Childhood & Early Life
Donald A. Glaser was born on 21 September 1926 at Cleveland in Ohio, to businessman, William J Glaser, and his wife, Lena.
After completing his school education at various public schools in Cleveland, he went on to take up his graduation degree in physics and mathematics from the Case School of Applied Science in 1946.
During his education at the Case School of Applied School, his interest in particle physics increased. After his graduation, he spent a few months working as a teacher at the Case School of Applied Science for a few months.
In 1949, he obtained his Ph.D in physics from the reputed California Institute of Technology. The following year he received his PhD in Mathematics.
While pursuing his PhD in Physics, he worked with renowned physicist Carl David Anderson on cloud chambers and cosmic rays. His thesis for doctoral studies was ‘The Momentum Distribution of Charged Cosmic Ray Particles Near Sea Level’.
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Immediately after obtaining his Ph. D in physics, in 1949, he took up a position at the University of Michigan that involved teaching as well as opportunities for research. A few years later, in 1957, he was promoted to the rank of a professor.
While he was teaching at the University of Michigan, he spent a lot of his time in studying elementary particles. He made use of several experimental methods and combined that with his knowledge of diffusion cloud chambers. These studies laid the foundation of his creation of the ‘Bubble chamber’ in 1952.
The ‘Bubble chamber’ was developed as a vessel containing transparent liquid that is superheated, thereby enabling the detection of electrically charged particles through it. For his experiments, he used ether; however, he also used hydrogen in his later trials and confirmed that it could also be used in the bubble chamber.
This invention was a significant achievement in science, as scientists could monitor the high beams from an accelerator with this creation.
His other research work involved the study on elementary particles at the Cosmotron of the Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Bevatron of the Lawrence Radiation Laboratory. These studies gave an understanding on the life span, ways of decay, and spin of subatomic particles like L° hyperon, K° meson and S° hyperon.
In 1959, he moved to Berkeley and began working as a professor in Physics at the University of California. During this time, he revived his interest in molecular biology. He worked as a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and alongside attended lectures on biology. He also spent a few months in Copenhagen under respected molecular biologist Ole Maaloe.
Donald A. Glaser focused on studying cancer cells, particularly skin cancer. He worked at the UC Berkeley's Virus Lab and conducted research on bacteria, cells of mammals and bacteriophages.
In 1968, he founded the Berkeley Scientific Laboratory along with Bill Wattenberg. The primary aim was to automate diagnostic processes; however, the association was brief.
In 1971, he established the Cetus Corp., a biotechnology company that developed interleukin-2 and interferon for cancer therapy. The Cetus Corp. was taken over by Chiron Corp. in 1991 and later on Chiron Corp. was acquired by Novartis.
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With the increased dependency of two streams of science, i.e., biochemistry and molecular physics, Donald A Glaser considered a change in his stream of study yet again. He was interested in neurobiology; in understanding human vision and the associated brain processes. For this purpose, he was known to have created a computational model of the human vision system.
Awards & Achievements
He received the Henry Russell Award from the University of Michigan in 1953.
In 1958, he won the Charles Vernon Boys Prize of the Physical Society.
In 1959, he was awarded the American Physical Society Prize by Hughes Aircraft Company. The same year he received an honorary Doctor of Science title from the Case Institute of Technology.
In 1960, Donald A. Glaser received the Nobel Prize for Physics "for the invention of the bubble chamber".
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1960, he married Ruth Bonnie Thompson and the couple had two children: named Louise Ferris Glaser and William Thompson Glaser. Louise grew up to become a pediatrician while William went on to become the CEO of a computer-related company.
In 1975, he married musician and painter Lynn Bercovitz.
Donald A. Glaser died on 28 February 2013, at California.