Skip to main content.

Archives & History Office

Hours: By appointment Monday-Friday during regular work hours.

Contact:

  • E-mail: slacarc[@]slac.stanford.edu
  • Phone: (650)926-3091
  • Post: SLAC Archives and History Office, M/S 97, 2575 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025.

Office Location: Bldg.50, Rm.370

First Beam, 5/21/1966, 6:31 a.m.

The series of Polaroid photographs, snapped moments apart, show the drama, tension and--ultimately-–triumph in the SLAC Main Control Room in the early morning hours of May 21, 1966. After five long years of massive and painstaking engineering and construction, the brand new SLAC two-mile linear accelerator was about to (it was hoped) deliver its first beam. The first snapshot shows Director Panofsky pointing and Deputy Director Matt Sands looking on as the beam hits Sector 1;

Director Panofsky pointing and Deputy Director Matt 
Sands looking on as the beam hits Sector 1

in the second snap the entire control room group is huddled around the monitor, discussing why the beam got stuck in Sector 11.

Entire control room group is huddled around the monitor, 
discussing why the beam got stuck in Sector 11

The third, and final live-action photo, shows the control room crew's palpable relief, with smiles all around, as the beam hits sector 13.

Smiles all around, as the beam hits sector 13

At long last--6:31 a.m. to be exact--the beam made its way the full length of the accelerator! This being the era when the Beatles were all the rage internationally, some wag at the lab doctored a copy of the final snapshot to show the control room group as the physics rock stars they had just become. (A contemporary caption for the doctored photo noted: “In the last photo, the artist has taken the liberty of restoring some of the hair that was pulled out during SLAC’s construction.”)

Control room group in triumph: the beam has made its 
way the full length of the accelerator!

Panofsky congratulatory note to staff:

A major goal was reached with our achieving 
our first full length beam this month. This superb performance could never have been accomplished without the 
dedication and hard work of every member of the staff. I want to express my sioncerest personal thanks for your 
part in our achievement. Warmly, Wolfgang K. H. Panofsky, Director First Beam Spot Profile and graph showing the date the beam reached peak 
intensity

(Graph shows first beam achieved 5/21/66 at 15.2 GeV and peak beam of 16.17 GeV achieved four days later.)

 

-- Return to top --

Archives and History Office | SLAC Research Library |

Last Updated: 07/23/2012