60 Years of Discovery
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Brookhaven National Laboratory enters its seventh decade of science fueled by a passion for discovery that is stronger than ever. Through the years, Lab scientists plus thousands from around the world have used Brookhaven’s unique facilities — including one-of-a-kind accelerators, research reactors, computers, and microscopes — to delve into the basic mysteries of physics, chemistry, materials science, and biology. This anniversary web site offers a glimpse at the spectrum of this research, looking back and looking forward.
Founding a Laboratory for Peacetime Research
In 1946, representatives from nine major eastern universities — Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester, and Yale — formed a nonprofit corporation to establish a new science facility, and they chose a surplus army base “way out on Long Island” as the site. Thus, Brookhaven National Laboratory was born. On March 21, 1947, the U.S. War Department transferred the site of Camp Upton on Long Island to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), predecessor to the present U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The AEC provided the initial funding for Brookhaven’s research into the peaceful uses of the atom, with the goal of improving public well-being.
Brookhaven Lab was conceived to promote basic research in the physical, chemical, biological and engineering aspects of the atomic sciences. An equally important concept was the establishment of a national laboratory in the Northeast to design, construct and operate large scientific machines that individual institutions could not afford to develop on their own. The Laboratory was also to resemble a university to the greatest extent possible.