Photo of Richie Orr

Richie Orr

  • 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.

Standing out was routine for Richie Orr. As a teen, he achieved the rank of Eagle Scout – the first person in Louisa County, Iowa, to hit such lofty status.

And as a physicist, Orr’s contributions to science are immeasurable. Noted for his poise and calm demeanor, Orr became a star at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, where he played a key role in a number of projects.

The most noteworthy of those was the Tevatron particle accelerator. Orr, along with fellow scientists Helen Edwards, Alvin Tollestrup, and Richard Lundy guided the design, construction and operation of the Tevatron, one of the world’s most powerful particle accelerators when it was completed in 1983.

Colleagues were amazed at Orr’s ability to calm those around him.

“It was a critical time of getting the Tevatron together,” Edwards recalled at the time of Orr’s death in 2011. “Rich did a great job of focusing everyone and orchestrating the whole thing. He was something special.”

Orr, who earned a doctorate in physics from the University of Washington, joined Fermi in 1970. In addition to managing the Tevatron project, he was also involved in the construction of the Meson Lab at the facility.

By Robert Warren