Fermilab History and Archives Project

Art 1967-78


Sculpture "Albert Einstein" by Soviet sculptor Sidor
Sculpture "Albert Einstein" by Soviet sculptor Sidor

During a visit to the Soviet Union last fall, Dr. Robert Wilson was invited to a special ceremony at the USSR Academy of Sciences. There, Prof. G. N. Skryabin presented an abstract sculpture of Albert Einstein to him, a gift from his Soviet colleagues. Prof. Skryabin told Dr. Wilson,

"I am very pleased to join my friends in presenting you this small gift. It does not matter whether this sight of Einstein is similar to my imagination of him. I believe it will symbolize our friendship, the friendship of scientists living in different places of the world, having their own fields of study, but working together for better understanding."

The sculpture arrived at Fermilab recently. It is on display in the second floor lounge of the Central Laboratory. Expressing his appreciation for the gift. Dr. Wilson notes:

"Although abstract in character, the portrait of Albert Einstein evokes many of the characteristics of that great scientist - and if it is not immediately recognizable, well, many aspects of Einstein's theories were also somewhat arcane. As a piece of abstract sculpture it is excellent. The forms do relate very well one to another, are interesting and rhythmic and strong, and the sculpture is pleasing from all angles.

...It is an excellent tribute to the USSR - USA collaboration in physics, the only difference being that our collaboration is very real, not abstract as is the sculpture.

On the other hand, there are also hidden attributes of the collaboration that go beyond the specific scientific contributions to knowledge. As you pointed out in presenting it to me, there are the deep friendships that have been formed, there is the deeper understanding between the people of the USSR and the USA that has resulted. Science too has its aesthetic aspects that touch the humanistic values of our lives. The presentation of the sculpture celebrated and exemplified those values."

Source: The Village Crier Vol. 8 No. 22, June 10, 1976

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Harkins magnet display on Batavia Road

Harkins magnet display on Batavia Road

A 55-ton electromagnet from a cyclotron used by Enrico Fermi is Fermilab's latest landmark.

Beside Batavia Road, between Rt. 59 and the Village, is the iron/steel electromagnet from a cyclotron built by William D. Harkins. The physics pioneer built the machine with student help in 1936. Enrico Fermi was among the physicists who used it for neutron-diffusion studies.

The Harkins cyclotron was used later in the Manhattan Project at Chicago. A power crane placed the electromagnet on a reinforced concrete pad.

Source: FermiNews Vol. 1 No. 5, June 8, 1978

Photo by Nadezhda Shemyakina


"Broken Symmetry," a new metal sculpture, is erected over Pine Street
"Broken Symmetry," a new metal sculpture, is erected
over Pine Street

Art and artifacts at Fermilab have been enhanced with an ornamental steel arch over Pine Street near Kirk Road.

The tri-span sculpture, entitled "Broken Symmetry", tips the scales at about 42,000 pounds-21 tons. It rises 50 feet above the road at its apex.

In his concept, Fermilab Director R.R. Wilson has freely adopted the style of the sculptor Alexander Calder to exemplify the notions of symmetry and symmetry-breaking that are so important in the physics of elementary particles studied at Fermilab.

"The twofold mirror symmetry about the east leg, indicated by the red and the black, is nearly perfect," Dr. Wilson said. "The more basic underlying threefold symmetry is perfect at the base, but deteriorates with height and is completely broken at the top of the arch. However, when viewed from directly above the center, or directly below, the arch again appears to be perfectly symmetrical."

Painter puts finishing touches on sculpture element

Painter puts finishing touches on sculpture element

In coming to the concept. Dr. Wilson decided to utilize some steel deck plate from the USS Princeton - as an expression of the "swords into plowshares" use at Fermilab of the thick iron plates of which the battleship had been made. The plates, acquired by Fermilab in 1972, are also used to provide thick absorbers of radiation in the experimental areas.

A two-week erection effort wound up last week under the guidance of Architectual Services' Gerda Pajic, project leader, and Marv Warner, department head.

Working from Wilson's concept, drawings were done by former Laboratory designer Tom Pawlak, now with Argonne National Laboratory. Jerry Peterson, Machine Shop foreman, made tooling, did layout work and cut elements. Handling welding assignments were Jim Forester, weld shop foreman and Gerald Knauf, machinist. Mike Mascione of Architectual Services inspected the finished product.

Welder joins three "legs" to pipe

Welder joins three "legs" to pipe

Located 614 feet east of Kirk Road, the sculpture's legs are bolted to concrete caissons. Each caisson, or concrete "root", is three and one-half feet in diameter and 21 and one-half feet deep. Each element's foot is anchored with eight bolts to a base plate.

The arch was painted on the ground before erection. The west face is flat black; the east face is red.

Element "C", tallest of the trio at 50 feet, is based south of Pine Street. It was erected first with a 10-inch diameter steel pipe connected to its vertical edge. Including pipe and base plate, C weighs 15,500 pounds.

Element "A", based north of Pine Street, was the third element erected. A is 45 feet high; it weighs 13,500 pounds. Element B was welded to Element C before Element A was erected.

The lowest of the elements, B stands 41 feet tall in the Pine Street median strip. B weighs 12,900 pounds. It was also welded at the top to the pipe. Clearance above the road is 32 feet.

Three holes cut in each element are designed to act as wind "spoilers," reducing air current vibrations. A lightning arrester is included.

After the arch was erected and welded at the top, the subcontractor plumbed the structure in its final position and welded elements to base plates. Welds were certified by ultra sonic and magnetic analysis.

Future plans call for the Pine Street gatehouse - 175 feet east of the arch - to be replaced with a modern circular gatehouse designed to harmonize with the arch.


"Battleship" armor from the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Princeton is incorporated in "Broken Symmetry," Fermilab's newest metal sculpture. The fifth Princeton since 1842, the latest version carried helicopters. Commissioned in 1945, the ship operated in the Atlantic until June, 1946 when she was transferred to the Pacific fleet. Decommissioned in 1949, she was reactivated for combat duty during Korean hostilities. Later Princeton served in Vietnam and in April, 1969, was designated prime recovery ship for Apollo 10-the lunar mission which paved the way for Apollo 11 and the first landing on the moon. She was decommissioned May 20, 1971.


Source: FermiNews Vol. 1 No. 7, June 22, 1978

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