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Clyde Cowan

AKA Clyde Lorrain Cowan, Jr.

Born: 6-Dec-1919
Birthplace: Detroit, MI
Died: 24-May-1974
Location of death: Bethesda, MD
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA

Gender: Male
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Physicist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Co-Discover of the neutrino

Military service: US Army Air Force, 1941-46 (to Captain)

American physicist Clyde Cowan was, with Frederick Reines, co-discoverer of the neutrino in 1956. The neutrino is the sister lepton of the electron, in the first generation of the quark-lepton family. Somewhat tongue in cheek, Cowan and Reines called their work "Project Poltergeist", an allusion to the ghostly and elusive quality of these particles. The neutrino was predicted by Wolfgang Pauli, but for decades until Cowan and Reines' work its existence was considered virtually unprovable. With no charge and negligible mass, Cowan and Reines conducted more than five years of experiments at Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Savannah River atomic plant in South Carolina before making their historic discovery.

Cowan also studied anti-matter and the 1908 Tunguska Meteor. His family was plagued with Rh-negative Factor, leading to the deaths in infancy of seven of Cowan's ten children. He and his wife also adopted two children, one of whom died in childhood. Reines, co-discoverer of the neutrino, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1995, but Cowan had died in 1974, and by Nobel rules potential laureates must still be alive to be considered for the honor.

Wife: Betty Eleanor Dunham Reed (m. 29-Jan-1943, ten children, seven d. infancy)
Daughter: Elizabeth Esthermay Cowan Riordon (b. 1944)
Daughter: Marian Jane Cowan Kriston (b. 1954)
Son: George Langstroth Cowan (US Naval officer, b. 1964)
Son: David Lorrain Cowan (adopted 1950; d. childhood)
Son: Michael Lorrain Cowan (b. 1953, adopted, d. 1972 auto accident)

    University: BS Chemical Engineering, University of Missouri at Rolla (1940)
    Scholar: Radiation Laboratory, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1943-45)
    University: MS Physics, Washington University in St. Louis
    University: PhD Physics, Washington University in St. Louis (1949)
    Teacher: George Washington University (1957-58)
    Professor: Catholic University of America (1958-74)

    Bronze Star World War II
    Guggenheim Fellowship
    Los Alamos National Laboratory
    Reserve Officers Training Corps (1936-40)
    American Institute of Physics
    American Physical Society
    Knights of Columbus
    Smithsonian Institution Consultant
    US Atomic Energy Commission Consultant

Author of books:
Essentials of Modern Physics (1973, textbook; with Virgilio Acosta, B. J. Graham)


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