César Lattes: A life to be told



LIMA, Gabriel Augusto Câmara Paiva [1] SAPUNARU, Raquel Anna [2]

LIMA, Gabriel Augusto Câmara Paiva. SAPUNARU, Raquel Anna. César Lattes: A life to be told. Revista Científica Multidisciplinar Núcleo do Conhecimento. Year 05, Ed. 10, Vol. 05, pp. 181-196. October 2020. ISSN: 2448-0959, Access Link: https://www.nucleodoconhecimento.com.br/philosophy-en/life


This article reports a little of the life and work of one of the greatest Brazilian physicists, César Lattes. Many important names crossed lattes’ path and together with him they built Brazilian physics. It can be affirmed that without the dedication and charisma of this remarkable scientist, the teaching of physics in Brazil would not be the same. His dedication to research had a worldwide effect, opening doors for the improvement of physics teaching. Lattes possessed a unique personality, captivating and exuberant, but sometimes troubled. For these and many other reasons, his life and work has inspired to this day other physicists, as well as teachers, journalists and historians from all over the world. This article is a historical report that can serve as support in the teaching of physics or sciences in general. This is a bibliographical research.

Keywords: Lattes, physics, life.


Who was César Lattes? According to himself (2001), the surname Lattes, inherited from his father’s grandfather is of Jewish origin. His father came to Curitiba from Italy at the age of 19, in 1912, to work at the French-Italian Bank. In 1914, he sailed by ship to fight in the 1st. great war alongside the Austrians and Germans. It was during this period that his father met his mother, a French teacher. Upon his return in 1921, he created Banco Brasul, in which he took over the general management. His father died in 1975 and his mother in 1986. Lattes says that they helped him a lot, because they gave him an apartment when he was a father for the fourth time, in addition to costing the medical treatments of his depressions.

Lattes was born in 1924 in Curitiba and at the age of two moved to Caxias do Sul. Then he went to Porto Alegre, during the Revolution of 1930. From Porto Alegre he went with his family to Italy, where he stayed for six months and studied in a public school in Turin. Returning from Italy to Curitiba, he remained there until 1933, when at the age of nine, he went to São Paulo to study at Dante Alighieri boarding school. He married, had four daughters and nine grandchildren, but none of them followed the path of physics.

It is worth exploring a little more the motivation of Lattes for the study of Physics. This was due to two facts: first, when finishing the gym, he learned that a teacher had three months of vacation a year, instead of a month, as occurred with most other professions, which made him very interested and second, that most subjects were of the type “decoreba”, except for Physics and Mathematics, which he liked and had ease. Thus, Lattes leaned towards the study of Physics (BASSALO, 1990; MARQUES, 2005).

According to Letícia Oliveira (2013), curiously discovered by professors José Leite Lopes[3] and Gleb Vassielievich Wataghin[4] and possessed the best grades of the vestibular exam at the University of São Paulo, no one could imagine the magnitude of this feat when Lattes at the age of 22, suggested to Cecil Frank Powell[5] to add boron to his photographic plates, used in the study of nuclear emulsions. This led him to be nominated several times for the Nobel Prize in Physics, a title he did not receive just because at the time it was a tradition that the prize was awarded to the heads of the research groups, in this case, Powell.

These events changed the picture of Brazilian physics, because Lattes’ work showed that even in a less developed country where the research material was not so abundant, it was possible for a young man to make a world-important discovery. From this, scientists became excited and created numerous research institutes even before Lattes’ return to the country. Lattes became so notable that he received several national and international awards and honors. The largest of them in 1999, when CNPq graced him giving the system of academic curricula his name.

Having said that, this article is the subject of a brief biographical study that set out to raise and praise some aspects of the life of one of the most brilliant Brazilian scientists, perhaps in the world, the great physicist César Lattes. Thus, a reflexive and systematic procedure was performed, in which the data were obtained by indirect documentation, that is, research of an existing bibliography, since it seeks to explain and tell the life of this thinker based on theoretical contributions published in books, articles and institutional sites. It is, then, a compilation article, remembering that this type of study consists in neatly gathering the selected bibliography, combining it and extracting from it what is interesting for the fulfillment of the objective. Generally speaking, a bibliographical research was carried out combined with a historical research that covers the reading, analysis and interpretation of books, articles and established institutional sites. This is because this type of research aims to know the different contributions available on a given topic.


César Lattes did not consider himself a physicist, but a teacher, so he said that “The physicist believes in an objective reality and the teacher teaches it”. (LATTES, 2001, p.18). Moreover, in relation to recent physics, he stated that physicists only declared that they were coming to the end of science and that we are not even at the beginning of everything that is to be discovered.

