Founding of Brookhaven National Laboratory

March 1947

Founding of Brookhaven National Laboratory


In 1946, representatives from nine major eastern universities Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, University of Rochester, and Yale formed a nonprofit corporation to establish a new nuclear-science facility. They choose a surplus army base way out on Long Island as the site.

The U.S. War Department transferred Upton to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) on March 21, 1947. The AEC, a predecessor to the present U. S. Department of Energy (DOE), provided the initial funding for Brookhaven's research into the peaceful uses of the atom, with the goal of improving public well-being.

Brookhaven National Laboratory 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 designed to resemble a university campus.

Today, Brookhaven is one of ten national laboratories under DOE's Office of Science, which provides the majority of the Laboratory's research dollars and directions. Founded in 1977 as the 12th cabinet-level department, DOE oversees much of the science research in this country through its Office of Science.