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Donald A. Glaser, who at age 34 won the 1960 Nobel Prize in Physics for his creation in 1952 of the bubble chamber, a vessel filled with a superheated transparent liquid (usually liquid hydrogen) that can be used to detect electrically charged particles moving through it, died at 86 on this date in 2013. Glaser’s invention permitted the study of short-lived subatomic particles. After he became a Nobel Laureate, he changed his field of inquiry to molecular biology, a field in which he also designed innovative research equipment. In 1970 he cofounded the first biotechnology company, Cetus, which developed interleukin and interferon as cancer therapies as well as a powerful DNA tool, the polymerase chain reaction.
“The bubble chamber was a major breakthrough and led to the discovery of a zoo of new particles. It was the dominant particle detector in the 1960s and ‘70s, and had an enormous impact on the field of particle physics.” —Herbert Steiner