For Lattes (2001), the greatest Brazilian physicist until then had been Marcelo Damy[6], because not only would he have discovered important things, but also manufactured the equipment, measured and published his results, along with Gleb Wataghin and Paulus “Pompéia” Aulus[7]. Particularly about Wataghin, it is worth mentioning that he was the pioneer in Modern Physics in Brazil. He came on a mission from the Italian government when Teodoro Ramos went to seek teachers in Europe to found the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters. His family was of Russian origin and was connected to the royal family. He was finishing physics in Kiev when he was forced to move to Turin because of the revolution of 1917. So although most physicists don’t know, they’re heirs to Wataghin.

Three other very important personalities in his opinion were Giuseppe Occhialini[8], involved with the discovery of antimatter of new particles, a crucial starting point for the exploration of the universe through X-rays and gamma rays and Joaquim Costa Ribeiro[9], discoverer of the dipole formation of electric charge in the phase changes of solids and liquids. He continued his account by stating that the fact that there are few relevant names in physics was not due to the fact that he was demanding about it, but rather that the works had more names than results. This made it difficult to say who was good, since even with the increase in the number of scientists in this area the great triumphs did not arise.

During his undergraduate course, Lattes studied Mathematics and Physics, as well as other subjects. It was about six hours of classes a day, with lab classes that took almost all of their day, with the students themselves putting together the experiments. In 1943, at the age of 19, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physics and from there all the knowledge he obtained was through studies, both alone and with his colleagues, in addition to reading scientific journals. The library where he graduated was beautiful and had been given by the Italian government. This was the work of Wataghin, who negotiated with the Italian government the donation of complete collections of updated physics and mathematics books. Salaries were much better than the current ones. When he graduated, Lattes says, “I should make about 900 a month, which should give, today, about four thousand dollars.” (LATTES, 2001, p.28).

Early in his career, Lattes was invited to be the third assistant to the chair of Theoretical Physics and Mathematics, conducted by Wataghin. He did work together with Wathaghin on the abundance of elements in the universe. For this, he used statistical thermodynamics of high densities and temperatures. Soon after, he was invited by Mário Schenberg[10] to calculate the field of a puntiform dipole with angular momentum. After this second work, he gave up theoretical physics and went to Wilson’s chamber[11].

It’s important to know that Occhialini and Wataghin didn’t work together. Wataghin was director of the Physics Department and always gave greater credit to his assistants. During the Great War, he and his wife stayed here. Considered an enemy, he could not remain at the head of the department and won a room with another entrance, because the department produced sleepers and other equipment, all focused on war. Now Occhialini invented an automatic control and put it in Wilson’s chamber. It was with him that they photographed the pósitrons in 1933. However, Wilson won the Nobel Prize in 1948. In 1950, Powell won the Nobel Prize, but when Lattes, Powell and Occhialini discovered the méson-π, the Occhialini was best known for its work of producing pósitrons. Still, they gave the award to Powell only. In Lattes’ opinion, Occhialini could have won a Nobel Prize, but they harmed him twice. After that, he went to Brussels, then Genoa, and in the end went to Milan to coordinate Italian space physics.

Even though Occhialini became an administrator at the end of his career, Lattes considered him a physicist and not a teacher; and more: he was an experimental physicist, for Lattes never saw him write a single formula. In his works, Occhialini did not go into theoretical details. As the world went through successive wars, there were too many leftover materials that are easily accessible, such as engines and other things of scientific interest. Occhialini bought many of these parts to build his devices and even automated a microscope. Lattes states that Occhialini “was extremely skilled. There was a microscope he made, with pedal-controlled motors, so he wouldn’t have to use his hands to move the blades.” (LATTES, 2001, p.36). Besides, he had a Wilson camera, but he couldn’t get it up and running. Lattes did it. However, he was the one who taught Lattes how to operate this chamber and also invented an automatic system of fixing emulsions. However, he soon embarked for Bristol where he would work with Powell.

Lattes, Ugo Camerini[12] and André Wataghin, Wataghin’s son, built their own Wilson camera, from which they took photographs that were sent to Occhialini. So Occhialini sent a photomicrograph that used a new emulsion six times more concentrated, created by him. The emulsion Powell used was common, in which the risks of protons should be looked at very carefully, as there was too much interference in the background. As Occhialini had difficulty seeing these risks, with the new emulsion the problem was solved. Through photomicrography, Lattes realized that with Wilson’s camera, he would need 2,000 times more time to do the same thing. For that reason, he wrote to Occhialini and asked him for a place in Bristol. Powell and Occhialini got him a scholarship from Wills, a cigarette company, and the Getulio Vargas Foundation paid for his one-way ticket to Bristol.

