The Laboratory was established in 1952 to meet an urgent national security need by helping to advance nuclear weapons science and technology. At Berkeley, Ernest O. Lawrence had created the model of how large-scale science should be pursued—through multidisciplinary team efforts. Lawrence and Edward Teller argued for the creation of a second laboratory to augment the efforts of Los Alamos. Activities began at Livermore under the aegis of University of California with a commitment by our first director, Herbert York, to follow Lawrence’s team-science approach and be a “new ideas” laboratory. Since then, with support principally from the Department of Energy (DOE) and its predecessors, Livermore has been making history and making a difference.
Lawrence died on August 27, 1958. By the time of his death, at age 57, he had won virtually every major award in his field, ushered in a new age of physics, and developed a new way of doing science. Soon after his death, the University of California regents renamed the Berkeley and Livermore laboratories to honor him. In discussing Lawrence and the evolution of his laboratories, Herb York concluded, “I think if Lawrence were to visit the Lab today, he’d take the same ‘gee whiz’ attitude that he took 50 years ago. His lab has evolved in a perfectly natural way—the scope is wider, but the science is still an adventure.”