Atomic Heritage Foundation

In partnership with the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History National Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Pierre Auger

Pierre Victor Auger was born in Paris on May 14, 1899. He was a French physicist, whose work focused on atomic, cosmic ray, and nuclear physicists.

In 1922, he joined the Chemistry Lab at the University of Paris and studied under Jean Perrin. Five years later he earned his Ph.D. there in Physics. In 1925, Auger successfully discovered the multiple- cloud chamber electron tracks. This proved that X-rays could use several electrons from just one atom.

In 1937, he became the head of the Physics Department at the University of Paris- Sorbonne. He later briefly taught Physics at the University of Chicago.

During World War II, Auger joined the Free French Forces. In 1941, he went to Montreal to work with the Tube Alloy team, the British and Canadian effort to develop nuclear weapons. He also warned General Charles de Gaulle about the Manhattan Project. After working in Montreal, he moved to London to work on the French Scientific Mission.

In 1945, the University of Paris appointed him to be the director of higher education in the science department. He held this position until 1948, and helped create a genetics department.

Working with cosmic rays, he discovered the concept of cosmic air showers. These air showers result from the collision between a high-energy particle in outer space and the outer layer of the atmosphere. Each collision produces millions of secondary interaction. Today the Pierre Auger Observatory, located in Argentina, is designed to detect ultra-high-energy cosmic rays, and to sponsor research.

On December 25, 1993, Auger passed away at the age of 94.

For more on the French Nuclear Program, click here.

Pierre Auger's Timeline

  • 1899 May 14th Born in Paris, France.
  • 1919 to 1922 Studied at École Normale Supérieure in Paris.
  • 1921 Married Suzanne Motteau.

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