Donald Glaser was born in 1926 in Cleveland, U.S.A. During his youth he showed great musical promise, but chose to focus on the sciences. In 1950 he received a Ph.D. in physics and mathematics from the California Institute of Technology. In 1953 Glaser joined the staff of the University of Michigan and in 1957 became a full professor. In 1959 he moved to the University of California.
Donald Glaser was awarded the 1960 Nobel prize in Physics for the invention of the bubble chamber, which is used to detect and measure the course of elementary particles.
Glaser’s invention solved a difficult problem that faced particle physics researchers, who needed a suitable detector for the new generation of powerful particle accelerators. The “Cloud Chamber”, which had served this purpose in the past, was no longer suitable for the high velocities and enormous energies that these accelerators produced.
Glaser claimed that the idea for the development of the Bubble Chamber came to him when he was looking at a foaming beer bottle. He built a cell containing liquid under pressure, at a temperature only slightly lower than its boiling temperature. Energetic particles that pass through the liquid cause it to boil and leave behind them a trail of bubbles, which can then be photographed and measured.
His invention enabled experimental physicists to continue exploring the sub-atomic world.