Donald William Kerst

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Donald William Kerst
Born November 1, 1911
Galena, Illinois
Died August 19, 1993
Madison, Wisconsin
Nationality American
Fields Physics (Accelerator physics, Plasma physics)
Institutions University of Illinois, Manhattan Project, University of Wisconsin
Alma mater University of Wisconsin
Known for Betatron
Notable awards Comstock Prize in Physics (1943)

Donald William Kerst (November 1, 1911 – August 19, 1993) was an American physicist who was working on advanced particle accelerator concepts (accelerator physics) and plasma physics.[1] He is most notable for his development of the betatron.[2][3]

He was born in Galena, Illinois. At the University of Wisconsin he earned a bachelor's degree in 1934, then was awarded a Ph.D. in 1937. For a year he worked at General Electric Company, then he taught at the University of Illinois from 1938 until 1957, wherein he attained the rank of professor. During World War II, he worked at Los Alamos, New Mexico, on the Manhattan Project. From 1957–62 he was employed at the General Atomic Laboratory, La Jolla. He then became a professor at the University of Wisconsin until his retirement in 1980.[4] From 1972–73 he was chairman of the Plasma Physics Division of the American Physical Society.[5]

In 1940, Kerst developed the betatron[2][3] and became the first person to accelerate electrons using electromagnetic induction, reaching energies of 2.3 MeV. Thereupon he built several betatrons of increasing energy, attaining 300 MeV. From 1953–57 he was technical director of the Midwestern Universities Research Association, where he worked on advanced particle accelerator concepts, most notably the FFAG accelerator.[6] He then began working on the problem of plasma physics, particularly for the control of thermonuclear energy.[5]

He was married to Dorothy Birkett Kerst. The couple had two children.[5] He died at the University Hospital and Clinics in Madison, Wisconsin from a brain tumor.[4]

Awards and honors[edit]


  1. ^ Symon, Keith R.; Koch, H. William (January 1994). "Obituary: Donald Kerst". Physics Today 47 (1): 58–59. Bibcode:1994PhT....47a..58S. doi:10.1063/1.2808381. 
  2. ^ a b Kerst, D. W. (1941). "The Acceleration of Electrons by Magnetic Induction". Physical Review 60: 47–53. Bibcode:1941PhRv...60...47K. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.60.47.  edit
  3. ^ a b Kerst, D. W.; Serber, R. (Jul 1941). "Electronic Orbits in the Induction Accelerator". Physical Review 60 (1): 53–58. Bibcode:1941PhRv...60...53K. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.60.53.  edit
  4. ^ a b Browne, Malcolm L. (August 20, 1993). "Donald William Kerst Dies at 81; Built Particle Accelerators in 40's". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  5. ^ a b c Sessler, Andrew M.; Symon, Keith R.. "Donald William Kerst". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 2008-05-28. 
  6. ^ US patent 2932798, Donald William Kerst and Keith R. Symon, "Imparting Energy to Charged Particles", issued 1960-04-12 
  7. ^ "Comstock Prize in Physics". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 13 February 2011. 

External links[edit]