history

Fermilab’s beginnings can be traced to a 1963 report by a panel of U.S. scientists led by Norman Ramsey. In the 50 years since, Fermilab has grown to a laboratory of 1,800 employees, and scientists from 44 countries come to Fermilab to participate in its forefront particle physics programs.

One day Robert Wilson decided that, instead of taking the elevator, he would climb 10 flights of stairs to work. Some of the rest of us followed his example, and then we got the idea that we’d see who could do it the fastest.

Many visitors to Fermilab reasonably conclude from its name that Enrico Fermi worked at the laboratory, but he never did. In fact, he died in 1954, years before scientists even officially recommended the construction of a U.S. accelerator laboratory.

As part of our year-long recognition of Fermilab’s 50th anniversary, we will feature a few important milestones in the laboratory’s history every month.

In the 1970s, interesting shapes and striking colors were the order of the day at Fermilab. Bob Sheldon saw an opportunity when one of the outlying buildings on the site, which was to be a support facility for a large particle detector, needed a roof.

The setting provided by founding Director Bob Wilson’s creative design of the laboratory and his many sculptures are an enduring source of pride for those associated with Fermilab and for the surrounding community. One of the sculptures that has gained widespread attention is “Tractricious.”

Water to the ropes

Robert Wilson was a man born out of his time. He lived in America from 1914 to 2000, but he really belonged to the central Italy of the 1500s. One ever-present reminder of this is the sculpture that sits in the reflecting pond in front of Wilson Hall.