Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Greek scientist who acquired his nuclear physics knowledge through self-study

The title says: Self studying atomic scientist finds a way to materialize energy

Nicholas Constantine Christofilos (Νικόλαος Χριστοφίλου) (December 16, 1916 - September 24, 1972) was a Greek-American physicist.

Christofilos was born in Boston, Massachusetts and raised in Greece. He was working for an Athens elevator company when he became interested in high-energy particle physics.

In 1946 he independently developed ideas for a Synchrotron and in 1949 he conceived the strong-focusing principle. Rather than publishing in a journal he submitted a patent application in the US and Greece. His discovery went unnoticed for several years and strong-focusing was rediscovered in 1952 and applied to accelerators at Brookhaven, Cornell and CERN.

Christofilos was offered a position at Brookhaven in 1953. In 1956 he joined Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory to continue his work on ASTRON a proposed thermonuclear reactor under the Sherwood Project.

At LLNL, Christofilos worked on a number of military projects. He became a member of JASON and was the principal behind Operation Argus, a series of high-altitude nuclear detonations intended to create a radiation belt in the upper regions of the Earth's atmosphere as a defence against Soviet ICBMs.

In the early 1960s Christofilos proposed Extreme low Frequency Waves (ELF) as practical way to communicate with submarines. The concept was tested in a 22500-square-mile antenna system called Project Sanguine.

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