Lattes reports that Powell had no initiative and that it was difficult to get him out of twenty years of work with photographic emulsions that could be purchased in ordinary stores. He was the only student of Charles Thomson Rees Wilson[13], wilson’s chamber, to do doctorate with him. The photographic emulsion was cheap, almost free, because the laboratory was collaborating with Ilford, the company that manufactured the emulsions. Powell was exposing plates and stayed at it, that is, working with neutron scattering across multiple targets and neutron-proton scattering. After the reformulation of the plates, the work began to present results.

It is noteworthy that these plates are sensitive to visible light, but as the film is concentrated and very thick, visible light covered only the surface and could not penetrate. Even if exposed to a little light, with alcohol it was possible to remove this layer and the rest were the grains sensitized by protons, in addition to some others in the background. With common Ilford plates, the exposure time was two to three days. On the other hand, these plates loaded with borax could reach up to fifteen. Over time, the imaging disappears. A proton today and a proton from before yesterday had a different grain density and borax was holding the imaging. In this way, Bristol beat Cambridge, as only Bristol possessed the borax invented by Lattes.

The borax discovery occurred when Lattes wanted to see boron disintegration into two alpha particles and an H3 and asked Ilford to make a plate containing the borax itself. Then, it was found that the plates containing borax had no weakening of the imaging. As already said, the films were commissioned from Ilford and Bristol discussed how to improve the plate, to the point where it was possible to see the protons very well; and then, in 1948, the electron. The plates were of only one emulsion, two to three inches long and covered with black paper; packaged in red light and only open after finished exposure, when they were examined under a microscope.

As Occhialini and Powell were finishing work with the old plates, it was up to Lattes to follow the new project. When Occhialini went on holiday in the Pyrenees, Lattes, who was interested in boron, asked him to take the plates new and old, to expose them in the heights. The ones with boron had the best results. Thus, in an exposed plate in the Pyrenees, it was possible to detect the first decay. Then Lattes went to the geography department and discovered that in Bolivia, 20 km from La Paz, there was a peak with an Andean Club at 5,500 m high and accessible all year round. He knew that at 5,500 m he would get much more phenomena than in the Pyrenees, at 2,800 m. With this discovery he decided: “You pay me for the trip to Brazil and I turn around.” (LATTES, 2001, p.46).

Lattes took a plane to Brazil and then a plane to La Paz. Arriving in Bolivia, he went to the Physics Department of the University of La Paz where he met Professor Vicente Burgaleta, who referred him to the director of the Institute of Meteorology, Ismael Escobar. Lattes explained to him that he wanted to expose the plates as loud as possible for a month and then went to the Andean Club. Up there is a peak in Chacaltaya. Lattes believed that when Escobar built the observatory, he didn’t know there was a second ridge. So he built it at 5,500 m, at the first peak in Chacaltaya. They placed four wooden plates forming a pyramid and two others above. Lattes returned to Brazil, leaving the plates there for a month and then returned to pick them up.

Analyzing the first plate together with Guido Beck[14] in Rio, it was possible to see the third méson-π. The first plaque had been unveiled at Escobar’s house. The water was not very good and it got a little dirty, but it was still possible to see the third π. He had already found two on the plates exposed in the Pyrenees, but in Chacaltaya he had achieved much more, about thirty. From there Lattes was able to estimate the mass of two mesons. When he published the work with the evaluation of the mass, he showed that the disintegration of the heavy meson came out a light méson, today called muon and something light and neutral that is now known, is the muonic neutrino.

After that, Niels Bohr[15] sent assistants to Bristol to stay on high for the situation. These assistants, they told Bohr that it was Lattes who was making the measurements. Lattes was in Bristol and Bohr’s assistants could see him at work. Soon after, came the invitation to give seminars at the Danish Society of Physics, as well as invitations to speak in Stockholm and Lund. Bohr was very kind to Lattes. After presenting two seminars, he invited him to talk in the inner garden of his home. Lattes told him about Chacaltaya and why he left Bristol at such a fruitful time. Bohr then agreed and told him, “Get your face on.” (LATTES, 2001, p.50). After his father, Bohr was the man who impressed and inspired Lattes the most, by the confidence he inspired. After that, there was no more contact between them.

