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EPS Historic Sites - Blackett Laboratory

The Blackett Laboratory, home of the Department of Physics of the Imperial College based in London, United-Kingdom, was designated as EPS Historic Site on 30 April 2014. The Imperial physicist Professor Tom Kibble had the privilege to unveil the commemorative plaque in presence of a large audience and the EPS President John Dudley.

Since its inauguration in 1961, the building has hosted numerous eminent physicists, including Mohammed Abdus Salam, Physics Nobel Prize laureate in 1979. Following the heritage of excellence of the Imperial College, John Pendry, Peter Knight, Daniel J. Bradley, Tom Kibble have contributed to physics by defining new concepts and developing innovative apparatus.

The Blackett Laboratory building has been the site of much ground-breaking research. Already in the 1960's, Sir Clifford Butler and Steve Goldsack designed the first standard measuring device for particle tracks, the British National Hydrogen Bubble Chamber Measuring Machine. Mohammed Abdus Salam also worked in London on the unification of the weak and electromagnetic forces that were the basis of the Nobel Prize awarded in 1979.

It is also noteworthy that during the same period, Professor Tom Kibble’s work at the Blackett Laboratory described the mechanism explaining how gauge bosons gain mass via the Higgs field, which helped in the discovery of the Higgs Boson particle in 2012

John Dudley, EPS President, said: “The advances made at the Blackett Laboratory have impacted on all fields of physics, and the laboratory continues today to produce results at the highest level and to turn out exceptional young physicists.”

More information

Selection of key scientific achievements from 1960 to 2000:

  • 1960s Sir Clifford Butler FRS, Steve Goldsack: Design of the British National Hydrogen Bubble Chamber Measuring Machine – the first standard measuring device for particle tracks.
  • 1960s Jim Dungey: Identification of the Dungey Cycle. This remains the paradigm for the way solar events give rise to geomagnetic storms.
  • 1960s Frank Ludlam: Major advances in the understanding of the physics of severe convective storms.
  • 1969 Reginald Garton FRS (with Tomkins): Experimental discovery of “quantum chaos”.
  • Circa 1968 Harold. H. Hopkins FRS: Mathematical analysis for modern optical design. Development of the analysis through which modern optical design is based & of coherent fibre optics.
  • 1960s – 70s Patrick Blackett OM CH FRS, Harry Elliot CBE FRS: From the fundamentals of cosmic rays to development of particle detectors at the dawn of the space age - the Ariel Programme.
  • 1962 – 68 Mohammad Abdus Salam FRS (with Glashow & Weinberg): The unification of the weak & electromagnetic forces. These independent contributions were awarded the Nobel Prize in 1979.
  • 1964 Tom Kibble FRS (with Guralnik & Hagen): Defined the Mechanism by which gauge bosons acquire mass via the Higgs field. Six physicists were awarded the 2010 Sakurai Prize for this work.
  • Late 1960s – 1975 Bryan Coles FRS et al, David Sherrington FRS: Naming of Spin Glasses. Coles named the magnetic property in disordered systems as ‘Spin Glasses’ & the famous Sherrington-Kirkpatrick paper on the theory of spin glasses inspired neural networks etc.
  • 1973 – 1980 Daniel. J. Bradley FRS: Development of tuneable ultra short pulse lasers (pico & femto second). Laid the foundation of modern short pulse lasers & their diverse application areas.
  • 1980s Peter Dornan FRS, David Binnie: Early detectors built for high energy particle detection - first silicon microstrip & production of first drift wire chambers for vertex detection.
  • 1984 Bob Joseph et al: Discovery that interacting galaxies are the sites of luminous bursts of star formation.
  • Circa 1987 Peter Meikle: Discovery of radioactive decay in the Supernova 1987A. First direct evidence that this was the power source for the late-time luminosity of most supernovae.
  • 1990s Sir Peter Knight FRS, Vlatko Vedral: Frontier studies on theoretical quantum optics & measures of quantum correlations.
  • 1990s - 2000s Geoff Hall, Mark Raymond: Development of radiation hard electronics in deep submicron processes for use at the Large Hadron Collider.
  • 1999 – 2000s Sir John Pendry FRS (with David Smith & others): Creation of meta-materials & the field of meta-material research; Theory of the perfect lens; Invisibility Cloaking.

The advances made at the Blackett Laboratory have impacted on all fields of physics.

Prof. Tom Kibble and the EPS Historic Site commemorative plaque
Prof. Tom Kibble and the EPS Historic Site commemorative plaque - © Imperial College
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