LeConte Hall, University of California
|Area||less than one acre|
|Architect||John Galen Howard|
|NRHP Reference #||04000622|
|Added to NRHP||July 6, 2004|
LeConte Hall is a building on the campus of the University of California, Berkeley. It is home to the physics department. LeConte Hall was one of the largest physics buildings in the world at the time it was opened in 1924, and was also the site of the first atom collider, built by Ernest O. Lawrence in 1931. The building was named in honor of the brothers Joseph and John LeConte, professors of Physics and Geology, who were respectively the first and third presidents of UC Berkeley.
In 1924, the university opened LeConte Hall in order to accommodate an enlarged physics department, and to support the hiring of new, talented faculty. One of the newly hired faculty was Ernest Lawrence, who joined the department in 1928. Lawrence, together with students M. S. Livingston and David Sloan built an 11-inch cyclotron and installed it in room 329 LeConte. The device was the first successful, functional cyclotron and produced a current of 1.22 MeV protons.
Another nuclear physicist, J. Robert Oppenheimer joined the department in the summer of 1929. Oppenheimer maintained an office, together with his group of students in room 219 LeConte. In 1942, Oppenheimer was appointed head of the fast neutron research group, and in the summer of that year, he invited the leading physicists of the time to discuss the theoretical aspects of developing an atomic weapon. The physicists and Oppenheimer's students, including Hans Bethe, John Van Vleck, Felix Bloch, and others, worked in the top floor of LeConte Hall and spent a month analyzing data.
In 1939, Ernest Lawrence was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics, the first time the award went to a Bay Area resident. Since then, LeConte Hall has been host to eight Physics Nobel Prize winning faculty and four alumni.
In 2006, the UC Berkeley campus completed a US$30.7 million renovation project, designed to update the LeConte Hall facilities as well as to provide seismic retrofitting. Being a historic landmark, an effort was made to preserve the original architecture as well as to restore original attributes, such as the historic skylight on the fourth floor, which houses the Berkeley Center for Theoretical Physics.
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