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Ernest Lawrence Junior High School (now Middle School) was named after the 1939 Nobel Prize Physics winning physicist Ernest Orlando Lawrence. In 1930, Dr. Lawrence invented the cyclotron, which split the atom, making atomic energy possible and paved the way to the atomic age. At that time, he was only 38 years old, the youngest person ever to win the award.

World famous for his research in the structure and transmutation of the atom and the application of physics to biology and medicine, Lawrence was named “An American Genius” by his biographer, Herbert Childs.

Lawrence was one of the three top officials who worked on the uranium fission (atomic) bomb during World War II, he also served the United States as one of the four advisors to the postwar committee on atomic energy. The founder of the Lawrence Laboratory, he is also known as the father of nuclear physics.

He is remembered for the ability to lift other young scientists and physicists above their natural orbit and it was said that one could hardly get into any nuclear area without coming into contact with those who worked with him. Many of his former students have also received the Nobel Prize.

Working with his younger brother John, then head of the Yale School of Medicine, the two dedicated scientists corroborated on medical-physical research. He did research on radioactive elements in working with terminal cancer patients. Later, Ernest served as a consultant to the Institute of Cancer Research at Columbia University and John headed the medical-physics research at the University of California.

Ernest Lawrence was born on August 8, 1901 in Canton, South Dakota. He married Mary Kimberly Blummer in 1933 and they had six children. Mrs. Lawrence was an honored guest at the dedication of Lawrence Junior High, March 27, 1968.

The school opened on January 30, 1968 with Mr. Richard Valentine as Principal, a staff of 45 with 1,063 7th and 8th graders. The name of the school was chosen by a group of local citizens headed by Lowell McGinnis, secondary coordinator of L.A. City Schools. Mrs. LaVerne A. Lee, Principal at Chatsworth Park Elementary School hosted the committee meeting. Bill Henry, a well-known national paper columnist, was among those serving on the committee. It was Polk Jennings, local Postmaster who suggested that a scientist's name be chosen because the area was fast becoming a research center. Ernest Lawrence was chosen from the list of names provided by the Board of Education.

The school followed the scientific theme in naming organizations, special areas, and buildings. The service organizations are the 6th grade Atoms (formerly Neutrons and Protons), the 7th grade Rays (formerly Beta Rays and Gamma Rays) and 8th grade Astros (formerly Astronauts and Astronettes). The 9th grade (now 8th grade) lawn in the center of the campus is the Nucleus.


Superintendent Jack P. Crowther at the school's opening in 1968