Berkeley Lab Research News


Renowned Berkeley Physicist, Innovator Clyde Wiegand Dies

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By Lynn Yarris,

July 5, 1996

BERKELEY, CA -- Clyde E. Wiegand, a renowned physicist with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, died at his home in Oakland, on Friday, July 5, of prostate cancer. He was 81.

Colleagues remember Wiegand as a superb experimental physicist and a genius at building experimental equipment. He was perhaps best known for his central role in the discovery of the antiproton in 1955. As a member of the experimental team that included Emilio Segre, Owen Chamberlain and Thomas Ypsilantis, Wiegand was a key contributor to all phases of the experiment. Segre and Chamberlain won the 1959 Nobel prize in physics for the discovery of the antiproton. Inexplicably, Wiegand did not share in the award, though Segre and Chamberlain always acknowledged his critical contributions to the success of the experiment.

Chamberlain was a colleague of Wiegand since their student days together. Reacting to the news of Wiegand's death, he said:

"It was truly an honor and a pleasure to work closely with Clyde Wiegand. He was unequalled in his ability to put together an experiment and make it work. He frequently opened my eyes to new experimental possibilities."

Wiegand is also credited with being a prolific technical innovator. In the late 1940's, he developed one of the first distributed amplifiers, a precursor of the kind of high-speed electronics widely used today in many fields of science and technology. He was among the first to realize the tremendous importance of coupling detecting systems and computers. It was the unique electronic counters he designed and built that were used to identify antiprotons. He also spent time at CERN, the European laboratory for particle physics in Geneva, where he set up electronic systems that were crucial for getting the experimental facility started.

In the 1970's, Wiegand opened an important new field of physics with his studies of kaonic atoms, an exotic type of hybrid atom in which subatomic particles known as k-mesons are bound to a normal atomic nucleus. This research yielded important information for both nuclear and particle physics.

Though he officially retired in 1980, after 38 years with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Wiegand continued to be an active scientist. In the late 1980's, he developed an electronic cooling system for use with sensitive low temperature x-ray detectors. His most recent work involved the development of state-of-the-art electronics for x-ray and gamma-ray detectors.

Wiegand was born on May 23, 1915, in Long Beach, Washington. He attended elementary school in Oakland before his family moved to Salem, Oregon. He received his undergraduate degree from Willamette University in 1940. He began his graduate work in physics in 1941 at UC Berkeley. As a grad student in Segre's research group, Wiegand went to Los Alamos to work on the Manhattan Project in 1943, and was with Robert Oppenheimer in Alamogordo at the first detonation of an atomic bomb. He returned to the Berkeley campus in 1946 and received his Ph.D. in 1950 under the direction of Segre at the Radiation Laboratory of Ernest O. Lawrence.

Wiegand was a man of varied interests outside of physics. He traveled throughout the world shooting home movies and collected footage from all seven continents, the Easter Islands, the Galapagos Islands, and other places of interest. He hiked in the Himalayas and camped on both Mount Everest and K-2, piloted his own plane, played the organ, and was an avid ham radio operator. He loved listening to Big Band music, growing apricots and boysenberries, which he canned for family and friends, and watching Oakland As baseball games.

Wiegand is survived by his wife Della, and his children: son Arthur Wiegand of Denver Colorado; daughter Jeanne Wiegand, of Pinole, California; and son Gary Wiegand, of Carmel, California.

Services will be private. Friends wishing to make a donation on behalf of Clyde Wiegand may contact Zero Population Growth, 1400 16th Street, N.W., Suite 320, Washington, D.C. 20036.