It is important to contextualize what was happening in Brazil at this same time in terms of structuring for the development of science. According to Souza Barros (2013), in 1937, with the extinction of the University of the Federal District (UDF), the University of Brazil (UB) was created, where isolated colleges and professional schools of the former University of Rio de Janeiro and the University of the Federal District were grouped. The National Faculty of Philosophy (FNFi) was founded in 1939. In the 1940s, when the Brazilian Center for Physical Research (CBPF) was created, a significant set of its founders, including Lattes and Leite Lopes, were professors of the FNFi of UB. In 1945, a federal decree reformed the operational structure of ub. The construction of the University Island campus began in 1945 under Getúlio Vargas. At the time of Vargas, extraordinary revenues were allocated by the central government to cover the expenses of transferring colleges and professional schools to the University Island. The transfer of the University of Brazil to The Island of Fundão, an act of the government of Getúlio Vargas, had the purpose of favoring the growth of a university center to contribute to the development of the country.

Returning to physical events in 1935, Hideki Yukawa[16] predicted the existence of the méson, but Lattes and the team were not after him. In 1938, Carl David Anderson[17] and Seth Neddermeyer[18] detected the mesotron, which was the μ(múon), originated from π, without strong interaction. There were many groups behind these mesons at the time, but the only method of detection was through the photo plate and so there was a class of ten people next to Powell. When he had been in Bristol for about a year and a half, Lattes went to Berkeley to closely monitor the artificial production of mesons, as this would help him in his research, as it would be possible to study them in much more detail. According to Vieira and Videira:

[…] there is a consensus among the authors analyzed in this study that the result of greater repercussion for Brazilian physics was those obtained by César Lattes in Bristol (England) and Berkeley (United States). In 1947, the H.S. Laboratory team. H. Wills, from the University of Bristol, in which Lattes participated, detected among the particles generated by the shock of cosmic rays against atmospheric molecules the so-called meson π (or python), using the technique of nuclear emulsions (special types of photographs used in nuclear physics). (2007, p.16).

Behind the artificial production of the méson was Milton Eugene Gardner[19], who along with his team, sought the méson-μ. However, this méson cannot be produced artificially, but the π can and this decays into μ. They probably hadn’t been aware of this fact. There was a four-ton electromagnet that was being used with calutron to separate uranium isotopes from Hiroshima. In 1946, at the end of the War, he was taken to the laboratory at Berkeley from where the first mesons-containing beam came out, but they could not detect them. Lattes and Gardner were able to produce both mesons only in 1948, thanks to knowledge about decay and the decrease in black paper around emulsions.


1948 – The artificial production of mesons caused much more alarm than their observation in cosmic rays, as it would allow working with them under controlled conditions, establishing the opening of a new path for Nuclear Physics. For the findings, Lattes won an Einstein medal from the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, which he gave to his wife. Lattes remained at Berkeley for a year, holding several seminars throughout North America before his return to Brazil. There was an opportunity to stay in the United States when he received an important proposal from Harvard, which he refused. The fact is that I always wanted to go back to Brazil to help improve the country. “At that time there was a weird thing called patriotism.” (LATTES, 2001, p.56).

1949 – When he returned to the country, Lattes met with General Dutra, who told him that it would not be a good idea to stick around, because there was no way to develop these types of research. “He seemed to me an honest, well-meaning person.” (LATTES, 2001, p.58). The problem was that because of all the cost of war and yet Lattes being Wataghin’s assistant, the possibility of getting funds was remote. When he returned, he resigned from USP and a month later his appointment as interim professor of Nuclear Physics and applied at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. In 1951, they founded cbpf and Lattes was elected scientific director, a position he held until 1955.

CBPF Foundation – When he was at Berkeley Lattes he met the brazilian consulate assistant in São Francisco, Nélson Lins de Barros, brother of João Alberto de Lins Barros, who was first-class minister of foreign affairs at the time. At the time, Lattes asked Nélson to help him build a Physical Research Center and when Nélson returned to Brazil, he brought Lattes to meet his brother, who was extremely proactive for construction. Lattes had already returned to the United States when João Alberto convened an assembly for the foundation of the center, in which a minutes were made and it all began in an office of João Alberto himself in Rio. When Lattes returned, they rent a floor on Álvaro Alvim Street and some time later built a building and a shed with the help of Mário de Almeida, owner of Banco do Comércio, to which they moved. Later, Getúlio Vargas went to Lattes and asked him how the center worked and what he needed and Lattes told him the difficult situation the center was in. It was from this conversation that the money came for the center to function with tranquility. About the center’s activities, some college courses were given by verbal understanding and there were seminars.

