Owen Chamberlain

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Owen Chamberlain
Chamberlain in 1959
Born(1920-07-10)July 10, 1920
DiedFebruary 28, 2006(2006-02-28) (aged 85)
Alma materDartmouth College
University of California, Berkeley
University of Chicago
Known forParticle physics
AwardsNobel Prize in Physics, 1959
Scientific career
InstitutionsLos Alamos National Laboratory
University of California, Berkeley
Doctoral advisorEnrico Fermi
Doctoral studentsPaul Grannis, Nathan Isgur, David Delano Clark

Owen Chamberlain (July 10, 1920 – February 28, 2006) was an American physicist who shared with Emilio Segrè the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of the antiproton, a sub-atomic antiparticle.[1][2]


Chamberlain with wife in Sweden in 1959

Born in San Francisco, California, Chamberlain graduated from Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia in 1937. He studied physics at Dartmouth College, where he was a member of Alpha Theta chapter of Theta Chi fraternity, and at the University of California, Berkeley. He remained in school until the start of World War II, and joined the Manhattan Project in 1942, where he worked with Segrè, both at Berkeley and in Los Alamos, New Mexico. He married Beatrice Babette Copper (d. 1988) in 1943, with whom he had four children.[3]

In 1946, after the war, Chamberlain continued with his doctoral studies at the University of Chicago under physicist Enrico Fermi.[4] Fermi acted as an important guide and mentor for Chamberlain, encouraging him to leave behind theoretical physics for experimental physics, for which Chamberlain had a particular aptitude. Chamberlain received his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1949.

In 1948, having completed his experimental work, Chamberlain returned to Berkeley as a member of its faculty. There he, Segrè, and other physicists investigated proton-proton scattering. In 1955, a series of proton scattering experiments at Berkeley's Bevatron led to the discovery of the anti-proton, a particle like a proton but negatively charged. Chamberlain's later research work included the time projection chamber (TPC), and work at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC).

Chamberlain was politically active on issues of peace and social justice, and outspoken against the Vietnam War. He was a member of Scientists for Sakharov, Orlov, and Shcharansky, three physicists of the former Soviet Union imprisoned for their political beliefs. In the 1980s, he helped found the nuclear freeze movement. In 2003 he was one of 22 Nobel Laureates who signed the Humanist Manifesto.[5]

Chamberlain was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1985, and retired from teaching in 1989. He died of complications from the disease on February 28, 2006, in Berkeley at the age of 85.

Chamberlain plays a central role in Jacob M. Appel's Sherwood Anderson Award-winning short story, "Measures of Sorrow".[6]



  1. ^ Jaros, John; Nagamiya, Shoji; Steiner, Herbert (August 2006). "Obituary: Owen Chamberlain". Physics Today. 59 (8): 70–72. Bibcode:2006PhT....59h..70J. doi:10.1063/1.2349741.
  2. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Physics 1959". NobelPrize.org. Retrieved January 10, 2022.
  3. ^ Sanders, Robert (March 1, 2006). Owen Chamberlain, Physics Nobelist, UC Berkeley professor, LBNL researcher and co-discoverer of the anti-proton, has died at 85. www.berkeley.edu.
  4. ^ Yarris, Lynn (March 1, 2006). Berkeley Scientific Great Owen Chamberlain Has Died Archived February 17, 2022, at the Wayback Machine. www.lbl.gov (March 1, 2006)
  5. ^ "Notable Signers". Humanism and Its Aspirations. American Humanist Association. Archived from the original on November 13, 2016. Retrieved September 15, 2012.
  6. ^ Appel, JM. (2015) Miracles and Conundrums of the Secondary Planets, Black Lawrence Press.

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