Alvarez, Luis Walter, 1911–88, American physicist, b. San Francisco, grad. Univ. of Chicago, 1932, Ph.D. 1936. He was awarded the 1968 Nobel Prize in Physics for his discovery of a large number of residence states (subatomic particles that have very short lifetimes and that occur only in high-energy nuclear collisions), which was made possible through his development of the liquid-hydrogen bubble chamber (see particle detector). He also helped develop the ground-control approach system for aircraft in the 1940s and played an important part in the Manhattan Project, where he suggested the technique for detonating the implosion type of atomic bomb. A member of the National Inventor's Hall of Fame, Alvarez held the patents for more than 30 inventions, including three types of radar systems. His autobiography, Alvarez: Adventures of a Physicist, was published in 1987. He; his son, the geologist Walter Alvarez, 1940–, b. Berkeley, Calif.; and others proposed that unusually high levels of iridium at the boundary between Cretaceous and Tertiary rocks indicated a major meteor impact with the earth about 65 million years ago and that this might be the cause of the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.
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