1954 and 1955 – When Enrico Fermi[20] died, Lattes inherited his group in Chicago, of which he was in charge for two years. He went there when he received an invitation to work at the University of Chicago as an associate researcher. He did not guide them, with the exception of Jerome Isaac Friedman, who later won a Nobel Prize for inelastic scattering of electrons on protons and on neutron bonds that were essential for the development of the quark model in Particle Physics. Lattes met Fermi when he visited Berkeley at the time of the π. After that, he went to Minneapolis where he again worked with cosmic rays, but was already under depression, which began in 1955.

1956 – When he returned from Chicago, he was invited to take over the chair of Higher Physics in São Paulo, the only well-structured place with funds at the time. Lattes was not in good health, but the only way to keep his daughters was with the salary of São Paulo. In 1960, Marcelo Schein of the University of Chicago had sent Lattes emulsions that he had ballooned to 30 km high. From there he activated the usp emulsion group, working with them and, at an international cosmic ray conference in Japan in 1962, began the Brazil-Japan collaboration on cosmic rays that endures to this day.

In 1964 he went to Pisa, where there is a laboratory of Nuclear Geology with many dating methods, interested in studying whether the constants of physics change in relation to time. While you were there, you put in place a method of dating for spontaneous uranium fission. By 1965, when he returned to Brazil, the state of his depression had worsened. So Lattes decided he couldn’t stay between Rio and São Paulo anymore. Damy, who was in charge of the Institute of Physics at Unicamp, wrote a letter to USP and Lattes was transferred to Rio in September 1967. At Unicamp, he worked until 1986 when he retired. There, his main work was the Brazil-Japan collaboration and dating by spontaneous uranium fission. He then retired from UFRJ in 1989 and in 1994 took the compulsory by cbpf.

After the retirement organized a group in Cuiabá together with Takao Tati, who normalized quantum electrodynamics, but the group did not remain active for long. Lattes was not satisfied with the Brazilian educational system, as he valued the teaching of pure sciences. He considered the system too static and consequently removed the creativity of young people. Lattes as a teacher always sought to teach through the questions he asked people.


Through detailed and methodologically well-made articles on expeditions and astronomical observations, it is noted that the History of Physics was very close to astronomy during the colonial period. The first scientific institutions were founded from 1808, with the arrival of the Royal Family. It was in one of these institutions that the first practical physics classes began in Rio de Janeiro, with the aim of training doctors and military personnel, aiming to solve the problem of the formation of specialized labor in the colony. As early as 1830, following a standard existing in European countries, physics would gain its autonomy as a discipline in the medical courses of Rio de Janeiro and also, later, as a discipline to be taught in military academies and professional schools. (VIEIRA; VIDEIRA, 2007).

In 1842, the Military School in Rio de Janeiro began the civil engineering course and from there began to require the defense of thesis for the doctor’s degree. In 1848, Joaquim Gomes de Souza[21], known as Souzinha, would have been the first to paste a doctor’s degree in a Brazilian institution. For Costa Ribeiro, Souzinha was the first Brazilian physicist-mathematician. Even with the teaching of Physics already established at the end of the 19th century, the use of laboratory equipment for research was small. The exception was the few teachers, from polytechnic schools, who began to practice the first research through their own initiative. (VIEIRA; VIDEIRA, 2007).

Luiz de Barros Freire[22], PhD in Physical sciences and Mathematics, was a professor who was concerned with the formation of scientific institutions, being responsible for encouraging physicists and mathematicians who would excel in Brazilian science: Schenberg, Samuel MacDowell[23], Fernando de Souza Barros[24] and Leite Lopes. Freire was director of the UDF and in the 1950s, he contributed to the creation of the Institute of Physics and Mathematics of the current Federal University of Pernambuco. (VIEIRA; VIDEIRA, 2007).

The beginning of systematic research in Physics in Brazil occurred in 1934 with the creation of the Faculty of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters (FFCL) of the University of São Paulo, where European teachers were brought to teach at the institution. At the time, Italian-Russian Wataghin came to the Physics Department. At the institution, Wataghin began with young Brazilians, researching areas of cosmic rays and Nuclear Physics, both theoretical and experimental. In relation to other Brazilian colleges at the time, FFCL had some differentials, including the berelated salaries, the full dedication to research and equipped laboratories, which facilitated the studies by Wataghin and his students. (VIEIRA; VIDEIRA, 2007).

The first important results began to be obtained after five years since the beginning of research in Physics in a systematized way in Brazil. The first work was that of Wataghin with his students Damy and Pompeii. They pointed out that interactions with extremely fast, highly energetic particles in the form of cosmic rays, when they collide with the atoms present in the Earth’s atmosphere, would originate many other smaller particles in a shower formation. Their results were published, being cited by several physicists who were dedicated, both theoretically and experimentally, to the study of cosmic rays. However, the greatest repercussion generated for Brazilian physics was through the results obtained by Lattes in Bristol and Berkeley, with the detection of the so-called meson-π, generated by the shock of cosmic rays against atmospheric molecules. (VIEIRA; VIDEIRA, 2007).

