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Berkeley Lab Founder Ernest Lawrence to Be Honored With Memorial Highway in South Dakota

Cyclotron inventor was born in Canton, South Dakota, in 1901

Photo - Ernest O. Lawrence in Canton, South Dakota, in 1913. Lawrence attended Canton High School and received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of South Dakota in 1922 before leaving the state for postgraduate studies. (Photo courtesy of Berkeley Lab)

Ernest Lawrence in Canton, South Dakota, in 1913. Lawrence attended Canton High School and received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of South Dakota in 1922 before leaving the state for postgraduate studies. (Photo courtesy of Berkeley Lab)

Nobel laureate Ernest Lawrence – founder of Berkeley Lab, inventor of the cyclotron, and a native of Canton, South Dakota – will be honored with a memorial highway in his home state.

Mike Headley, executive director of the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in Lead, South Dakota, and Ben Jones, the state education secretary, had applied for the renaming of the highway segment, a stretch of Highway 18 that runs through Canton. Berkeley Lab has played a critical role in establishing, developing, and operating SURF, and participates in several experiments at the site.

It was in 1931 that Lawrence designed and built the first successful cyclotron, a small round particle accelerator for which Lawrence would receive the 1939 Nobel Prize in physics. Also in 1931, Lawrence founded the UC Radiation Laboratory that is now known as Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, or Berkeley Lab. He served as the Lab’s director until his death in 1958.

“Not only did Lawrence invent the cyclotron, but he also changed the way scientists do research,” said Berkeley Lab Director Michael Witherell. “He showed how large teams of scientists working together could make breakthroughs that were otherwise unimaginable.”

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Section of US Hwy 18 named for South Dakota Nobel Laureate, Sanford Lab, July 28, 2020.