Frederick Reines Biography


Birthday: March 16, 1918 (Pisces)

Born In: Orange, California

Frederick Reines was an American physicist who won a share of the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physics for his co-detection of the neutrino with Clyde Cowan in the neutrino experiment. It was in the early 1950s that Reines and Cowan first developed the equipment and techniques with which they detected neutrinos which were at that time considered undetectable. Their findings proved to be very significant to international research in the field and ultimately culminated in Reines’s winning the coveted Nobel Prize. Born in the United States to Jewish emigrants from Russia, he received a typical middle-class upbringing. He had three elder siblings who were very studious and influenced their youngest brother to perform well in school. During his senior year at high school, he became deeply interested in science and decided to become a physicist. He went on to attend Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, from where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering. After completing his masters and receiving his doctorate, he began working in the Theoretical Division at the Manhattan Project's Los Alamos Laboratory. His collaborative work with Clyde Cowan over the course of his career led to many important discoveries in the field of neutrino research which eventually earned Reines a share of the Nobel Prize.
Quick Facts

Died At Age: 80


Spouse/Ex-: Sylvia Samuels (m. 1940)

Physicists American Men

Died on: August 26, 1998

U.S. State: California

More Facts

awards: 1995 - Nobel Prize in Physics
1957 - Guggenheim Fellowship for Natural Sciences
US & Canada

Franklin Medal
1985 - National Medal of Science for Physical Science

Childhood & Early Life
Frederick Reines was born on March 16, 1918, in Paterson, New Jersey, to Gussie (Cohen) and Israel Reines, Jewish emigrants from the same town in Russia. He had three elder siblings.
All his elder siblings were good students who were very serious about their studies. They motivated the young boy to do well in school. Ironically, while he excelled in literary and history courses during his high school years, he did not fare well in mathematics or science.
It was only during his final year at Union Hill High School that he developed a keen interest in science subjects and decided to be a physicist. He was also a talented singer who retained his love for music throughout his life. He graduated in 1935.
Reines initially planned to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology but eventually made up his mind to attend Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. He earned his Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in mechanical engineering in 1939, and his Master of Science (M.S.) degree in mathematical physics in 1941. His master’s thesis was titled ‘A Critical Review of Optical Diffraction Theory.’
He then went to New York University where he began his doctoral research. He earned his Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in 1944 with a thesis he wrote under the supervision of Richard D. Present on ‘Nuclear fission and the liquid drop model of the nucleus.’
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Even before Frederick Reines completed his thesis in 1944, he was offered a position as a staff member under Richard Feynman in the Theoretical Division at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory where he was assigned to work on the Manhattan Project.
His time at the laboratory was highly productive and he received the chance to work with some truly brilliant minds. Soon he was made a Group Leader in the Theoretical Division and was given the responsibility of overseeing experiments designed for the testing of nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands in 1951. In 1958, he was a delegate to the Atoms for Peace conference in Geneva.
In the 1950s, he formed a productive collaboration with Clyde L. Cowan and the two men performed the Cowan–Reines neutrino experiment through which the existence of the antineutrino—a neutrally charged subatomic particle with very low mass—was confirmed.
Starting from the mid-1950s, Reines focused most of his efforts on the study of the neutrino’s properties and interactions. His neutrino research opened up newer job avenues for him and he was made the head of the physics department of Case Western Reserve University from 1959 to 1966.
There he continued his neutrino research and led a group that was the first to detect neutrinos created in the atmosphere by cosmic rays. In 1966, he was appointed the first dean of physical sciences at the new University of California, Irvine (UCI). There he motivated some of his graduate students to work towards the development of medical radiation detectors. He retired from UCI in 1988 but he continued teaching until 1991, and remained on UCI's faculty for the rest of his life.
Major Works
Frederick Reines achieved international fame for his co-detection of the neutrino with Clyde Cowan in the neutrino experiment. He dedicated the major part of his career to the study of the neutrino's properties and interactions, and his works helped to lay the foundation for the further development of neutrino research in the decades to come.
Awards & Achievements
Reines received the J. Robert Oppenheimer Memorial Prize in 1981, the National Medal of Science in 1985, the Bruno Rossi Prize in 1989, the Michelson–Morley Award in 1990, the Panofsky Prize in 1992, and the Franklin Medal in 1992.
He was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences in 1980 and a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences in 1994.
Frederick Reines received one half of the Nobel Prize in Physics 1995 "for the detection of the neutrino" while the other half went to Martin L. Perl "for the discovery of the tau lepton."
Personal Life & Legacy
Frederick Reines married Sylvia Samuels on August 30, 1940. They had two children, Robert and Alisa.
He suffered from ill health during the final years of his life and died on August 26, 1998, at the age of 80.

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