Physics, the Frontier, and Megascience
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, located in the western suburbs of Chicago, has stood at the frontier of high-energy physics for forty years. Fermilab is the first history of this laboratory and of its powerful accelerators told from the point of view of the people who built and used them for scientific discovery.
Focusing on the first two decades of research at Fermilab, during the tenure of the laboratory’s charismatic first two directors, Robert R. Wilson and Leon M. Lederman, the book traces the rise of what they call “megascience,” the collaborative struggle to conduct large-scale international experiments in a climate of limited federal funding. In the midst of this new climate, Fermilab illuminates the growth of the modern research laboratory during the Cold War and captures the drama of human exploration at the cutting edge of science.
“Big Science keeps getting bigger—and the complexities of organizing a major laboratory at the edge of science run the range from instrumentation and sociology to the politics of congressional funding. Lillian Hoddeson, Adrienne Kolb, and Catherine Westfall have done a superb job of following the turbulent confluence of science and policy and created a major study of broad interest to anyone who wants to understand what large-scale research looks like in the real world.”
“For almost half a century, Fermilab has occupied center stage as physicists have sought to understand the fundamental structure of the universe. The lab deserves a good history, and I’m happy to say that in this book it has one. The authors present a compelling, nuanced, and richly detailed account of the place from its beginnings to the present.”
“Fermilab impresses with its detailed discussion of the technical, sociological, and political dimensions of the trials and triumphs of creating and operating a major research laboratory funded by the federal government. It brings vividly to life the laboratory and its people under the successive directorships of Bob Wilson, Leon Lederman, and John Peoples through description of representative experiments. A valuable account of a unique institution from its inception to the discovery of the top quark in 1995.”
“Fermilab is the grandest instrument ever built by American physicists; just one of its particle detectors is bigger than an entire laboratory of an earlier generation. This book tells the Fermilab story in full for the first time, and tells it as a human story, with no more technical detail than necessary. The book should appeal not only to readers interested in science and technology, but to anyone concerned about the negotiation and management of landmark projects.”
"This book is masterful in being both a major scholarly contribution to the history of physics and a riveting read....The authors benefited from a long connection to Fermilab and complete access to personnel, files, and archives. They also display a sense of the historical changes and a thorough understanding of the physics. It is, however, to their great credit that they also have produced such a readable page turner. Fermilab, still working magnificently in 2009, has found the chroniclers it deserves."
“Fermilab, the book, is the first written history of this unique place, covering both the birth of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and its journey to its current position as a world centre of ‘megascience’. Yet Fermilab is far from being a dry historical account. It spans the entire spectrum of what is required to establish a cutting-edge facility and perform research there — from organizational aspects and technological choices to the sociology and politics of funding and site selection….Fermilab will be of interest to anyone curious about science and science policy, as well as those who want a better understanding of what it is like to perform large-scale research in high-energy particle physics.”—Robert Roser, Physics World