James Cronin Biography


Birthday: September 29, 1931 (Libra)

Born In: Chicago, Illinois, United States

James Cronin was an American nuclear physicist who was one of the joint winners of 1980 Nobel Prize in Physics. He was born in the city of Chicago in Illinois but grew up in Dallas, Texas where is father was a professor of Greek as well as Latin at the Southern Methodist University. He studied at the Southern Methodist University and graduated in mathematics and physics before continuing with his education at the University of Chicago. After obtaining his doctorate from the University of Chicago, he started working at the Brookhaven National Laboratory and after some time he joined Princeton University as a professor at the insistence of nuclear physicist Val Fitch. It was at Princeton University that Cronin did his most productive work and in collaboration with Val Fitch he came up with the studies that eventually resulted in the discovery of CP violation. Cronin worked for a year in France and then returned to Princeton University to continue on his research on CP violation. He left Princton for University of Chicago and had a fruitful time at his alma mater. He had also spent a year at CERN and worked on neutral pion.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: James Watson Cronin

Died At Age: 84

Born Country: United States

Physicists American Men

Died on: August 25, 2016

place of death: Saint Paul, Minnesota, United States

City: Chicago, Illinois

Grouping of People: Nobel Laureates in Physics

U.S. State: Illinois

More Facts

education: Southern Methodist University, University of Chicago

awards: 1980 - Nobel Prize in Physics
1970 - Guggenheim Fellowship for Natural Sciences
US & Canada
2000 - National Medal of Science for Physical Science

Childhood & Early Life
Jason Cronin was born on 29 September 1931, in Chicago, to James Farley Cronin and Dorothy Watson. At the time of his birth, his father was a classical languages student at University of Chicago. Later on, he worked as a professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.
Jason received his primary and secondary education from Highland Park Public School System. During his years as a high school student, he started to take a keen interest in physics and his teacher Charles H. Marshall was an important source of guidance.
He attended the Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas for his undergraduate studies and graduated in 1951 with mathematics and physics as his major subjects. Subsequently, he enrolled in University of Chicago for his post graduate education and obtained his doctorate in the year 1955.
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After obtaining his doctorate from the University of Chicago, he became a part of the group headed by scientists like Rodney Cool and Oreste Piccioni to work on the 3 GeV generator, named Brookhaven Cosmotron, at Brookhaven National Laboratory. He also studied the phenomenon called parity violation as noticed in hyper particles in the state of decay.
Renowned nuclear physicist Val Fitch was highly impressed by his work at the Brookhaven National Laboratory and offered him a chance to become a professor at Princeton University. He took up the offer and became a professor in 1958. He started working at particle physics, a department that was supported by the Office of Naval Research.
His primary research at Princeton University was concerned with hyperon decays and subsequently he collaborated with Val Fitch on his study of neutral K meson decays. The research conducted with Val Fitch helped in discovering CP violation in 1964. Subsequently, he took a year off and worked at the Centre d’Etudes Nucleaires located in Saclay, France.
He rejoined Princeton University in 1965 and for the next six years immersed himself in further studies and experiments on CP violation. Subsequently, he was appointed as a professor at the University of Chicago in 1971 and the incentive for him was that he could work with the freshly manufactured 400 GeV particle accelerator at the university.
During his years at the University of Chicago, he worked at Fermilab, where the particle accelerator was kept. His experiments were concerned with the process of producing particles at high momentum and also on the process of direct leptons.
In 1982, he went to CERN and spent a year there. At CERN, his experiments dealt with the measurement of the live span of a neutral pion.
Major Works
His study, in collaboration with Val Fitch, on the decays suffered by neutral K mesons and the discovery of CP violation, in 1964, is without doubt the most important work of his career. He shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1980 for the discovery.
Awards & Achievements
In 1976, he won the E. O. Lawrence Award and the John Price Wetherill Medal.
James Cronin and Val Fitch shared the Nobel Prize in Physics 1980 "for the discovery of violations of fundamental symmetry principles in the decay of neutral K-mesons".
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Annette Martin in 1954. The couple had three children: two daughters, Cathryn and Emily, and a son, Daniel. His wife, Annette, passed away in 2005 due to complications from Parkinson’s disease.
He married Carol Champlin in November of 2006.
His daughter Cathryn died of leukemia in 2011.
He died on August 25, 2016, at the age of 84.

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