César Lattes

Last updated
César Lattes
Cesar Lattes, 1949.tif
Cesare Mansueto Giulio Lattes

(1924-07-11)11 July 1924
Died8 March 2005(2005-03-08) (aged 80)
Alma mater University of São Paulo
Known forDiscovery of the pion
Spouse(s)Martha Lattes
Scientific career
Fields Physics
Influences Gleb Wataghin

Cesare Mansueto Giulio Lattes (11 July 1924 – 8 March 2005), also known as César Lattes, was a Brazilian experimental physicist, one of the discoverers of the pion, a composite subatomic particle made of a quark and an antiquark.

Physicist scientist who does research in physics

A physicist is a scientist who specializes in the field of physics, which encompasses the interactions of matter and energy at all length and time scales in the physical universe. Physicists generally are interested in the root or ultimate causes of phenomena, and usually frame their understanding in mathematical terms. Physicists work across a wide range of research fields, spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic and particle physics, through biological physics, to cosmological length scales encompassing the universe as a whole. The field generally includes two types of physicists: experimental physicists who specialize in the observation of physical phenomena and the analysis of experiments, and theoretical physicists who specialize in mathematical modeling of physical systems to rationalize, explain and predict natural phenomena. Physicists can apply their knowledge towards solving practical problems or to developing new technologies.

Pion Lightest meson

In particle physics, a pion is any of three subatomic particles:
, and
. Each pion consists of a quark and an antiquark and is therefore a meson. Pions are the lightest mesons and, more generally, the lightest hadrons. They are unstable, with the charged pions
decaying with a mean lifetime of 26.033 nanoseconds, and the neutral pion
decaying with a much shorter lifetime of 84 attoseconds. Charged pions most often decay into muons and muon neutrinos, while neutral pions generally decay into gamma rays.

Subatomic particle Particle whose size or mass is less than that of the atom, or of which the atom is composed; small quantum particle

In the physical sciences, subatomic particles are particles much smaller than atoms. The two types of subatomic particles are: elementary particles, which according to current theories are not made of other particles; and composite particles. Particle physics and nuclear physics study these particles and how they interact. The idea of a particle underwent serious rethinking when experiments showed that light could behave like a stream of particles as well as exhibiting wave-like properties. This led to the new concept of wave–particle duality to reflect that quantum-scale "particles" behave like both particles and waves. Another new concept, the uncertainty principle, states that some of their properties taken together, such as their simultaneous position and momentum, cannot be measured exactly. In more recent times, wave–particle duality has been shown to apply not only to photons but to increasingly massive particles as well.



Lattes was born to a family of Italian-Jewish immigrants in Curitiba, Paraná Brazil. He did his first studies there and also in São Paulo. He then went to the University of São Paulo, graduating in 1943, in mathematics and physics. He was part of an initial group of young Brazilian physicists who worked under European teachers such as Gleb Wataghin and Giuseppe Occhialini. Lattes was considered the most brilliant of those and was noted at a very young age as a bold researcher. His colleagues, who also became important Brazilian scientists, were Oscar Sala, Mário Schenberg, Roberto Salmeron, Marcelo Damy de Souza Santos and Jayme Tiomno. At the age of 25, he was one of the founders of the Brazilian Center for Physical Research (Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Físicas) in Rio de Janeiro.

History of the Jews in Italy aspect of Italian and Jewish history

The history of the Jews in Italy spans more than two thousand years. The Jewish presence in Italy dates to the pre-Christian Roman period and has continued, despite periods of extreme persecution and expulsions, until the present. As of 2007, the estimated core Jewish population in Italy numbers around 45,000.

Curitiba Municipality in South, Brazil

Curitiba is the capital and largest city in the Brazilian state of Paraná. The city's population was 1,879,355 as of 2015, making it the eighth most populous city in Brazil and the largest in Brazil's South Region. The Curitiba Metropolitan area comprises 26 municipalities with a total population of over 3.2 million, making it the seventh most populous metropolitan area in the country.

