Information for Researchers
Scope and Content
Collection Title: Ernest O. Lawrence papers
Date (inclusive): ca. 1920-1968
Collection Number: BANC MSS 72/117 c; BANC FILM 2248
Lawrence, Ernest Orlando, 1901-1958.
Number of containers: 48 cartons, 12 oversize folders
Number of microfilm reels: 79
60.6 linear feet
12 digital objects (13 images)
The Bancroft Library.
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, CA 94720-6000
Phone: (510) 642-6481
Fax: (510) 642-7589
Abstract: Included are the personal papers of Ernest Lawrence, administrative records for the University of California Radiation Laboratory,
the Joseph C. Hamilton papers dealing with the Crocker Radiation Laboratory, and some papers of Lawrence's close associate,
Donald Cooksey. The papers relate primarily to the Radiation Laboratory, University of California; relations with the Office
of Scientific Research and Development and the Atomic Energy Commission; development of cyclotron technology and establishment
of cyclotrons at other institutions, etc.
Languages Represented: Collection materials are in English
Physical Location: For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Information for Researchers
RESTRICTED ORIGINALS. USE MICROFILM COPY ONLY WITH CALL NUMBER BANC FILM 2248. Use of originals only by permission of the
appropriate curator. Inquiries concerning these materials should be directed, in writing, to the Head of Public Services,
The Bancroft Library.
Copyright has not been assigned to The Bancroft Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts
must be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services. Permission for publication is given on behalf of The Bancroft
Library 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.
[Identification of item], Ernest O. Lawrence Papers, BANC MSS 72/117 c; BANC FILM 2248, The Bancroft Library, University of
Alternate Forms Available
Digital reproductions of selected items are available.
Material Cataloged Separately
- Some photographs of Ernest Lawrence have been removed to The Bancroft Library's Pictorial Collection.
- Phono records of speeches have been removed for separate indexing in The Bancroft Library's Audio-Visual Collection.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog
Ernest Orlando Lawrence, Nobel prizewinning physicist, inventor of the cyclotron and the founder and first director of the
University of California Radiation Laboratory, was born on August 8, 1901 in Canton, South Dakota. His parents Carl Gustavus
and Gunda Jacobson Lawrence were the children of Norwegian immigrants. Ernest Lawrence attended St. Olaf College and later
the University of South Dakota, where he received his A.B. degree in 1922. He had originally thought to become a medical doctor,
but was influenced to switch to a career in physics while attending the University.
Following graduate work at the University of Minnesota and the University of Chicago, Lawrence accompanied his research advisor,
Professor W. F. G. Swann, to Yale University, where he received his Ph.D. degree in 1925. Lawrence continued research in photoelectricity
at Yale as a National Research Fellow and an assistant professor. He gained an important reputation in this field through
his measurements of the ionization potential of the mercury atom and the time lapse between radiation striking a metal surface
and the first appearance of electrons (with Jesse W. Beams). Several universities sought Lawrence for their faculties. He
accepted an offer to join the University of California faculty in 1928, and two years later he was the youngest full professor
on the Berkeley faculty.
He was soon caught up in the quest for a way to accelerate particles to high energies and thus expand the research into the
atomic nucleus begun by Ernest Rutherford's bombardment of light elements using the alpha particles from radium. In September,
1930, he made the first public announcement of the new method at the meeting of the National Academy of Sciences held in Berkeley
and demonstrated a tiny model cyclotron. From the days of that first model, Lawrence followed a pattern of building bigger
and more sophisticated machines. In 1939, he received the Nobel Prize for his remarkable invention.
The first cyclotrons of any size were the 11" (1930) and the 27" (1934), later expanded to 37" (1937). They were used to confirm
the existence of artificially induced radioactivity, the disintegration of light ions, and to produce large amounts of neutrons
for the study of radio isotopes. Next came the 60" medical cyclotron (1939), which was used in the work of Lawrence's brother,
Dr. John H. Lawrence, on the effects of neutron therapy on cancer and the production of radioisotopes for medical use. Then
followed the 184", which in its final form in 1946 included the synchrotron design of Edwin M. McMillan, and, in 1954, the
Bevatron, based on a design of William Brobeck.
Along with these advances in cyclotron technology came a phenomenal growth in what was called the Radiation Laboratory. By
1936, it was a combination of some office space in, and an old wooden building behind, LeConte Hall, the physics building,
but it soon expanded into many buildings. In 1940, before the tremendous growth during and after World War II, there was a
separate medical cyclotron laboratory, called Crocker Radiation Laboratory, the construction of the Donner Biophysics Laboratory
had begun, and money had been obtained to construct the 184" cyclotron in a setting off the main campus on Charter Hill. This
growth was possible because Lawrence had proved to have a remarkable gift for getting financial support. He had complete faith
in the need for his exploring ideas; his enthusiasm was infectious. He used the funds received to produce significant research
results and so the cycle repeated.
