A brief history of Berkeley Lab

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL, LBL, or Berkeley Lab) was founded in 1931 by Ernest Orlando Lawrence, who, in 1929, invented the cyclotron (“atom smasher”) and, in 1939, received the Nobel Prize for this breakthrough.

Berkeley Lab is a national laboratory, run at the federal level by the Department of Energy. While the Lab is managed by the University of California, it is otherwise independent from the Berkeley campus. However, there have always been many close and fruitful collaborations between the two entities, facilitated by their geographical proximity.

Several scientific user facilities are hosted at the Berkeley Lab campus, including the Molecular Foundry (equipped for all nanoscience desires), NERSC (a super supercomputing facility), and the Advanced Light Source (ALS, a 600ft synchrotron that makes the brightest images).

The Lab has been the host to 13 Nobel prizes. And, 14 atomic elements have been discovered on the hill (such as Technetium, Berkelium and Plutonium.)

A comprehensive history of the Lab can be found in Michael Hiltzik’s 2015 book “Big Science“.