May 11, 1974: Fermilab Dedication

(You can also view the original May 9, 2014 Fermilab Today article)

On a windy day 40 years ago this Sunday, Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) Chair Dixy Lee Ray dedicated the National Accelerator Laboratory, which was founded seven years earlier, as the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. In 1969, the AEC had announced its decision to name the lab in honor of Nobel Prize-winning Italian physicist Enrico Fermi, famous for producing the world's first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction at the University of Chicago.

More than 1,500 people attended the dedication, including several congressmen, former Universities Research Association President Norman F. Ramsey and H. Guyford Stever, the science advisor to the president. Speakers at the ceremony included Ray, Senator Charles Percy, Joint Committee on Atomic Energy Chair Melvin Price, URA President Robert Bacher, Laura Fermi (Enrico Fermi's widow), lab Director Robert R. Wilson and Users Committee Chair and future lab director Leon M. Lederman.

During his remarks, Wilson said, "We are deeply honored to have the name of Fermi attached to our laboratory. Laura, I pledge in your name that we will do our best to make this a laboratory worthy of the name of Enrico Fermi."

A plaque at the entrance of Wilson Hall states that President Richard Nixon and previous AEC Chair James Schlesinger dedicated Fermilab. Even though Nixon sent a letter for the dedication that Stever read aloud at the ceremony, he and Schlesinger never visited Fermilab. Watch these pages for news of a corrected plaque marking this significant moment in Fermilab's history.

The program from the dedication, the text of the remarks given by the speakers, a copy of the original AEC press release announcing the naming, and many other materials related to the dedication are available in the Fermilab Archives.

You can read about the event in the May 9, 1974, and May 16, 1974, issues of the original Fermilab employee newsletter, The Village Crier. You can also see the program prepared after the dedication containing the text of the remarks by the speakers and read more about the dedication ceremony at the Fermilab History and Archives Project website.

Fermilab personnel, users and visitors gather in front of the newly completed central laboratory building (later named Wilson Hall) to celebrate the dedication of the lab. On the platform, from left: John Erlewine, Leon M. Lederman, Dixy Lee Ray, Representative Craig Hosmer, Norman Ramsey, Representative Melvin Price, Laura Fermi, Robert Bacher (standing), Senator Charles Percy, Geoffrey Norman, Representative Chet Holifield, Robert R. Wilson, Representative Frank Annunzio (obscured), Guyford Stever, Gerald Tape (partially obscured), John Teem. Photo: Fermilab (1 of 10)
Atomic Energy Commission Chair Dixy Lee Ray (2 of 10)
Senator Charles Percy (3 of 10)
Joint Committee on Atomic Energy Chair Melvin Price (4 of 10)
Universities Research Association President Robert Bacher (5 of 10)
Laura Fermi (Enrico Fermi's widow) (6 of 10)
Fermilab director Robert R. Wilson (7 of 10)
Users Committee Chair and future Fermilab director Leon M. Lederman (8 of 10)
April 29, 1969 press release by AEC announcing the renaming of the lab. (Click on the image to view the full document as a PDF.) (9 of 10)
A copy of a letter sent by President Richard Nixon to mark Fermilab's dedication. (10 of 10)