Burton Richter

National Medal of Science

Physical Sciences

For pioneering contributions to the development of electron accelerators, including circular and linear colliders, synchrotron light sources, and for discoveries in elementary particle physics and contributions to energy policy.

For pioneering contributions to the development of electron accelerators, including circular and linear colliders, synchrotron light sources, and for discoveries in elementary particle physics and contributions to energy policy.

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Birth
March 22, 1931
Age Awarded
81
Country of Birth
USA
Key Contributions
Discovery Of J-Psi Meson
Awarded by
Barack Obama
Education
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Accolades
Supported by NSF
Areas of Impact
Transportation
Theory & Foundations
Affiliations
SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory; Stanford University
Other Prizes
Nobel Prize
Enrico Fermi Award
Philip Hauge Abelson Prize
B

Burton Richter’s discovery of a subatomic particle helped usher in a new era of particle physics and garnered a Nobel Prize. Richter, working at Stanford University, and Samuel Ting, a physicist working at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, simultaneously discovered the particle, called J/psi, in November 1974.

The physicists shared the Nobel Prize in 1976, which the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences said proved “experimentally the existence of a fourth quark, later named ‘charm.’’’

In the 1950s Richter had teamed with other physicists to build the first colliding beam device. Joining Stanford in 1963, he set to work on getting funding to build a particle collider. That collider, called SPEAR, was built in 1970.

In 1974 his team discovered the new particle about three times the size of a proton.

In 1984 Richter became the director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, a role he held until 1999.

Richter’s scientific interests extended into business, notably how industry could benefit from science and technology. He has served as a member of General Motors’ Science Advisory Committee, has written about global climate change and is also noted for his contributions to energy policy.

By Robert Warren

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