During World War II, Lawrence worked closely first with the National Defense Research Committee on microwave research and
submarine detection and then with the Office of Scientific Research and Development's Section S-1, subsequently the Manhattan
Engineer District, on the magnetic separation method for isolating U 235. The magnet for the 184" cyclotron was converted
into a giant mass spectrograph, Calutron, for research into the separation technique. Not only did Lawrence head the activities
at the Berkeley laboratory, but he also attended many Washington meetings and gave advice concerning the development of the
atomic bomb and suggestions for its use. In addition, Radiation Laboratory scientists worked on the development of prototype
racetrack separators for the magnetic separation plant section of the Y-12 facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
After the war, the University of California Radiation Laboratory continued to be financed from Manhattan Engineer District
funds. The Laboratory was even given support for projects outside of the District's specific province. With the establishment
of the Atomic Energy Commission, the support of the Laboratory was taken over by the Commission and increased. In 1952, at
the AEC's request, Lawrence established a new laboratory at Livermore to do weapons and other applied research.
By this time, Lawrence seldom took part in the actual experiments carried on at the laboratories. However, he still took time
out from busy administrative duties to visit various parts of the complex Laboratory, to talk with colleagues about their
work and offer his help. Like many other scientists after the war who became national figures, Lawrence was called upon by
the federal government to give his opinion on problems in weapons development and the dangers of radioactive fallout. An old
interest in television inspired him to work on a color television tube in the early 1950's. This grid style picture tube,
the Lawrence tube or Chromatron, was used in the portable color television sets of a Japanese company in the late 1960's.
Although he had been diagnosed early in 1952 as having chronic ulceritis and told to rest and relax more, Lawrence could not
stay his fast pace for long. At President Eisenhower's request, and with only the hesitant approval of his doctor, Lawrence
attended the 1958 Geneva conference on the suspension of nuclear testing. There he became acutely ill and had to return early
to the United States. He died shortly afterward, on August 27, 1958, leaving behind Mary Blumer Lawrence, his wife of 26 years,
and their six children.
Scope and Content
The E. O. Lawrence Papers were transferred from the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, formerly the Radiation Laboratory, to The
Bancroft Library in 1972 and 1973. Additional papers were donated by Mrs. Lawrence in 1974. The collection includes the personal
papers of Ernest O. Lawrence, administrative papers for the University of California Radiation Laboratory, the Joseph G. Hamilton
papers dealing with the 60" cyclotron and the Crocker Radiation Laboratory, and the papers of Lawrence's close associate,
Donald Cooksey, covering the years 1920-1965.
The collection as a whole covers the years 1920-1968 and presents a detailed record of all phases of Lawrence's life and career
and the growth, administration and projects of the Radiation Laboratory. There are letters, memos, telegrams, reports, transcripts
of telephone conversations, and such miscellaneous items as invitations, newsclippings, notes, expense records, etc. Some
photographs of Ernest Lawrence have been removed to The Bancroft Library's Pictorial Collection. All phonograph records and
tapes have been removed to The Bancroft Library's Audio-Visual Collection.
The papers from the Laboratory were kept in series covering major subjects. Folders in some series were in alphabetical correspondent/subject
arrangement and, in others, a chronological arrangement. This basic arrangement has been retained with few exceptions. The
Manhattan Engineer District series was completely re-organized, particularly the "declassified miscellaneous," into an alphabetical
correspondent/subject arrangement; and all material relating to experimental work was removed from the Equipment series and
interfiled into other series. Additional personal papers donated by Mrs. Lawrence were interfiled with existing series.
Lawrence's personal and professional papers cover the period 1920-1958 and are to be found in all series. For the years before
1945 they are integrated with the papers concerning the Radiation Laboratory and, as such, provide a complete picture of advances
in cyclotron technology, the establishment of cyclotrons at other institutions, the research done by Lawrence and others at
the Radiation Laboratory both before and during World War II, and the research work at other institutions, as reported by
For the years after 1945, the papers are, for the most part, made up of the official papers of the University of California
Radiation Laboratory. They focus mainly on the administration and research work of the Laboratory's "Hill" area, with some
information on activities at the Livermore and Los Alamos installations. Thus, for instance, there is little material about
the development of the Lawrence tube or Chromatron.
The papers contain only a small amount of information about the University of California's Donner Laboratory and the Radiation
Laboratory-related activities of the University of California, San Francisco. However, a detailed account of the administration
and medical research of the Crocker Radiation Laboratory of the University of California from 1939 to 1962 is to be found,
due to the inclusion of the papers of Joseph G. Hamilton, M.D., the Laboratory's director.