The news was widely reported in Brazil days later, influenced by Leite Lopes, who used the result in order to boost a project to create a research center in Physics in Brazil. This was a crucial event to seal an alliance between the small community of physicists of the time along with the military and politicians, all nationalists. As there was no institution with a solid basis for scientific practice at the time, a private center was created: the CBPF in 1949. In the following years, CNPq and the Institute of Pure and Applied Mathematics (IMPA) would also emerge. With CNPq, a new scenario was formed, consolidating a stability for research in Brazil. There was the granting of scholarships for improvement and doctorate, scholarships for the hiring of technical personnel and purchase of equipment and for the organization of courses. (VIEIRA; VIDEIRA, 2007).

From this, the new trend was to make Particle Physics from accelerators, an idea that gained strength from the second half of the 1950s in the United States, driven by the results obtained by Lattes and Gardner; and also in berkeley’s cyclotron. Thus, virtually all data on elementary particles came to be provided by accelerators. (VIEIRA; VIDEIRA, 2007).

After the panorama of Brazilian Physics, here are some more curiosities and relevant information to trace Lattes’ profile. This brilliant physicist was a member of several associations including the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, the Latin American Council of Cosmic Rays and the Brazilian, American, German, Italian and Japanese Societies of Physics.

Lattes was particularly proud of the dozens of Brazilian municipalities that had the initiative to give their municipal schools, libraries, squares and streets their name. Lattes was awarded the title of honorary citizen of Bolivia in 1972, a recognition for his performance in South America and by the Venezuelan government, he was awarded an award in 1977. By the Organization of American States, he was awarded the Bernardo Houssay Prize in 1978. (BASSALO, 1990; MARQUES, 2005).

During all his years involved with research work, Lattes was also concerned with the highly qualified training of his students, a fact proven by the series of Master’s and Doctorate Theses that he guided both in Brazil, the United States and Italy; both in the area of nuclear emulsions and in the area of geochronology. This profile made Lattes the best known Brazilian physicist in Brazil and still shows us why he received the greatest honors of our country and the world during his lifetime. Until 1986, the title of Doctor Honoris Causa granted by USP in 1948 and received only in 1964 stands out; the title of “Cavaliere di Gran Croce” in 1948; Einstein Award, brazilian academy of sciences, in 1951; the Gold Medal “Honor on Merit”, from Radio Nacional/ESSO, in 1951; the Science Award of the Brazilian Institute of Education, Science and Culture in 1953; the Ernesto Fonseca Costa Prize of the National Research Council in 1953; the title of Citizen carioca, in 1957; the title of Citizen Paulista Emeritus, in 1958; the title of Character of the Year, by the Cultural Guild Rui Barbosa, in 1961; the Order of Cultural Merit of the Brazilian Union of Writers in 1969; the title of Honorary Citizen of La Paz, Bolivia, in 1972; the Carneiro Felipe Medal of the National Council of Nuclear Energy in 1973; the Moinho Santista Prize for Physics in 1975; The Commendare Andrés Bello, granted by the Governor of Venezuela in 1977; the Bernardo Houssay Prize of the Organization of American States in 1978; the titles of Doctor Honoris Causa and Professor Emeritus, awarded by Unicamp in 1987, but not yet received and, in 1987, the Award in Physics of Third World Academy of Sciencies, in Trieste, Italy. (BASSALO, 1990; MARQUES, 2005).

In conclusion, a characteristic of Lattes that was certainly very striking, concerns his freedom. He was an experimental physicist who shaped the world of interactions, hoping that one could imagine how to bring these particles into revealed presence. Always coherent, with enormous dedication to work, Lattes was a mobilizer of thought with ideas not always accepted or understood. For example, “Machines have the will too,” he said in a television interview. (HAMBURGER, 2005).

Lattes was a brilliant Brazilian who always knew how to seek knowledge, means and companions. He braved still obscure paths of physics, discovering new phenomena that reveal to us the truth about the configurations of the universe. He followed a commendable path, continuing the works of Wataghin, Occhialini, Damy and Schenberg.


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SOUZA BARROS, F. As passagens de Cesar Lattes e de Leite Lopes pela Ilha do Fundão: Notas e Discussões. Revista Brasileira de Ensino de Física, v. 35, n. 4, 4701 (2013).

