Raymond Davis Jr.
Davis in 2001
Born(1914-10-14)October 14, 1914
DiedMay 31, 2006(2006-05-31) (aged 91)[1][2]
Blue Point, New York,
United States
Alma materUniversity of Maryland
Yale University
Known forNeutrinos
AwardsComstock Prize in Physics (1978)
Tom W. Bonner Prize (1988)
Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize (1994)
Wolf Prize in Physics (2000)
National Medal of Science (2001)
Nobel Prize in Physics (2002)
Enrico Fermi Award (2003)
Scientific career
FieldsChemistry, physics
University of Pennsylvania
ThesisThe ionization constant of carbonic acid and the solubility of carbon-dioxide in water and sodium chloride solutions from 0 to 50 degrees c. (1942)

Raymond Davis Jr. (October 14, 1914 – May 31, 2006) was an American chemist and physicist. He is best known as the leader of the Homestake experiment in the 1960s-1980s, which was the first experiment to detect neutrinos emitted from the Sun; for this he shared the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics.[3]

Early life and education


Davis was born in Washington, D.C., where his father was a photographer for the National Bureau of Standards. He spent several years as a choirboy to please his mother, although he could not carry a tune. He enjoyed attending the concerts at the Watergate before air traffic was loud enough to drown out the music. His brother Warren, 14 months younger than he, was his constant companion in boyhood. He received his B.S. from the University of Maryland in 1938 in chemistry, which is part of the University of Maryland College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences. He also received a master's degree from that school and a Ph.D. from Yale University in physical chemistry in 1942.[4]



Davis spent most of the war years at Dugway Proving Ground, Utah[5] observing the results of chemical weapons tests and exploring the Great Salt Lake basin for evidence of its predecessor, Lake Bonneville.[6]

After his discharge from the army in 1945,[6] Davis went to work at Monsanto's Mound Laboratory, in Miamisburg, Ohio, doing applied radiochemistry of interest to the United States Atomic Energy Commission. In 1948, he joined Brookhaven National Laboratory, which was attempting to find peaceful uses for nuclear power.[5]

Davis reports that he was asked "to find something interesting to work on," and dedicated his career to the study of neutrinos, particles which had been predicted to explain the process of beta decay, but whose separate existence had not been confirmed. Davis investigated the detection of neutrinos by beta decay, the process by which a neutrino brings enough energy to a nucleus to make certain stable isotopes into radioactive ones. Since the rate for this process is very low, the number of radioactive atoms created in neutrino experiments is very small, and Davis began investigating the rates of processes other than beta decay that would mimic the signal of neutrinos. Using barrels and tanks of carbon tetrachloride as detectors, Davis characterized the rate of the production of argon-37 as a function of altitude and as a function of depth underground. He deployed a detector containing chlorine atoms at the Brookhaven Reactor in 1954 and later one of the reactors at Savannah River. These experiments failed to detect a surplus of radioactive argon when the reactors were operating over when the reactors were shut down, and this was taken as the first experimental evidence that neutrinos causing the chlorine reaction, and antineutrinos produced in reactors, were distinct. Detecting neutrinos proved considerably more difficult than not detecting antineutrinos. Davis was the lead scientist behind the Homestake Experiment, the large-scale radiochemical neutrino detector which first detected evidence of neutrinos from the sun.[5][4]

Davis shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2002 with Japanese physicist Masatoshi Koshiba and Italian Riccardo Giacconi for pioneering contributions to astrophysics, Davis was recognized for his work on the detection of cosmic neutrinos,[7] looking at the solar neutrino problem in the Homestake Experiment. He was 88 years old when awarded the prize.

Personal life


Davis met his wife Anna Torrey at Brookhaven and together they built a 21-foot wooden sailboat, the Halcyon. They had five children and lived in the same house in Blue Point, New York for over 50 years.[6] He died in Blue Point, New York, from complications of Alzheimer's disease.[1][2]

Honors and awards

Davis receiving the Medal of Science from President Bush, with OSTP Director Marburger on the left

Notable works


Other publications



  1. ^ a b Kenneth Chang (2 June 2006). "Raymond Davis Jr., Nobelist Who Caught Neutrinos, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-10-10.
  2. ^ a b David B. Caruso (2 June 2006). "Raymond Davis, who detected elusive solar particles, dies at 91". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2007-10-10.
  3. ^ Lande, Kenneth (October 2006). "Obituary: Raymond Davis Jr". Physics Today. 59 (10): 78–80. Bibcode:2006PhT....59j..78L. doi:10.1063/1.2387099.
  4. ^ a b Lande, Kenneth (2018). "Raymond Davis Jr. 1914–2006". Biographical Memoirs of the National Academy of Sciences (PDF). Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. pp. 1–28.
  5. ^ a b c Lande, Kenneth (1 November 2009). "The Life of Raymond Davis, Jr. and the Beginning of Neutrino Astronomy". Annual Review of Nuclear and Particle Science. 59 (1): 21–39. Bibcode:2009ARNPS..59...21L. doi:10.1146/annurev.nucl.010909.083753. ISSN 0163-8998. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  6. ^ a b c "The Nobel Prize in Physics 2002". NobelPrize.org. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  7. ^ a b "Press Release: The 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics". nobelprize.org. Nobel Media AB. Retrieved 2017-03-29.
  8. ^ Gaisser, Thomas K.; Pittel, Stuart (1 May 2004). "Neutrinos from the Sun: The 2003 Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics presented to John Bahcall11Institute for Advanced Study, School of Natural Sciences, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA., Raymond Davis, Jr.22Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA., and Masatoshi Koshiba33International Center for Elementary Particle Physics, University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8654, Japan". Journal of the Franklin Institute. 341 (3): 223–229. doi:10.1016/j.jfranklin.2003.12.024. ISSN 0016-0032.
  9. ^ "The President's National Medal of Science: Recipient Details | Raymond Davis". NSF - National Science Foundation. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  10. ^ National Science Foundation – The President's National Medal of Science
  11. ^ "Raymond Davis Jr". Wolf Foundation. 10 December 2018. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  12. ^ "Hale Prize awarded to Raymond Davis". SolarNews. January 1, 1996. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  13. ^ "George Ellery Hale Prize - Previous Winners". AAS Solar Physics Division. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  14. ^ "Acoustics Work Honored at ASA Meeting". Physics Today. 47 (7): 75. 1 July 1994. doi:10.1063/1.2808583. ISSN 0031-9228.
  15. ^ "Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize". American Astronomical Society. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  16. ^ "1992 W.K.H. Panofsky Prize in Experimental Particle Physics Recipient". The American Physical Society. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  17. ^ "1988 Tom W. Bonner Prize in Nuclear Physics Recipient". The American Physical Society. Retrieved 9 March 2023.
  18. ^ "Comstock Prize in Physics". National Academy of Sciences.