Prize in Physics and changed the world.
The invention that rocketed him to international fame started out as a sketch on a scrap of paper. The first cyclotron model was made out of wire and sealing wax and probably cost $25. Lawrence’s cyclotron smashed atoms by obtaining very high-energy particles without using any high voltage. By applying 2,000 volts of electricity to his makeshift cyclotron, he got 80,000-volt projectiles spinning around.
At UC Berkeley, Lawrence went on to build one of the world’s greatest laboratories, now known as Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The University established the Lawrence Hall of Science as a living memorial to his many scientific achievements. Outside the Hall is a 65-ton electromagnet that provided a large magnetic field for the 27-inch cyclotron in the early 1930s. Inside the Hall you can see some artifacts from Lawrence's life and learn more about the history of his invention that changed the world.
Not all atom-smashing particles are generated by cyclotrons. Some particles travel through the universe as part of cosmic rays. Watch invisible cosmic ray particles streak through vapor in this chamber.