Helen Thom Edwards (May 27, 1936 – June 21, 2016) was an American physicist.[1] She was the lead scientist for the design and construction of the Tevatron at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.[2][3]


Edwards was best known for leadership in the design, construction, commissioning and operation of the Tevatron, which for 25 years was the most powerful particle collider in the world. Tevatron recorded its first proton-antiproton collisions in 1985 and was used to find the top quark in 1995 and the tau neutrino in 2000, two of the three fundamental particles discovered at Fermilab. Between 1989 and 1992, Edwards was also deeply involved in the eventually abandoned project of the Superconducting Super Collider in Texas.

After 1992, Edwards made significant contributions to the development of high-gradient, superconducting linear accelerators as well as bright and intense electron sources. She played a key role working with scientists at DESY developing superconducting accelerator technology.[4] She led a Fermilab group collaborating with DESY in the 1990s and built the photoinjector for the TESLA Test Facility at the German laboratory. Fermilab has since developed superconducting accelerator technology to the point that it is the enabling technology behind its future proton accelerators.[5]

Edwards attended The Madeira School, finishing in 1953, and Cornell University from 1957, with her final graduation in 1966 - she earned a bachelor's degree in physics from Cornell University,[6] and continued studying there, going on to her M.S. degree in the physics department under Kenneth Greisen, working with the development of electromagnetic showers, and then earning her PhD from Cornell in 1966, working under the direction of Boyce McDaniel in the Laboratory of Nuclear Studies.

After earning her PhD at Cornell in 1966, Edwards continued her work in Nuclear Studies at Cornell as a research associate at the 10 GEV Electron Synchrotron[7] under the supervision of Robert R. Wilson. Edwards then joined Wilson when he transitioned to Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in 1970.

When she first began her work at Fermilab, she was put in charge of the accelerator division. In her most well-known work, she oversaw the building of the Tevatron, one of the highest energy super-conducting particle accelerators ever constructed. Her work was supervised by Leon M. Lederman.

1966-70 Research Associate, 10 GEV Electron Synchrotron, Cornell University
1970-87 Associate Head of the Booster Group, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
1987-89 Head, Accelerator Division, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
1989-92 Head & Associate Director, Superconducting Division, Superconducting Super Collider Laboratory, Dallas
1988 MacArthur Fellow
1992–2010 Guest Scientist, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

It was said of her that "She knew how to bring the right people together to carry out a project and how to encourage them to success. In private life, she was a nature lover and is remembered as a very gentle and caring person."[8]
Awards and honors

Robert R. Wilson Prize for Achievement in the Physics of Particle Accelerators Recipient from the American Physical Society (2003)
USPAS Prize for Achievement in Accelerator Physics and Technology 1985[9]
E. O. Lawrence Award, U.S. Department of Energy 1986[10]
MacArthur Foundation Fellowship 1988[11]
Elected to the National Academy of Engineering (1988)
National Medal of Technology 1989[12]


"Helen T. Edwards — MacArthur Foundation". Retrieved November 4, 2016.
"The Shutdown Process". Tevatron Home. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
"Helen Edwards, visionary behind Fermilab's Tevatron, dies". June 27, 2016. Retrieved November 4, 2016.
"DESY mourns Helen Edwards". DESY. DESY. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
"Proton Improvement Plan-II". Fermilab. Fermilab. Retrieved May 1, 2019.
"Helen T. Edwards (Obituary)". IEEE Council on Superconductiviity. IEEE. Retrieved June 6, 2021.
Mcdaniel, Boyce; Albert Silverman (October 1968). "The 10‐GeV synchrotron at Cornell". Physics Today. 21 (10): 29–38. Bibcode:1968PhT....21j..29M. doi:10.1063/1.3034533.
"Helen T. Edwards, 1936-2016". IEEE.
"USPAS Prize for Achievement in Accelerator Physics and Technology". United States Particle Accelerator School. Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
"Helen T. Edwards, 1986". The Ernest Orlando Lawrence Award. U.S. Department of Energy. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
"Meet the 1988 MacArthur Fellows". MacArthur Foundation. John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved October 12, 2013.

"2003 Robert R. Wilson Prize for Achievement in the Physics of Particle Accelerators Recipient". American Physical Society Sites. American Physical Society. Retrieved October 12, 2013.

Further reading

Anderson, Olga (1995). "Helen T. Edwards". In McMurray, Emily J.; Kosek, Jane Kelly; Valade III, Roger M. (eds.). Notable twentieth-century scientists. Detroit, MI: Gale Research. ISBN 978-0810391819.
Lanam, Richard D. (1994). American Men and Women of Science, 1995-96. New Providence, NJ: R.R. Bowker. ISBN 978-0835234634. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
Oakes, Elizabeth H. (2007). Encyclopedia of World Scientists. Infobase Publishing. p. 202. ISBN 9781438118826. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
Pellegrini, Claudio. "Helen Thom Edwards". Contributions of 20th Century Women to Physics. University of California. Archived from the original on August 6, 2013. Retrieved October 12, 2013.
Peoples, John (2006). Out of the Shadows: Contributions of Twentieth-Century Women to Physics. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-82197-1.
Savage, Darin C. (1997). "Helen T. Edwards". In Shearer, Benjamin F. (ed.). Notable women in the physical sciences : a biographical dictionary (1. publ. ed.). Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. pp. 80–?. ISBN 9780313293030.
Link to image of Helen T. Edwards

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