December 1, 2007



Brazilian physicist, co-discoverer of the pi meson or pion, one of the nuclear particles.

Lattes graduated in 1943 from the University of São Paulo (Brazil) with degrees in Mathematics and Physics.

He and a group of young Brazilian scientists worked under European teachers such as Giuseppe Occhialini and Gleb Wataghin .

César Lattes was one of the founders of the Brazilian Center for Physical Research (Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Físicas) in Rio de Janeiro.

In 1947 he began to study cosmic rays. In the same year, at the University of Bristol (England), under Cecil F. Powell’s supervision, he made the discovery of a new atomic particle, the pi meson (or pion), which disintegrates into a new kind of particle, the mu meson.

Cecil Powell alone was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1950 for “his development of the photographic method of studying nuclear processes and his discoveries regarding mesons made with this method”. Nobel Committee policy until 1960 was to give the award only to the head of the research group.

In 1948, working with Eugene Gardner at the University of California, Berkeley (USA), Lattes was able to detect the artificial production of pion particles (heavy and light mesons) by bombarding carbon atoms with alpha particles.

In 1969 he and his staff discovered the mass of the so-called fire balls, a phenomenon induced by naturally occurring high-energy collisions.

Lattes worked in Brazil at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro , Brazilian Center for Physical Research, University of São Paulo, and State University of Campinas.


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