First Beam

First Beam, 5/21/1966, 6:31 a.m.

The series of Polaroid photographs, snapped moments apart, show the drama, tension and--ultimately-–triumph in the SLAC Main Control Room in the early morning hours of May 21, 1966. After five long years of massive and painstaking engineering and construction, the brand new SLAC two-mile linear accelerator was about to (it was hoped) deliver its first beam. 

Group in control room looking at monitor
Director Panofsky pointing and Deputy Director Matt Sands looking on as the beam hits Sector 1 on May 21, 1966 (AHRO (Muffley))
Group standing around monitors in Control Room
Control Room group huddled around monitor, discussing why the beam got stuck in Sector 11 (AHRO (Muffley))
The Beam hits Sector 13! Smiling group standing around Control Room monitor
Control Room crew showing palpable relief, with smiles all around, as the beam hits sector 13 (AHRO (Muffley))

At long last--6:31 a.m. to be exact--the beam made its way the full length of the accelerator! This being the era when the Beatles were all the rage internationally, some wag at the lab doctored a copy of the final snapshot to show the control room group as the physics rock stars they had just become. (A contemporary caption for the doctored photo noted: “In the last photo, the artist has taken the liberty of restoring some of the hair that was pulled out during SLAC’s construction.”)

The Beam hist Sector 20! Doctored photo of Control Room group to show them as "The Beatles" of physics
Doctored photo of Control Room group to show them as "The Beatles" of physics (AHRO (Muffley))
Panofsky congratulatory note to staff
Panofsky congratulatory note to staff on first full beam at 16.17 GeV at SLAC 05/24/1966. (AHRO (Muffley))