Val Logsdon Fitch
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Val Logsdon Fitch
|Known for||Discovery of CP-violation|
|Awards||John Price Wetherill Medal (1976)|
Nobel Prize in Physics (1980)
Val Logsdon Fitch (born March 10, 1923, Merriman, Nebraska, USA) is an American nuclear physicist. A native of Merriman, Nebraska, he graduated from Gordon High School and attended Chadron State College for three years before being drafted into the U.S. army in 1943. He later graduated from McGill University with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 1948 and completed his Ph.D. in physics in 1954 from Columbia University. In World War II, he worked on the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos. He is a member of the faculty at Princeton University.
Fitch and co-researcher James Watson Cronin were awarded the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physics for a 1964 experiment using the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron at Brookhaven National Laboratory that proved that certain subatomic reactions do not adhere to fundamental symmetry principles. Specifically, they proved, by examining the decay of K-mesons, that a reaction run in reverse does not merely retrace the path of the original reaction, which showed that the reactions of subatomic particles are not indifferent to time. Thus the phenomenon of CP violation was discovered.
Fitch is a member of the Board of Sponsors of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
Val Fitch was born on a cattle ranch in Cherry County, Nebraska, on March 10, 1923. He was the youngest of three children. His father, Fred Fitch, was badly injured in a horse riding accident and could no longer work on his ranch. Therefore the family moved to the nearby town of Gordon, Nebraska, where he entered the insurance business.
As a soldier during World War II, he was sent to Los Alamos to work on the Manhattan Project. While there he had the opportunity to meet many of the greats of physics including Enrico Fermi, Niels Bohr, James Chadwick, Isidor Isaac Rabi and Richard C. Tolman. In the 3 years he worked there in the lab of Ernest Titterton, he became well acquainted with the techniques of experimental physics.
After the war he was offered a graduate assistantship at Cornell University, but he still had to finish his undergraduate degree, which he did at McGill University. For his graduate degree he went to Columbia University, where he worked under Jim Rainwater. For his thesis he designed and build an experiment to measure the gamma-rays emitted from mu-mesic atoms (i.e. atoms in which an electron is replace by a muon).
After obtaining his doctorate his interested shifted to strange particles and K mesons. He took a position at Princeton University, where he spent the next 20 years studying K mesons. Unexpectedly, he discovered that the decay of neutral K mesons did not respect CP symmetry (Simultaneously exchanging left and right and particles and anti-particles). For this discovery he and his student James Cronin were honored by the 1980 Nobel Prize in Physics.
- Fitch, V. "Some Notes on Wideband Feedback Amplifiers", Los Alamos National Laboratory, United States Department of Energy (through predecessor agency the Atomic Energy Commission), (March 16, 1949).
- Fitch, V. "A High Resolution Scale-of-four", Columbia University, United States Department of Energy (through predecessor agency the Atomic Energy Commission), (August 25, 1949).
- Fitch, V. L. "CP Violation, Neutral Currents, and Weak Equivalence", Princeton University, United States Department of Energy (through predecessor agency the Atomic Energy Commission), (March 23, 1972).
- Cester, R.; Fitch, V. L.; Montag, A.; Sherman, S.; Webb, R. C. & M. S. Witherell. "Results on the Performance of a Broad Band Focussing Cherenkov Counter", Princeton University, United States Department of Energy, (1980).
- Photograph, Biography and Bibliographic Resources, from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information, United States Department of Energy
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- Research page from the Princeton University Physics department
- Val Logsdon Fitch
- the discovery of violations of fundamental symmetry principles in the decay of neutral K-mesons
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