Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Caltech Synchrotron Laboratory papers,
Date (inclusive): 1949-1970
California Institute of Technology. Synchrotron Laboratory
3.5 linear feet
California Institute of Technology. Archives.
Pasadena, California 91125
Abstract: These papers document Caltech's building of a one-billion volt (1 BeV) electron accelerator, the synchrotron. Funded by the
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, the project marked the beginning of high energy physics at Caltech. The records consist of
photos, technical notes, reports, conference proceedings, and proposals to the Atomic Energy Commission.
Collection is open for research.
Copyright may not have been assigned to the California Institute of Technology Archives. All requests for permission to publish
or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the Head of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on
behalf of the California Institute of Technology Archives as the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include
or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be obtained by the reader.
The synchrotron papers were donated to the Caltech Archives by Professor Robert L. Walker.
[Identification of item, box and file number], Caltech Synchrotron Laboratory papers,
Archives, California Institute of Technology.
In the Spring of 1949, the Institute announced plans to build a one-billion volt ("1
BeV") electron accelerator. Robert Bacher, chairman of Caltech's Physics Division,
stated: "The purpose of the new accelerator will be to seek additional knowledge about
the nature of the forces that hold atomic nuclei together." The new accelerator, the
synchrotron, would be the most powerful machine of its type ever built. The funding of
the project by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission marked the beginning of high energy
physics at Caltech.
The synchrotron was the successor to the cyclotron--developed in 1932 by E.O.
Lawrence--in that it extended the voltage range of high energy accelerators by the
application of new physical principles. These were developed independently in 1945 by
Edwin M. McMillan at Berkeley (Caltech B.A. 1928, M.S. 1929, Ph.D. 1932) and V. Veksler
in Russia. McMillan later won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1951 and the Atoms for
Peace Prize jointly with Veksler in 1963.
The Caltech machine went into preliminary use in the summer of 1950. By 1956 it had been
modified to increase its energy level to above 1 BeV. In 1961, it reached 1.5 BeV,
accelerating electrons to within a few feet per second of the speed of light. Important
early experiments were conducted on K-meson photoproduction, and investigations of the
electromagnetic couplings of a growing number of pion-nucleon resonances were carried
out. Over the years, the program concentrated largely on studies of photoproduction
processes in the available energy region.
Operation of the synchrotron ended in February, 1970. Well before this time, it had
become evident that collaborative efforts in experimental work were more efficient
because of the complexity of the work involved and the cost of the equipment. A user
program, initiated in 1962, linked Caltech with Berkeley's Lawrence Radiation Laboratory,
Brookhaven National Laboratory, the Stanford Linear Accelerator, and other universities.
The user program continued to expand, as accelerators entered a "super" category in both
size and cost.
- Charlotte Erwin
- Assistant Archivist
- November 1989
- Rev. August 1998, June 2000
Scope and Content of Collection
Proposals, technical notes, reports, correspondence, specifications, reprints and photos; materials relating to the Atomic
Energy Commission; materials on the Rochester Conferences on Ultrahigh Energy Accelerators (1952, 1955, 1956, 1960); plus
other conferences and organizations.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection.
California Institute of Technology
U.S. Atomic Energy Commission
Rochester Conference on Ultrahigh Energy Accelerators, 1952
Rochester Conference on Ultrahigh Energy Accelerators, 1955
Rochester Conference on Ultrahigh Energy Accelerators, 1956
Rochester Conference on Ultrahigh Energy Accelerators, 1960
Particle accelerators--United States--California
Users of the synchrotron collection should also see:
- Papers of Robert F. Bacher
- Robert F. Bacher Oral History (1981)
- Papers of Lee A. DuBridge
- Papers of Bruce H. Rule, Supplement 1984
- Papers of Robert L. Walker
- Robert L. Walker Oral History (1997-1998)
- Photo Archives, Synchrotron photos