The Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory is a scientific institution of the first importance. It was the forerunner of the modern multipurpose national research laboratory, the direct parent of Livermore and Los Alamos, an essential contributor to the wartime work of Oak Ridge and Hanford, the inspiration for the founders of Brookhaven. Its achievements have long been recognized through awards of Nobel prizes, memberships in the National Academy of Sciences, and other high scientific honors. The hundreds of accelerator laboratories throughout the world give ample testimony to the Laboratory's contribution to modern big science. Many of the leaders of these institutions began their careers at the Laboratory, and most make or made use of its technology.
As with most novel technologies, the art of accelerator building had to be learned via apprenticeship. Berkeley was the center of the art. Former apprentices trained there opened up new technologies that fed back for further development. The modern linear accelerator, electron and proton synchrotrons, heavy-ion accelerators, bubble chambers, and computers to analyze accelerator-produced data all owe their inspiration or success to the work of the Radiation Laboratory. The achievement of these technologies alone would be enough to lend the Laboratory great historical interest.
The motives and mechanisms that shaped the growth of the Laboratory helped to force deep changes in the scientific estate and in the wider society. In the entrepreneurship of its founder, Ernest Orlando Lawrence, these motives, mechanisms, and changes came together in a tight focus. He mobilized great and
small philanthropies, state and local governments, corporations and plutocrats, volunteers and virtuosos. The work they supported, from astrophysics to atomic bombs, from radio chemistry to nuclear medicine, shaped the way we observe, control, and manipulate our environment. To do justice to the Laboratory's history requires a global perspective because its influence was global.
The scale of our history and the quantity of available documentation gave us an opportunity to study systematically questions of concern to historians, sociologists, and philosophers of science, and also to makers of science policy. The social construction of scientific knowledge should manifest itself, if ever, in the organized labor of thousands of scientists over half a century. The interaction of the individual with the organization, and of the intended with the unintended products of scientific activity, are present with exemplary clarity in the rich historical record of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.
The results of our study will be presented in several volumes, of which this, which explains the growth of the Laboratory up to its mobilization for war in 1940/41, is the first. The second volume will carry the story forward through World War II, the early years of the Cold War, and the Korean War. The third will treat the evolution of the modern national laboratory. This periodization reflects the strong interaction between the development of the Laboratory and the main forces of recent history, and suggests our weighting of the social, economic, technological, and scientific factors at play.
The first two chapters of this volume set the stage—time, place, and intellectual milieu—for the invention of the Laboratory. We begin with the local conditions that led to the growth of physical science research in California, as epitomized by the Panama-Pacific Exposition of 1915, and opportunities in the state's academic institutions opened by the national transformation of science effected by the first world war. The recruitment and retention of Ernest Lawrence by the University of California could not have occurred apart from these broader conditions and opportunities.
The second chapter adopts a perspective localized in the world of knowledge, that of nuclear and high-energy physics. The
problems of achieving high voltages for scientific investigations occupied minds and hands in many countries. The solutions ranged from the fanciful to the fatal. Most contributed something to Lawrence's thinking. Berkeley's first efforts at accelerator technology and institution-building, and the revolution in the understanding of nuclear physics that gave Lawrence a lever to work further on both, occupy our attention in chapter 3. Here we apply the lessons learned from our study of the temporal and geographic context to understand why Lawrence succeeded where others failed.
The account of Lawrence's early program of research in the fourth chapter introduces the reader, as the program did Lawrence, to the international world of nuclear physics. His first attempts to change the world were flawed by overenthusiasm and under preparation; they brought him forcibly and permanently to the attention of Ernest Rutherford, Werner Heisenberg, Niels Bohr, and other leaders of international physics. By following up discoveries made in Europe, Lawrence soon established himself as a prolific producer of new radioactive substances. The Laboratory earned a reputation for generosity by giving away the products of the cyclotron as well as information about the machine itself. Chapter 5 analyzes the social and financial underpinnings of the Laboratory. They included not only the givers—the private and public patrons Lawrence cultivated so effectively—but also the receivers, the disciples who submitted to the discipline of scientific and technical production to have the opportunity to work on a unique machine. Later, as missionaries from what they called their "Mecca," the disciples spread the word and the machine throughout America and the world.
In the sixth chapter we examine this missionary activity in the United States, and in the seventh in Europe and Japan. The examination brings out the general interests and concerns that conditioned the development of accelerator physics and related disciplines. It also shows how local conditions shaped the reception of the new tools and techniques disseminated from Berkeley.
The productivity and capacity of the cyclotron, as well as the need to raise money for its support and multiplication, brought cyclotroneers into other disciplines than physics and electrical engineering. Chapter 8 describes the Laboratory's contributions to
radiochemistry and its pioneering in nuclear medicine. During the late 1930s, physicists tested cyclotron beams for applications to biology and medicine as assiduously as their predecessors had applied x rays half a century earlier.
Chapter 9 continues with research in nuclear physics and chemistry. The Laboratory discovered the true transuranic elements, which had eluded the nuclear physicists of Europe, and it confirmed and extended the European discovery of nuclear fission. Both lines of work presaged a new application of cyclotron technology and a decisive influence of the Laboratory on the course of human history.
The transition from peacetime to wartime occupies the final chapter, in which we examine the origins of what was to have been the ultimate cyclotron; the consequences of the recognition of Lawrence's achievements by the Nobel prize; and the first, tentative applications of accelerator personnel and principles to the instruments of war. This period of transition, during which the Laboratory only partially mobilized, came to an end with Pearl Harbor.
Because we treat both scientific and general aspects of the Laboratory's growth, our book divides into segments that make unequal technical demands upon the reader. People unacquainted with physics at the university level may find chapters 2, 4, 8, and 9 challenging. There is no help for it. An understanding of the modern world of big science demands coming to grips with its scientific and technological, as well as with its social, economic, and political, imperatives. We have tried to make the technical material accessible to the general reader.
A few words about sources are in order. We have chosen the primary source, the contemporaneous record, whenever possible, relied upon secondary sources when these primaries failed us, and had recourse to oral histories and interviews only when absolutely necessary. The primary materials were sufficient to keep us occupied. Our study of them has been eased by the kind help of many individuals. First among them are Vicki Davis, archivist of the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, and Robin Rider, head of collections in history of science and technology at the Bancroft Library of the University of California. We are also much obliged to archivists at other national laboratories, at the Historian's Office
of the Department of Energy, and at many other repositories at home and abroad. We thank Bruce R. Wheaton for useful discussions on technical points. Our debt to Alice Walters and Diana Wear is incalculable, like the time and good humor they put into preparing the final copy for the press.
Our deepest obligations are to Edward Lofgren, builder of the Berkeley Bevatron, and also the prime and persistent mover in this project, and to James Clark, director of the University of California Press, who has supported it from its inception. To Lofgren, and to the other veterans of the Laboratory—Luis Alvarez, Jackson Laslett, Glenn Seaborg, Emilio Segrè, and Robert Wilson—who read and commented on the penultimate draft of the manuscript, both we, and our readers, owe a great many thanks, which we here express on behalf of us all.
Partial support for this work came from the Department of Energy through the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. We thank its director, David Shirley, for procuring this support, and its public affairs staff, especially Judy Goldhaber, for their kindness and promptness in furnishing photographs. It is important to state that our arrangements with the Department of Energy left us with complete editorial freedom.