Nobel Laureate American physicist Owen Chamberlain discovered the existence of antiprotons. The founding of antiprotons has great significance in the study of matter and anti-matter. According to his theory, negatively charged antiproton is the mirror image of positively charged proton. Along with his colleagues, he also discovered the process of isolating antiprotons. Later, he continued his research to document the collision and destruction of protons and antiprotons through a photographic process. When the US participated in the World War II, he worked as a part of Manhattan Project, the secret program of the US to build an atom bomb. This project brought him the opportunity to work with Emilio Segre , an Italian physicist. At that time, he worked on nuclear cross sections for intermediate-energy neutrons and spontaneous fission of heavy elements. He also did research work on alpha particle decay, neutron diffraction in liquids and high-energy nuclear particle reactions. Together with two other renowned Professors, he developed and applied polarized proton targets as part of his research work. This remarkable experiment assisted in the study of several high energy processes like the scattering of pi-mesons and protons on polarized protons, the determination of the parity of hyperons and a test of time reversal symmetry in electron-proton scattering.
Childhood & Early Life
Owen Chamberlain was born on July 10, 1920, in San Francisco, California, to W. Edward Chamberlain and Genevieve Lucinda Chamberlain. His father was a radiologist at Stanford University Hospital.
After shifting with his family to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied at Germantown Friends School. He received his bachelor degree in science from Dartmouth College, New Hampshire in 1941.
Later, he attended the University of California at Berkley. During this time, he came in contact with famous physicist Emilio Segre. When the US joined the World War II in 1942, his studies were interrupted.
In the same year, he became a part of the Manhattan Project, the secret program of the United States to build an atom bomb. At that time, he started working with Segre as part of this project.
His works in this project included to pursue research on uranium isotopes, nuclear cross sections for intermediate energy neutrons and spontaneous fission of heavy elements.
In 1943, he went to Los Alamos to witness the testing of the first atom bomb. At the end of the war in 1946, he continued his doctoral studies under the guidance of physicist Enrico Fermi at the University of Chicago.
As part of his doctoral thesis, he worked on the diffraction of slow neutrons in liquids in 1948. In the same year, he received the offer for a teaching position at the University of California in Berkley. He got his Ph. D. officially from this university in 1949.
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In 1955, he took part in a research project to discover antiproton with Dr. Wiegand, Professor Segre and Dr. Ypsilantis. For this purpose, they utilized bevatron as a powerful particle accelerator.
As part of the project, he studied the interactions of anti-protons with hydrogen, deuterium and other elements. His research work also included the production of antineutrons with the help of antiprotons.
In 1957, he received Guggenheim Fellowship for his research on the physics of antinucleons at the University of Rome. In the next year, he took responsibility of the Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1959, he acted as Loeb Lecturer at Harvard University.
In association with Professors Carson Jeffries and Gilbert Shapiro, he successfully developed polarized proton targets in 1960. This discovery helped in the study of the spin dependence of a number of high energy processes.
In the later part of 1970s, he took part in the study of the interactions of energetic light nuclei with nuclear targets at the Berkeley Bevalac accelerator for a short period.
In later period of his life, along with Dr. David Nygren , he pursued research on the development and construction of the Time-Projection-Chamber. This experiment proved to be advantageous to study high energy positron-electron interactions.
Besides pursuing research, he played a crucial role in issues like peace and social justice. He expressed his strong disapproval regarding the Vietnam War. He also criticised the repression of scientists in the former Soviet Union. He was one of the founders of the nuclear freeze movement during the 1980s.
Awards & Achievements
In 1959, he received the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of antiprotons. These antiprotons are the antiparticles of the protons and are also known as negatrons. He shared this award with Emilio Segre.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1943, he tied nuptial knot with Beatrice Babette Copper. They were the parents of three daughters and a son whose names were Karen Chamberlain, Lynne Guenther, Pia Chamberlain and Darol. They got divorced in 1978.
In 1980, he got married to June Steingart Greenfield . His third wife was Senta Pugh Gaiser. He had two step-daughters namely Mary Pugh and Anne Pugh. In 1985, he was under medical treatment as he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
He retired from teaching in 1989. He was one of 21 Nobel Laureates who signed the Humanist Manifesto in 2003.
He died on February 28, 2006, in Berkeley, California, due to complications from Parkinson's disease.
According to one of his interviews, this Nobel Laureate physicist was the only student who could not write his own name while studying the first grade. The more interesting fact about him is that, he did not like subjects of science at that time.