This month in Fermilab history: April

Plans for a new accelerator laboratory began in April 1963. Subsequent Aprils brought the completion of the Central Laboratory Building, the installation of the final Main Ring magnet and other important milestones. Read on.

Atomic Energy Commission logo. Credit: Wikimedia

April 1963: Plans for a new lab

Physicists had discussed the need for a new accelerator laboratory in the United States for years before the Atomic Energy Commission (the predecessor to the Department of Energy) built the National Accelerator Laboratory, which would later be named Fermilab. These early discussions culminated in a report published in April 1963 by a panel of scientists led by Norman F. Ramsey. It recommended that the United States build an accelerator with an energy of 200 GeV. In a conference at Brookhaven National Laboratory in June of that year, Columbia physicist Leon M. Lederman suggested that the United States needed a “truly national laboratory” that would give all experiment proposals equal consideration rather than favoring those from any particular institution. These ideas laid the groundwork for the National Accelerator Laboratory.

The MINERvA detector saw first neutrinos in April 2009.

April 1, 2009: MINERvA detects first neutrinos

MINERvA is a neutrino scattering experiment that uses Fermilab’s NuMI beamline and seeks to measure low energy neutrino interactions. The detector, located in the MINOS near detector hall, observed its first neutrinos on April 1, 2009.

The Central Laboratory Building, later renamed Wilson Hall, was under construction in 1973.

April 5, 1973: Central Laboratory Building complete

The Central Laboratory Building, later named Wilson Hall, was designed by architect Alan H. Rider with significant input from lab director Robert R. Wilson, who was inspired, in part, by French cathedrals. Construction began in 1971, and on April 5, 1973, the lab held the topping out ceremony for the building. The ceremony signified that the last bucket of cement had been poured. Lab staff would move into the new building during 1973 and 1974.

The vast preserve that was the Fermilab site received a special designation in April 1989.

April 5, 1989: National Environmental Research Park designation

On this day, Fermilab was designated as one of the Department of Energy’s six National Environmental Research Parks. These parks serve as outdoor laboratories where environmental research is carried out.

Fermilab Director Robert R. Wilson and visitors watch as the last magnet is installed.

April 16, 1971: Last Main Ring magnet installed

Lab staff installed the final magnet in the Main Ring on April 16, 1971. Lab Director Robert R. Wilson, Atomic Energy Commission Chair Glenn Seaborg, Universities Research Association President Norman Ramsey, and the visiting chairman of the Soviet State Committee on Atomic Energy Andronik M. Petrosyants were present for the event.

The Tevatron was installed below the Main Ring.

April 28, 1984: Tevatron superconducting accelerator dedication

The superconducting accelerator that was installed below the Main Ring was dedicated on April 28, 1984.