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How Berkeley Lab Evolved

Dates New Disciplines / Areas of Growth
1931 High-Energy Physics; Lawrence brings engineers and physicists together (team science)
1939 Nuclear Medicine
1942 Manhattan Project
1950s Organic and Physical Chemistry Detector programs
1960s Materials Science; no more classified work
1970s Energy and Environment
1980s Biology and Genomics
1990s X-ray-based sciences; Computing reinvigorated (NERSC); Nanoscience
2000s Sustainable Energy Technologies
2010s Restoring Carbon Cycle Balance

Berkeley Lab was founded in 1931 by Ernest Orlando Lawrence, winner of the 1939 Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of the cyclotron, a circular particle accelerator that made high-energy physics possible.

Lawrence also developed the concept of collaborative “team science” that remains a core element of the Laboratory’s efforts today. This interdisciplinary cooperation allows Berkeley Lab to tackle complex scientific issues and “Big Science” that can’t be resolved through the application of a single scientific discipline.

This capability also made it possible for Lawrence’s original “Rad Lab” to evolve into a national laboratory applied to issues ranging from the nanoscale to the cosmological scale.

To learn more about Berkeley Lab’s history, read An Historical Perspective on the Lab’s Legacy, a series written as part of the 75th anniversary celebration, or Big Science by Michael Hiltzik, available through interlibrary loan.