Ernest O. Lawrence

Art & Installations

Explore the scientific discoveries and innovations of The Lawrence's namesake, Ernest Orlando Lawrence. His invention of the first cyclotron earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1939, the first UC Berkeley scientist to win the prize in any discipline.

About the Exhibit

An exhibit display case containing several small early cyclotron models and a panel of text about the devices.

The Cyclotron

A cyclotron is a machine designed to spin atoms at very high speeds, then smash them together to study the results. Lawrence’s first cyclotron model, seen in the exhibit, was made of little more than wire and sealing wax, which probably cost about $25. Discover the history and science behind this groundbreaking invention.

Ernest Lawrence's Nobel Prize, a large gold medallion featuring the face of the prize's namesake Alfred Nobel.

The Nobel Prize

Lawrence’s invention, which stared out as a sketch on a scrap of paper, changed out scientists studied atomic and subatomic particles. The cyclotron led to the discovery of many new radioactive elements, including Lawrencium, Berkelium, and Californium. For his pioneering work, Lawrence was awarded the 1939 Nobel Prize in Physics, a replica of which is on display in the exhibit.

Cloud Chamber

The Cloud Chamber

Smashing atoms is not the only way to generate subatomic particles. Cosmic rays originating from stars both near and far are constantly whizzing across the universe. Check out the Cloud Chamber to see trails left by actual cosmic particles as they travel through the vapor in the chamber!

Why Ernest Lawrence?

E.O. Lawrence

As UC Berkeley’s first Nobel Laureate, Ernest Lawrence is a renowned figure in the Berkeley community. The Lawrence Hall of Science was established in 1968 as a living memorial to his many scientific achievements. Lawrence’s work not only as a pioneering physicist but also as an educator inspired the purpose of The Lawrence to engage young people in science learning and discovery. In addition to the small models in this exhibit, you can see the 65-ton electromagnet that powered Lawrence’s cyclotron on the circle in front of the science center.

Plan Your Visit



Age 3+: $20

Kids under 2: FREE

Members: FREE

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