Guide to the Luis W. Alvarez Letter to Ryokichi Sagane 1945 August 9
Cage 1603

Summary Information

Repository
Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries
Creator
Alvarez, Luis W., 1911-1988
Title
Luis W. Alvarez Letter to Ryokichi Sagane
ID
Cage 1603
Date
1945 August 9
Extent
1.0 folder
General Physical Description note
.05 linear feet of shelf space
Language
English
Abstract
This collection consists of a photostatic copy of an [unsigned] letter written by Dr. Luis W. Alvarez, Dr. Robert Serber and Dr. Phillip Morrison to Japanese nuclear physicist Dr. Ryokichi Sagane.

Preferred Citation note

[Item Description] Luis W. Alvarez Letter to Ryokichi Sagane, 1945 August 9

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections Washington State University Libraries Pullman, WA

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Biographical/Historical note

Luis W. Alvarez (June 13, 1911 September 1, 1988) was an American experimental physicist and inventor who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1968.

After receiving his PhD from the University of Chicago in 1936, Alvarez went to work for Ernest Lawrence at the Radiation Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. Alvarez devised a set of experiments to observe K-electron capture in radioactive nuclei, predicted by the beta decay theory but never observed. He produced 3H using the cyclotron and measured its lifetime. In collaboration with Felix Bloch, he measured the magnetic moment of the neutron.

In 1940 Alvarez joined the MIT Radiation Laboratory, where he contributed to a number of World War II radar projects, from early improvements to Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) radar beacons, now called transponders, to a system known as VIXEN for preventing enemy submarines from realizing that they had been found by the new airborne microwave radars. The radar system for which Alvarez is best known and which has played a major role in aviation, most particularly in the post war Berlin airlift, was Ground Controlled Approach (GCA). Alvarez spent a few months at the University of Chicago working on nuclear reactors for Enrico Fermi before coming to Los Alamos to work for Robert Oppenheimer on the Manhattan project. Alvarez worked on the design of explosive lenses, and the development of exploding-bridgewire detonators. As a member of Project Alberta, he observed the Trinity nuclear test from a B-29 Superfortress, and later the bombing of Hiroshima from the B-29 The Great Artiste.

After the war Alvarez was involved in the design of a liquid hydrogen bubble chamber that allowed his team to take millions of photographs of particle interactions, develop complex computer systems to measure and analyze these interactions, and discover entire families of new particles and resonance states. This work resulted in his being awarded the Nobel Prize in 1968. He was involved in a project to X-Ray the Egyptian pyramids to search for unknown chambers. He analyzed film footage of the Kennedy assassination and, with his son geologist Walter Alvarez, proposed the Alvarez hypothesis, namely that the extinction event that wiped out the dinosaurs was the result of an asteroid impact.

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Scope and Contents note

This collection consists of a photostatic copy of an [unsigned] letter written by Dr. Luis W. Alvarez, Dr. Robert Serber and Dr. Phillip Morrison to Japanese nuclear physicist Dr. Ryokichi Sagane, along with related documents. The letter pleads with Dr. Sagane to inform Japanese leaders of the impending annihilation of their cities by atomic bombs. The letter, packed inside a canister alongside a shockwave gauge designed by Dr. Alvarez, was dropped over Nagasaki, Japan on August 9, 1945 from a B-29 bomber named The Great Artiste. The collection also includes the original addressed envelope, copies of correspondence by Wilson Compton explaining the origin and history of the letter, and supporting documentation and references.

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Administrative Information

Publication Information

Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections, Washington State University Libraries 2013

http://www.wsulibs.wsu.edu/masc
Terrell Library
P.O. Box 645610
Pullman, WA, 99164-5610
509-335-6691
mascref@wsu.edu

Conditions Governing Access note

This collection is open and available for research use.

Conditions Governing Use note

Copyright restrictions apply.

Immediate Source of Acquisition note

This collection was donated to the WSU Libraries by Wilson Compton in 1946. Supporting documentation and reference material added to collection by Cheryl Gunselman in May, 2013.

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Controlled Access Headings

Personal Name(s)

  • Alvarez, Luis W. -- 1911-1988 -- Correspondence
  • Sagane, R. -- Correspondence

Subject(s)

  • Artifacts
  • Leaflets dropped from aircraft
  • Military
  • Nuclear warfare -- Moral and ethical aspects
  • Science

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