Luis W. Alvarez
National Medal of Science
For his inspiring leadership in experimental high energy physics, continuing development of the bubble chamber, discovery of many states of elementary particles, and his contributions to National defense.
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BirthJune 13, 1911
Country of BirthUSA
Key ContributionsTheoretical Physics
Revolutionize The Study Of Charged Particles
Awarded byLyndon Baines Johnson
EducationUniversity of Chicago
Areas of ImpactTransportation
AffiliationsUniversity of California, Berkeley
Other PrizesNobel Prize
National Inventors Hall of Fame
Enrico Fermi Award
As a boy, Luis W. Alvarez heeded the guidance of his father.
“He advised me to sit every few months in my reading chair for an entire evening, close my eyes and try to think of new problems to solve,” Alvarez recounts in his 1987 autobiography.
During World War II, Alvarez used this innate curiosity to design instruments that were flown over Germany to collect air that could later be tested for radioactivity, a sign of atomic research.
In 1944, he aided the Manhattan project, America’s effort to build its own nuclear weapon. But Alvarez and his quest for answers didn’t stop after the war.
Among many accomplishments, Alvarez – with his son, Walter – developed the theory that dinosaurs disappeared millions of years ago after a large object hit the Earth.
''I don't like to say bad things about paleontologists, but they're really not very good scientists,” he said in 1988. “They're more like stamp collectors.''