(born June 13, 1911, San Francisco, Calif., U.S.—died Sept. 1, 1988, Berkeley, Calif.) U.S. experimental physicist. He joined the faculty of the University of California at Berkeley in 1936, where he would remain until 1978. In 1938 he discovered that some radioactive elements decay when an orbital electron merges with the atom's nucleus, producing an element with an atomic number smaller by one, a form of beta decay
. In 1939 he and Felix Bloch (1905–83) made the first measurement of the magnetic moment of the neutron. During World War II he developed a radar guidance system for landing aircraft and participated in the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. He later helped construct the first proton linear accelerator
and constructed the liquid hydrogen bubble chamber
. With his son, the geologist Walter Alvarez (b. 1940), he helped develop the theory that links the dinosaurs' extinction with a giant asteroid or comet impact. For work that included the discovery of many subatomic particles, he received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1968.
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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.