Physics in Perspective

, Volume 5, Issue 4, pp 419–472 | Cite as

Charles C. Lauritsen: A Reasonable Man in an Unreasonable World

  • Charles H. HolbrowEmail author
In Appreciation


Charles C. Lauritsen (1891-1968) was a leading American experimental nuclear physicist and government advisor. He emigrated from Denmark to the United States in 1916 with his wife and baby. In 1926 he talked his way into graduate study at Caltech. Within four years he completed a physics Ph.D. degree, built the world’s highest voltage X-ray tube, and became a Caltech faculty member and director of the Kellogg Radiation Laboratory - founded to treat cancers with his X-ray tube. Converting one of his tubes into a particle accelerator, he became a nuclear physicist. During World War II he established and ran a large program for developing rocket munitions. After the war he advised government agencies on weapons development and research funding. He opposed the U.S. decision to develop the H-bomb. I discuss here his achievements, character, leadership, and the difficulties of science advising - especially evident in Project Vista.

Charles C. Lauritsen Thomas Lauritsen William A. Fowler J. Robert Oppenheimer Caltech High Potential Laboratory (Hi-Volts) X-ray tube a.c. accelerator Van de Graaff accelerator Kellogg Radiation Laboratory nuclear physics neutrons accelerator-produced radioactivity Lauritsen electroscope nuclear astrophysics World War II rocket munitions atomic bomb proximity fuse weapons laboratories Naval Ordnance Test Station study groups Korean War Cold War loyalty national security James M. Gavin think tanks advisory panels science advising H bomb Project Vista no-first-use policy secrecy remobilization science and government 


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Copyright information

© Birkhäuser-Verlag Basel 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Physics and AstronomyColgate UniversityHamiltonUSA

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