Fermilab History and Archives Project

This Day in Fermilab History: February 12, 1972


February 12, 1972: The Lab's Experimental Program Begins

(You can also view the original February 12, 2015 Fermilab Today article)

E-36 personnel

E-36 personnel on April 18, 1973. Back row, L to R: Ryuji Yamada, Steve Olsen, Leonid Zolin, Ernie Malamud, Yuri Pilipenko, Anatole Kuznetsov, Dick Carrigan, Rod Cool, Konstantin Goulianos. Front row, L to R: Dan Gross, Boris Morozov, Adrian Melissinos, Vladimir Popov, Victor Bartenev, Vladimir Nikitin. (Fermilab photograph 73-407-7)

Forty-three years ago today, Fermilab's experimental program began when E-36, the lab's first experiment, started testing equipment in the newly achieved 100-GeV beam.

E-36, the Small Angle Proton-Proton Scattering experiment, had been approved on February 1, 1970. The experimenters came from the National Accelerator Laboratory, the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (Dubna, U.S.S.R.), the University of Rochester (Rochester, New York) and Rockefeller University (New York City), making it a model of cooperation between Americans and Soviets at a time when Cold War tensions still ran high. Prior to beginning the experiment, the scientists collaborated via weekly telex conversations. NAL achieved the 100-GeV beam the experimenters needed shortly after 9 p.m. on February 11, surpassing the 76-GeV accelerator at Serpukhov Laboratory in the U.S.S.R., which had been the most powerful in the world until that point. Fermilab Director Robert R. Wilson and others in the Main Control Room celebrated by sharing a bottle of vodka that A. A. Kuznetsov of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research had sent them to mark the occasion. At 4 a.m. on February 12, E-36 personnel observed the beam interacting with their equipment for the first time, kicking off the lab's experimental program.

You can read more about E-36 and NAL's achievement of a 100-GeV beam in the February 10, 1972 and February 24, 1972 issues of The Village Crier, the lab's employee newsletter. The event was commemorated in an article in the February 7, 1992 issue of Ferminews. You can also read the original proposal for the experiment. Additionally, the Fermilab Archives contains records related to E-36, including copies of the original telexes between the NAL and JINR scientists, such as this one.