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;
in the second snap the 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.
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.”)
Panofsky congratulatory note to staff:
(Graph shows first beam achieved 5/21/66 at 15.2 GeV and peak beam of 16.17 GeV achieved four days later.)
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