Photo of Luis W. Alvarez

Luis W. Alvarez

  • National Medal of Science
  • Physical Sciences

For his inspiring leadership in experimental high energy physics, continuing development of the bubble chamber, discovery of many states of elementary particles, and his contributions to National defense.

As a boy, Luis W. Alvarez heeded the guidance of his father.rn rn“He advised me to sit every few months in my reading chair for an entire evening, close my eyes and try to think of new problems to solve,” Alvarez recounts in his 1987 autobiography.

During World War II, Alvarez used this innate curiosity to design instruments that were flown over Germany to collect air that could later be tested for radioactivity, a sign of atomic research.

In 1944, he aided the Manhattan project, America’s effort to build its own nuclear weapon. But Alvarez and his quest for answers didn’t stop after the war.

Among many accomplishments, Alvarez – with his son, Walter – developed the theory that dinosaurs disappeared millions of years ago after a large object hit the Earth.

”I don’t like to say bad things about paleontologists, but they’re really not very good scientists,” he said in 1988. “They’re more like stamp collectors.”