Photo of Helen T. Edwards

Helen T. Edwards

  • National Medal of Technology and Innovation
  • Physics

For their contributions to the design, construction and initial operation of the TEVATRON particle accelerator. The scientific instrument was designed to explore the fundamental properties of matter. The innovative design and successful operation of the TEVATRON has been crucial to the design of the Superconducting Super Collider, the planned next generation particle accelerator.

The Tevatron particle accelerator has been named a national landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. Helen Edwards oversaw its construction and operation.

Edwards, who holds a doctorate in physics from Cornell University, was a research associate in the school’s Laboratory for Nuclear Studies from 1966 to 1970. She joined Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in 1970 and was put in charge of the accelerator division. In that role her most famous work was to oversee the construction of the Tevatron accelerator, designed to probe the fundamental properties of matter.

The Tevatron recorded its first antiproton collisions in 1985, and its successful design, construction and operation provided a blueprint for the Superconducting Super Collider. Edwards attributed the Tevatron’s success to meticulous work from a talented team of scientists.

“To begin with, there was indeed a good bit of skepticism over whether [the Tevatron] would work,” she said in 2002 interview. “By the time we were ready to turn it on, I was pretty confident that it would work, and work well.’’ The American Physical Society recognized her pioneering work and continued accomplishments with the Robert R. Wilson Prize in 2003.

By Robert Warren