Paraná (state) State of Brazil

Paraná is one of the 26 states of Brazil, in the south of the country, bordered on the north by São Paulo state, on the east by the Atlantic Ocean, on the south by Santa Catarina state and the province of Misiones, Argentina, and on the west by Mato Grosso do Sul and Paraguay, with the Paraná River as its western boundary line.

From 1947 to 1948, Lattes launched on his main research line by studying cosmic rays. He visited a weather station on top of the 5,200-meter high Chacaltaya mountain in Bolivia, using photographic plates to register the rays. Travelling to England with his teacher Occhialini, Lattes went to work at the H. H. Wills Laboratory of the University of Bristol, directed by Cecil Powell. There, he improved on the nuclear emulsion used by Powell by adding more boron to it. In 1947, he made his great experimental discovery with Powell: the pion (or pi meson). Lattes then proceeded to write a paper for Nature without bothering to ask for Powell's consent. In the same year, he was responsible for calculating the new particle's mass. A year later, working with Eugene H. Gardner (1913-1950 [1] ) at UC Berkeley, Lattes was able to detect the artificial production of pions in the lab's cyclotron, by bombarding carbon atoms with alpha particles. He was just 24 years old.

Chacaltaya mountain

Chacaltaya is a mountain in the Cordillera Real, one of the mountain ranges of the Cordillera Oriental, itself a range of the Bolivian Andes. Its elevation is 5,421 meters (17,785 ft). Chacaltaya's glacier — which was as old as 18,000 years — had an area of 0.22 km2 (0.085 sq mi) in 1940, which had been reduced to 0.01 km2 (0.0039 sq mi) in 2007 and was completely gone by 2009. Half of the meltdown, as measured by volume, took place before 1980. The final meltdown after 1980, due to missing precipitation and the warm phase of El Niño, resulted in the glacier's disappearance in 2009. The glacier was formerly one of the highest in South America, located about 30 kilometers (19 mi) from La Paz, near Huayna Potosí mountain.

Bolivia Country in South America

Bolivia, officially the Plurinational State of Bolivia, is a landlocked country located in western-central South America. The capital is Sucre, while the seat of government and financial center is located in La Paz. The largest city and principal industrial center is Santa Cruz de la Sierra, located on the Llanos Orientales, a mostly flat region in the east of the country.

University of Bristol research university located in Bristol, United Kingdom

The University of Bristol is a red brick research university located in Bristol, United Kingdom. It received its royal charter in 1909, although like the University of the West of England and the University of Bath, it can trace its roots to the Merchant Venturers' Technical College, founded as a school in 1595 by the Society of Merchant Venturers. Its key predecessor institution, University College, Bristol, had been in existence since 1876.

In 1949, Lattes returned as a professor and researcher with the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and the Brazilian Center for Physical Research. After another brief stay in the United States (from 1955 to 1957), he returned to Brazil and accepted a position at his alma mater, the Department of Physics of the University of São Paulo.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of more than 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

In 1967, Lattes accepted a position of full professor with the new "Gleb Wataghin" Institute of Physics at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp), which he helped to found. He became also the chairman of the Department of Cosmic Rays, Chronology, High Energies and Leptons. In 1969, he and his group discovered the mass of the so-called fireballs, a phenomenon induced by naturally occurring high-energy collisions, and which was detected by means of special lead-chamber nuclear emulsion plates invented by him, and placed at the Chacaltaya peak of the Bolivian Andes.

Cosmic ray High-energy particle, mainly originating outside the Solar system

Cosmic rays are a form of high-energy radiation, mainly originating outside the Solar System and even from distant galaxies. Upon impact with the Earth's atmosphere, cosmic rays can produce showers of secondary particles that sometimes reach the surface. Composed primarily of high-energy protons and atomic nuclei, they are originated either from the sun or from outside of our solar system. Data from the Fermi Space Telescope (2013) have been interpreted as evidence that a significant fraction of primary cosmic rays originate from the supernova explosions of stars. Active galactic nuclei also appear to produce cosmic rays, based on observations of neutrinos and gamma rays from blazar TXS 0506+056 in 2018.

