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Segrè, Emilio Gino

antiprotons physics antiproton proton

[ seg ray] (1905–89) Italian–US physicist: discovered the antiproton.

Segrè attended school and became a university student of engineering in his home city of Rome. Then in 1927 he changed over to physics and became the first research student to work with , obtaining his doctorate at Rome in 1928. He rose to hold a laboratory directorship in Palermo, but was dismissed for racial reasons by the Fascist government in 1938. He took a post at the University of California at Berkeley, and had an active part during the Second World War in the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb at Los Alamos.

Segrè has the distinction of being involved in the discovery of three elements: technetium (1937), astatine (1940) and plutonium (1940). Technetium was made by using cyclotron to irradiate molybdenum with deuterium nuclei, and was the world’s first purely artificial element to be made. It is radioactive, and one isotope is much used in medical diagnosis.

After the war Segrè joined in the hunt for a novel particle predicted by , the antiproton. In 1955 the Berkeley bevatron proton accelerator reached the threshold energy for producing antiprotons by proton–proton collision, 6 GeV. A beam of particles obtained by proton collisions on a copper target contained a few antiprotons, among many other secondary particles. Segrè and his group devised an apparatus and performed an experiment for detecting these antiprotons. Segrè and received the 1959 Nobel Prize for physics ‘for the discovery of the antiproton’.

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