Donald Young: First employee

Donald Young

On March 30, Fermilab’s first employee died at the age of 90. Donald Young was internationally known for his work on linear accelerators and instrumental in the establishment of Fermilab’s LINAC.

“Don was a very solid person,” John Peoples, Fermilab’s third director, said. “He filled the roles that needed to be filled. If you needed a leader, he would lead, but if you needed someone to be your deputy, he could be your deputy. He kept projects going and was really easy to get along with.”

After serving as a communications officer in the Infantry during WWII, Young received his PhD from the University of Minnesota and became a key player in the Midwestern Universities Research Association (MURA). When Fermilab was established in 1968, Young was the first person Robert Wilson hired.

“Don was the man I wanted to head the Linac Section of the National Accelerator Laboratory,” said Wilson in a 1969 interview with The Village Crier. “He was my first choice and luckily, for [Fermilab], he accepted the invitation and the challenge.”

In September 1968, Young, Wilson and Francis Cole sat at a picnic table and developed the plans for the first of many particle accelerators that would transform a plot of farmland in Batavia into a high-energy physics laboratory.

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—Sarah Charley