THE WASHINGTON POST. SETH NEDDERMEYER, 80, DIES. February 2, 1988. Disponível em: <https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1988/02/02/seth-neddermeyer-80-dies/95e11307-e574-487d-bebc-6e6bbc2dfb7e/?utm_term=.7618ca66d69e>. Acesso: 21 de dezembro de 2018.

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA (SYSTEM) ACADEMIC SENATE. Milton E. Gardner, Physics: Davis. 1986, In Memoriam. Disponível em: <http://texts.cdlib.org/view?docId=hb767nb3z6&chunk.id=div00040&brand=calisphere&doc.view=entire_text>. Acesso: 21 de dezembro de 2018.

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_________________. Luiz Freire: Semeador de vocações científicas. Revista Brasileira de Ensino de Física. v. 35, n. 2, 2602 (2013).


3. “José Leite Lopes was a Brazilian physicist. He was born in Recife in 1918.” (RODITI, 2005, p.139). He has worked in several fields of physics, including quantum mechanics and the theory of force unification.

4. Wataghin was a naturalized Russian Italian physicist. As a physicist he worked equally well in Theoretical Physics as in Experimental Physics. In his honor, the Institute of Physics of UNICAMP was named the Gleb Wataghin Institute of Physics. (RODITI, 2005).

5. Powell was a British physicist, winner of the 1950 Nobel Prize in Physics for the development of the photographic method for studying nuclear processes and for the discovery of the méson-p. (RODITI, 2005).

6. Marcello Damy de Sousa Santos was the developer of a technique that allowed the discovery of the showers of penetrating cosmic rays, which worked in the manufacture of Brazilian sonar, developed Betraton, the first nuclear machine in Brazil and played a fundamental role in the development of research in Physics in the country. (BASSALO, 1990; MARQUES, 2005).

7. Paulus Aulus Pompeii was a Brazilian physicist and engineer who participated in many cosmic ray detection experiments. He set up the Electron Microscopy Laboratory, a pioneering and extremely powerful analysis technique. He was part of the Organizing Committee of the Aeronautical Technical Centre (COCTA). He retired from ITA in 1966, when he took over the chair of Applied Physics at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of USP (FAU-USP). (BASSALO, 1990; MARQUES, 2005).

8. Occhialini was an Italian physicist who was responsible for leading pioneering physics research activities in the country at USP in the 1930s, forming the first group of students at the Faculty of Philosophy and Letters, where he was one of the founders of the Physics Department, now the Institute of Physics. In Brazil, he helped to form the first groups of Brazilian physicists, having among his students Mário Schenberg and Cesar Lattes. Lattes accompanied him on the move to Bristol, where they met Cecil Frank Powell’s group to discover the subatomic particle meson-π. <http: agencia.fapesp.br/pioneiro_da_fisica_ganha_mostra/12667/=””>.</http:>

9. Joaquim Costa Ribeiro was a Brazilian physicist and civil engineer and mechanic-electrician, conducted experimental research on the behavior of dielectrics associated with phase transitions, having discovered the thermal electric effect when investigating these properties in the passage to solid state of carnauba wax. This effect became known as the Costa-Ribeiro effect and consists of the appearance of electrical charges when certain dielectrics solidify. For his research, he received in 1946 the Einstein Award from the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. (RODITI, 2005, p.54).

10. Mário Schenberg was a Brazilian physicist who stood out mainly for his pioneering role in Theoretical physics and Mathematics. He was invited by Occhialini to work as a theoretical physicist for the cosmic ray group at the University of Brussels in Belgium. In Brazil, he assumed the position of director of the Physics Department of the Faculty of Philosophy of USP. Its management was marked by the creation of several laboratories, including the Laboratory of Solid State Research and Low Temperatures, today located in the university city of the campus of São Paulo, in the building that bears his name. (BASSALO, 1990; MARQUES, 2005).

11. Condensing chamber in which the supersaturation of the steam is obtained through a rapid expansion that produces adiabatic cooling and that serves to make visible the trajectory of particles that, when passing through the camera, form droplets. (RODITI, 2005, p.35).

12. Camerini was an Italian physicist who joined Powell’s group in which the loaded mesons-π discovered, as well as various modes of decay of the K-mesons. <http://physicstoday.scitation.org/doi/full/10.1063/PT.3.2853>.

13. Wilson was a British physicist who won the Nobel Prize in 1927 for inventing the chamber, which proved the predictions of the Compton effect and became known as Wilson’s camera. His original motivation was the development of experiments that reproduced the formation of clouds in a laboratory. (RODITI, 2005, p.239).

