Biography:Burton Richter

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Short description: American physicist
Burton Richter
Burton Richter NSF crop.jpg
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
DiedJuly 18, 2018(2018-07-18) (aged 87)
Stanford, California, U.S.
NationalityUnited States
Alma materMIT
Known forJ/ψ meson
Spouse(s)Laurose Becker (m. 1960; 2 children)
AwardsE. O. Lawrence Award (1975)
Nobel Prize in Physics (1976)
Enrico Fermi Award (2012)
National Medal of Science (2012)
Scientific career
InstitutionsStanford University
Stanford Linear Accelerator Center
Doctoral advisorBernard T. Feld[1][2]

Burton Richter (March 22, 1931 – July 18, 2018)[3][4] was an American physicist. He led the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) team which co-discovered the J/ψ meson in 1974, alongside the Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) team led by Samuel Ting for which they won Nobel Prize for Physics in 1976. This discovery was part of the November Revolution of particle physics. He was the SLAC director from 1984 to 1999.

Life and work

A native of New York City , Richter was born into a Jewish[5] family in Brooklyn, and was raised in the Queens neighborhood of Far Rockaway.[6] His parents were Fanny (Pollack) and Abraham Richter, a textile worker.[7] He graduated from Far Rockaway High School, a school that also produced fellow laureates Baruch Samuel Blumberg and Richard Feynman.[8] He attended Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania, then continued on to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1952 and his PhD in 1956. He then joined the faculty of Stanford University, becoming a full professor in 1967.[9] Richter was director of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) from 1984 to 1999. He was a senior fellow of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and Paul Pigott Professor in the Physical Sciences Emeritus of Stanford University.[10]

As a professor at Stanford, Richter designed the SPEAR (Stanford Positron-Electron Asymmetric Ring) particle accelerator with the help of another Stanford physics professor, David Ritson.[11] When eventually resources were secured, Richter led the building of SPEAR, with the support of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. With it he led a team that discovered a new subatomic particle he called a ψ (psi). This discovery was also made by the team led by Samuel Ting at Brookhaven National Laboratory, but he called the particle J. The particle thus became known as the J/ψ meson. Richter and Ting were jointly awarded the 1976 Nobel Prize in Physics for their work.[6]

During 1975 Richter spent a sabbatical year at CERN where he worked on the ISR experiment R702.[12]

In 1987, Richter received the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement.[13]

Richter was a member of the JASON advisory group and served on the board of directors of Scientists and Engineers for America, an organization focused on promoting sound science in American government.[10]

Richter was elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2003.[14]

In May 2007, he visited Iran and Sharif University of Technology.[15]

Richter is one of the 20 American recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics to sign a letter addressed to President George W. Bush in May of 2008, urging him to "reverse the damage done to basic science research in the Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill" by requesting additional emergency funding for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology.[16]

In 2012, President Barack Obama announced that Burton Richter was a co-recipient of the Enrico Fermi Award, along with Mildred Dresselhaus.[10]

In 2014, President Obama also awarded Richter the 2012 National Medal of Science. His citation read, "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."[17][18]

In 2013, Richter commented on an open letter from Tom Wigley, Kerry Emanuel, Ken Caldeira, and James Hansen, that Angela Merkel was "wrong to shut down nuclear".[19]

In 2014, Richter was among the residents of a continuing care retirement center who filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against a continuing care retirement home's financial practices.[20][21]

Richter died on July 18, 2018, in Stanford, California, at the age 87.

See also

  • List of Jewish Nobel laureates
  • List of independent discoveries


  1. Burton Richter (1956). Photoproduction of Positive Pions from Hydrogen by 265 MEV Gamma Rays (PDF) (Thesis). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-02-27. Retrieved 2014-02-20.
  2. "PDS login". 
  3. Weil, Martin (21 July 2018). "Obituaries - Burton Richter, Nobel Prize-winning physicist, dies at 87". The Washington Post. 
  4. "Nobel Prize-winning physicist Burton Richter dies at 87". Stanford News (Press release). Stanford News. 2018-07-19. Retrieved 2018-07-20.
  5. Shalev, Baruch A. (2002). 100 Years of Nobel Prizes. The Americas Group. p. 61. ISBN:978-0-935047-37-0
  6. 6.0 6.1 Crease, Robert P.; Mann, Charles C. (October 26, 1986). "In Search of the Z Particle". The New York Times. "Burton Richter was born in Brooklyn 55 years ago, but grew up in Far Rockaway, Queens." 
  7. "Burton Richter facts, information, pictures - articles about Burton Richter". 
  8. Schwach, Howard (April 15, 2005). "Museum tracks down FRHS Nobel laureates". The Wave. "Burton Richter graduated from Far Rockaway High School in 1948." 
  9. "Burton Richter | American physicist" (in en). 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 "President Obama Names Scientists Mildred Dresselhaus and Burton Richter as the Enrico Fermi Award Winners". January 11, 2012. 
  11. Peter C. Allen (Winter 1980). "Deeper and Deeper into the Atom". Sandstone and Tile (Stanford Historical Society) 4 (2). Retrieved 15 September 2019. 
  12. Chalmers, Matthew (August 15, 2018). "Burton Richter (1931-2018)". 
  13. "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". American Academy of Achievement. 
  14. "APS Member History". 
  15. Erdbrink, Thomas (June 6, 2008). "Iran makes the sciences a part of its revolution". The Washington Post. 
  16. "A Letter from America's Physics Nobel Laureates". 
  17. "Burton Richter, 2012 National Medal of Science, Physical Sciences". 2019. 
  18. SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (2014-11-20), President Obama Bestows National Medal of Science on SLAC Director Emeritus and Nobelist Burton Richter,, retrieved 2019-09-15 
  19. "Environmental scientists tout nuclear power to avert climate change -". CNN. November 3, 2013. 
  20. Burton Richter, Linda Collins Cork, Georgia L. May, Thomas Merigan, Alfred Spivack, Janice R. Anderson v. CC-Palo Alto, Inc. (United States District Court for the Northern District of California). Text
  21. "RICHTER v. CC-PALO ALTO, | Case No. 5:14... | 20141125f09 |" (in en). 


External links

Preceded by
Wolfgang Panofsky
SLAC Director
Succeeded by
Jonathan M. Dorfan