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 Feb. 1, 1970. The experimenters came from the National Accelerator Laboratory, the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research (Dubna, USSR), 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 Feb. 11, surpassing the 76-GeV accelerator at Serpukhov Laboratory in the USSR, 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 Feb. 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 Feb. 10, 1972, and Feb. 24, 1972, issues of The Village Crier, the lab’s employee newsletter. The event was commemorated in an article in the Feb. 7, 1992, issue of FermiNews. You can also read the original proposal for the experiment. Additionally, the Fermilab Archives contains records related to
—from the Fermilab History and Archives Project