| CLYDE L. COWAN JR
The Catholic University of America
BS ChE 1940, Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy
MS Physics, Washington University in St. Louis
PhD Physics, Washington University in St. Louis
Clyde was the co-discoverer of the neutrino, along with Frederick Reines. The discovery proving the existence of this sub-atomic particle was made in 1956. Frederick Reines received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1995 in both of their names.
Born the oldest of four children in Detroit, Michigan, his family moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he began his education attending public schools. While attending the Missouri School of Mines and Metallurgy in Rolla, Missouri, Cowan was Editor-in-Chief of the Missouri Miner newspaper from 1939–1940, and graduated in 1940 with a B.S. in Chemical Engineering.
Clyde was a captain in the United States Army Air Forces, where he earned a bronze star in World War II. From 1936-1940 he was in the Reserve Officers' Training Corps. Clyde joined the U.S. Army Chemical Warfare Service with the rank of Second Lieutenant when America joined World War II in 1941. In August 1942, he was transferred to Eisenhower's Eighth Air Force stationed in London, England. In 1943 he designed and built an experimental cleaning unit to be used in case of gas attack. In the following year, he joined the staff of the British Branch of the Radiation Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which was located in Great Malvern, England. In 1945 he was a liaison officer with the Royal Air Force, working to expedite transmittal of technical information and equipment. He returned to the United States in 1945, and worked at Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio. He left active duty in 1946.
Benefitting from the G.I. Bill, he attended Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, receiving a Masters Degree and his Ph.D. in Physics in 1949. He then joined the staff of the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory in New Mexico, where he met Frederick Reines.
In 1951 Reines and Cowan began their search for the neutrino. Their work was completed at the Savannah River Plant in Aiken, South Carolina, in 1956.
Clyde began his teaching career in 1957, as a Professor of Physics at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.. The following year, he left GWU and joined the faculty of The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, a post he held until the close of his life. He also acted at various times as a consultant to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), US Naval Ordnance Laboratory, the United States Naval Academy, the United States Army, United Mine Workers of America, Electric Boat Co., and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
Clyde was a direct descendant of Lorenzo L. Langstroth, the "Father of Modern Beekeeping", and a distant relative of Katherine Drexel, a Catholic saint.
He passed away in 1974, some twenty-one years before his ground-breaking work was recognized with a Nobel Prize.
Follow Chemical and Biochemical Engineering