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Luis Alvarez, Nobel Prize-winning Physicist and Inventor
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Alvarez holding a balloon to celebrate his winning the Nobel Prize

Alvarez celebrates winning the Nobel Prize

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Alvarez sitting in his father’s lap on a swing, 1912
Alvarez sitting in his father’s lap

Luis ALvarez
Luis Alvarez

Persistence Pays Off for Luis Alvarez

Alvarez found solutions to all sorts of problems. While traveling in Africa in 1963, he had trouble keeping his camera steady while photographing wildlife. He designed a new lens that stabilized when the camera jiggled. His invention paved the way for similar tools that stabilize video equipment and many cameras and binoculars used today.

Persistence and love of exploration helped Alvarez apply physics to other sciences. He developed a way to use radiation to “x-ray” an Egyptian pyramid in search of hidden chambers. And with his son, Walter, a geologist, he used his knowledge of physics and astronomy to propose a theory--now widely accepted--that a meteor struck the earth 65 million years ago. Some scientists also agree with Alvarez’s idea that the same meteor may have caused the dinosaurs to disappear.

“Whenever anything has interested me, I have instinctively tried to invent a new or better way of doing it.”

When Alvarez had a new idea, he begged colleagues to challenge it. He relished trying new experiments, but once he had results, he’d carefully question their validity by putting them through every test possible.

“I was to learn in the course of time that much of a physicist’s life, both in and out of his laboratory, is spent in scientific detective work.”

Next: Mike Augspurger, Handcycle Inventor ›

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