James Cronin Biography, Life, Interesting Facts


James Cronin

Birthday :

September 29, 1931

Died On :

August 25, 2016

Birth Place :

Chicago, Illinois, United States of America

Zodiac Sign :


Childhood And Early Life

Nobel laureate James Cronin was born on the 29 September 1931 in Chicago, Illinois. He was the son of James Farley Cronin and Dorothy Watson.


James Cronin did his primary and secondary education in the Highland Park Public School system. He then enrolled at Southern Methodist University where he majored in physics and mathematics (1951). In September 1951 Cronin entered the University of Chicago as a graduate student where Cronin did a thesis on experimental nuclear physics. His thesis director was Samuel K. Allison, and he received his Ph.D. in 1955.

Rise To Fame

Once James Cronin had been awarded his doctorate, Cronin joined the group of Rodney Cool and Oreste Piccioni at Brookhaven Cosmotron. The team was working on a newly completed 3 GeV accelerator where the violation of parity was discovered. Cronin then began working on electronic experiments investigating parity violation in hyperon decays.

The experiment moved to Berkeley Bevatron in 1958 where he worked with physicists William Wenzel and Bruce Cork. 

In 1971 Cronin took up a position at the University of Chicago where he became Professor of Physics. In 1997 he was appointed Professor Emeritus of Physics and Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Chicago.

Nobel Prize In Physics 1980

In 1980 Cronin’s research won him the Nobel Prize in Physics. In 1964 he was working at the Brookhaven National Laboratory with Val Fitch Both scientists were also professors at Princeton University when they observed the first example of nature’s preference for matter over antimatter. They concluded that without this phenomenon, known as the charge-parity violation, nothing would exist in the universe.

The two scientists studied the short-lived particles that appeared after the collision of accelerated protons and the nucleus of an atom. They observed the indirect charge-parity violation called the Fitch-Cronin effect. The finding showed that some physical laws are violated when the direction of time is reversed. This theory also favored the big bang theory of the origin of the universe.

Later Years

Later in life, Cronin became the co-leader of the Pierre Auger Project, a $50 million international collaboration of 250 around the world. The focus of the project was the sources of rare but powerful cosmic rays the periodically reach Earth. Part of the plan is the Auger Observatory in Argentina which has many cosmic-ray detectors.

Awards And Achievements

James Cronin received multiple awards, honorary degrees, and accolades for his work. Some of these include the University of Chicago Alumni Medal (2013). Legion d’honneur of France (2001). National Medal of Science (1999). University of Chicago’s Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (1994). The Ernest Lawrence Memorial Award for Outstanding Contributions in the field of Atomic Energy (1977).

Cronin was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Physical Society, American Philosophical Society, the Mexican Academy of Sciences and the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Personal Life

James Cronin was married to Annette Martin until her death in 2005. They had met as university students. In 2006 he married Carol McDonald Champlin. Cronin had three children: Emily, Daniel, and Cathryn.

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