14. Guido Beck was an Austrian theoretical physicist, who conducted studies that contributed to define the atomic nucleus model. He published research on the Compton effect, general relativity, electromagnetic waves, photoelectric effect, the consequences of the analogy between the quantum of light and the electron, the problem of friction in quantum mechanics and the classification of isotopes, whose work on the latter theme, effectively contributed to the acceptance by the scientific community of the concepts that led to the model of atomic nucleus layers. <http://www.dec.ufcg.edu.br/biografias/GuidBeck.html>.

15. Bohr was a Danish physicist who in 1913 proposed a quantum model of the atom in which he assumed that the electron would be located in well-defined circular orbits around the nucleus and that the passage from one orbit to another would be discontinuously and with emission or absorption of an amount of energy. In 1922, he won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his research on the structure of atoms, as well as the radiation they emitted. (RODITI, 2005, p.27).

16. Yukawa was a Japanese physicist, won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1949 for his theory of elementary particles, in which he suggested the existence of a force that held protons and neutrons united in the atomic nucleus. In 1947, in his work with Cesar Lattes, the discovery of a particle that fit within the characteristics predicted by Yukawa is described. (RODITI, 2005, p.242).

17. Anderson was an American physicist who in 1977 received the Nobel Prize in Physics for his research on the electronic structure of magnetic and disordered systems. His various works in Condensed Matter Physics, such as on impurities properties in solids, spin coupling, superfluidity and superconductivity have enabled advances in electronics, mainly in computer production. (RODITI, 2005, p.11).

18. Neddermeyer was an American physicist, co-discoverer of the múon. For participating in the discovery of the pósitron, for its participation in the discovery of the múon, the first of the subatomic particles and for its invention of the implosion technique for assembly of nuclear explosives, received in 1982 the Enrico Fermi Prize. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/local/1988/02/02/seth-neddermeyer-80-dies/95e11307-e574-487d-bebc-6e6bbc2dfb7e/?utm_term=.7618ca66d69e>.

19. Gardner was an American physicist who during The Great War II joined the MIT Radiation Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he helped in this gigantic effort to develop and improve radar systems. He was an excellent teacher and spent countless hours perfecting his class grades and exams, advising students and preparing and building conference demonstrations. <http://texts.cdlib.org/view?docId=hb767nb3z6&chunk.id=div00040&brand=calisphere&doc.view=entire_text>.

20. Enrico Fermi was an Italian-born physicist, a naturalized American who won the Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of new radioactive elements produced by neutron irradiation and the induction of nuclear reactions by slow neutrons. He also discovered the statistical laws governing particles subject to Pauli’s exclusion principle; such particles came to be called Férmions. (RODITI, 2005, p.92).

21. Joaquim Gomes de Sousa was a Brazilian mathematician, astronomer, philosopher and parliamentarian. He pioneered mathematical studies in Brazil. At only nineteen years of age, he obtained a PhD degree in Mathematics and a PhD in Physical and Natural Sciences for the graduates of the institution with the thesis entitled O Modo de Indagar Novos Astros sem Auxílio das Observações Directas in 1848, from the disturbances observed in the behavior of the orbits of known stars, without the use of direct observation. <http://www.dec.ufcg.edu.br/biografias/JoaGSouz.html>.

22. Luís de Barros Freire was a Brazilian physicist, joined the School of Engineering of Pernambuco in 1921, where he stood out for discovering talents among young people living in Recife. In 1933, he became, by indication of the neuroscientist Miguel Ozório de Almeida, corresponding member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences (ABC). <http://www.scielo.br/pdf/rbef/v35n2/29.pdf>.

23. Samuel Wallace MacDowell is a Brazilian physicist and engineer specializing in Particle Physics who conducts research in the areas of weak and strong interactions, Gauge field theories, supersymmetry and supergravity. <http://www.abc.org.br/~smacdowell>.

24. Fernando de Sousa Barros was a Brazilian physicist and engineer. Born in Recife in 1929, he graduated in Civil Engineering from the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE) in 1952. He holds a PhD in Nuclear Physics from the University of Manchester (1960), England. In 1964 he was hired as a researcher and soon after as a professor at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, United States. He returned to Brazil in the 1970s to implement the Graduate Course in Physics at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ). He was Full Professor of UFRJ for 26 years, retiring in 1999, and was president of the Brazilian Society of Physics from 1983 to 1985. < http://www.iea.usp.br/pessoas/pasta-pessoaf/fernando-de-souza-barros>. Faleceu em 8 de novembro de 2017.

[1] Degree in Science and Technology.

[2] Guidance counselor. PhD in Philosophy. Master’s degree in Philosophy. Degree in Physics.

Submitted: August, 2020.

Approved: October, 2020.


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