Rolf Widerøe

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Rolf Widerøe
Born (1902-07-11)11 July 1902
Oslo/Kristiania, Norway
Died 11 October 1996(1996-10-11) (aged 94)
Obersiggenthal, Switzerland
Residence Norway, Germany, Switzerland
Fields Physics (Accelerator physics)
Institutions CERN, DESY, ETH Zürich
Alma mater RWTH Aachen University
Doctoral advisor Walter Rogowski
Doctoral students Walter Mauderli
Known for linac, betatron, particle therapy

Rolf Widerøe (11 July 1902 – 11 October 1996), was a Norwegian accelerator physicist who was the originator of many particle acceleration concepts,[1] including the resonance accelerator and the betatron accelerator.[2]

Early life[edit]

Widerøe was born in Kristiania (now Oslo) in 1902 as a son of the mercantile agent Theodor Widerøe (1868–1947) and Carla Johanne Launer (1875–1971). He was a brother of the aviator and entrepreneur Viggo Widerøe who became the founder of the Norwegian airline Widerøe.[3] By 16, he was interested in nitrogen atoms and in 1920 graduated from Halling Gymnasium.[3] Realizing that for nuclear advances to occur electrical engineering needed to be improved, he decided to study electrical engineering in Oslo, and later physics in Karlsruhe, Germany.[1]

Betatron accelerator concept[edit]

There he conceived the concept of electromagnetic induction to accelerate electrons, which became the basis of what would be known as betatron.[3] This idea was to use a vortex field surrounding a magnetic field to accelerate electrons in a tube.[1]

Return to Germany[edit]

In 1924, he returned to Norway for a short time period, working in a locomotive facility of Norges Statsbaner, where he fulfilled his 72-day military service. He went back to Germany in 1925. There he studied at the Technical University at Aachen, where he proposed a thesis in 1927 for an experimental betatron accelerator, incorporating the work of Swedish scientist Gustav Ising of 1924,[3][4][5] which was not successful at first.[1][6] Thus, Widerøe instead built a linear accelerator prototype based on Isings proposal and made this the topic of his dissertation under Walter Rogowski. In 1928, he relocated to Berlin and started building protective relays during his work at AEG.[6]

Resonance accelerator[edit]

From his betatron experiment, he developed further ideas of particle acceleration without the necessity of high voltage. The method was resonating particles with a radio frequency electric field to add energy to each traversal of the field. This experiment was successful and published in 1928,[1][7] and became the progenitor of all high-energy particle accelerators. Widerøe's article was studied by Ernest Lawrence in the United States, and used as the basis for his creation of the cyclotron in 1929.[1][3][5]

Nazi collaboration[edit]

Widerøe began collaborating with the Nazi German government following their election in Germany,[8] where in 1943 he introduced the concept of colliding particles head-on to increase interaction energy and a storage ring device.[1][6] His Norwegian citizenship was ultimately revoked for working with the Nazi government.[8]

Later years[edit]

In 1946 he filed a patent in Norway for an accelerator based on synchronous acceleration.[1] He would go on to publish over 180 papers in scientific and engineering journals, and filed over 200 patent applications over his lifetime. In his later life he devoted much time to medicinal technology, focusing on cancer treatment, including developing megavolt radiation therapy technologies.[6] He would collaborate with CERN beginning in 1952,[6] lectured at ETH Zurich in 1953, and collaborated at DESY in 1959 in Hamburg.[6]

Rolf Widerøe died on 11 October 1996 in Obersiggenthal, Switzerland.[6]




  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Livingston, M. S. (1980). Marton, L., ed. "Early history of particle accelerators". Advances in electronics and electron physics (Academic Press) 50: 24. 
  2. ^ Voss, Gustav-Adolf (August 1997). "Obituary: Rolf Wideröe". Physics Today 50 (8): 78–79. Bibcode:1997PhT....50h..78V. doi:10.1063/1.881866. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Dahl, F. (2002). From nuclear transmutation to nuclear fission, 1932-1939. CRC Press. ISBN 978-0-7503-0865-6. 
  4. ^ Ising, Gustav (1928). "Prinzip Einer Methode Zur Herstellung Von Kanalstrahlen Hoher Voltzahl". Arkiv Fuer Matematik, Astronomi Och Fysik 18 (4). 
  5. ^ a b Close, Frank; Marten, Michael; Sutton, Christine (2004). The particle odyssey: a journey to the heart of the matter. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198609438. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i Waloschek, Pedro (30 June 1994). The Infancy of Particle Accelerators: Life and Work of Rolf Wideröe (PDF). Vieweg Verlag. ISBN 9783528065867. 
  7. ^ Wideröe, R. (17 Dec 1928). "Über ein neues Prinzip zur Herstellung hoher Spannungen". Archiv für Elektrotechnik (in German) 21 (4): 387–406. doi:10.1007/BF01656341. 
  8. ^ a b Davis, Nuel Pharr (1969). Lawrence and Oppenheimer (2nd ed.). J. Cape. 

External links[edit]