Lepton class of elementary particles

In particle physics, a lepton is an elementary particle of half-integer spin that does not undergo strong interactions. Two main classes of leptons exist: charged leptons, and neutral leptons. Charged leptons can combine with other particles to form various composite particles such as atoms and positronium, while neutrinos rarely interact with anything, and are consequently rarely observed. The best known of all leptons is the electron.

Lead Chemical element with atomic number 82

Lead is a chemical element with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. It is a heavy metal that is denser than most common materials. Lead is soft and malleable, and also has a relatively low melting point. When freshly cut, lead is silvery with a hint of blue; it tarnishes to a dull gray color when exposed to air. Lead has the highest atomic number of any stable element and three of its isotopes are endpoints of major nuclear decay chains of heavier elements.

Lattes retired in 1986, when he received from the Unicamp the titles of doctor honoris causa and professor emeritus. After retirement he continued to live in a house in the suburban area very near to the University's campus. He died of a heart attack on March 8, 2005 in Campinas, São Paulo.

Myocardial infarction Interruption of blood supply to a part of the heart

Myocardial infarction (MI), also known as a heart attack, occurs when blood flow decreases or stops to a part of the heart, causing damage to the heart muscle. The most common symptom is chest pain or discomfort which may travel into the shoulder, arm, back, neck, or jaw. Often it occurs in the center or left side of the chest and lasts for more than a few minutes. The discomfort may occasionally feel like heartburn. Other symptoms may include shortness of breath, nausea, feeling faint, a cold sweat, or feeling tired. About 30% of people have atypical symptoms. Women more often present without chest pain and instead have neck pain, arm pain, or feel tired. Among those over 75 years old, about 5% have had an MI with little or no history of symptoms. An MI may cause heart failure, an irregular heartbeat, cardiogenic shock, or cardiac arrest.

Campinas Municipality in Southeast, Brazil

Campinas is a Brazilian municipality in São Paulo State, part of the country's Southeast Region. According to the 2010 Census, the city's population is 1,080,999, making it the fourteenth most populous Brazilian city and the third most populous municipality in São Paulo state. The city's metropolitan area, Metropolitan Region of Campinas, contains twenty municipalities with a total population of 3,656,363 people.

São Paulo (state) State of Brazil

São Paulo is one of the 26 states of the Federative Republic of Brazil and is named after Saint Paul of Tarsus. As the richest Brazilian state and a major industrial complex, often dubbed the "locomotive of Brazil", the state is responsible for 33.9% of the Brazilian GDP. São Paulo also has the second highest Human Development Index (HDI) and GDP per capita, the fourth lowest infant mortality rate, the third highest life expectancy, and the third lowest rate of illiteracy among the federative units of Brazil, being by far, the safest state in the country. The homicide rate is 3.8 per 100 thousand as of 2018, almost 1/4 of the Brazilian rate. São Paulo alone is richer than Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Bolivia combined. If São Paulo were an independent country, its nominal GDP would be ranked among the top 20 in the world. The economy of São Paulo State is the most developed in Brazil.


Lattes is one of the most distinguished and honored Brazilian physicists, and his work was fundamental for the development of atomic physics. He was also a great scientific leader of Brazilian Physics and was one of the main personalities behind the creation of the important Brazilian National Research Council (Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico). Due to his contribution in this process, the Brazilian national science data-base, Lattes Platform was named after him.

He figures as one of the few Brazilians in Isaac Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology , as well as in the Encyclopædia Britannica . Although he was the main researcher and the first author of the historical Nature article describing the pion, Cecil Powell alone was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1950 for "his development of the photographic method of studying nuclear processes and his discoveries regarding mesons made with this method". The reason for this apparent neglect is that the Nobel Committee policy until 1960 was to give the award to the research group head, only. He received the TWAS Prize in 1987. [2] After his death UNICAMP decided to give his name to the central library.


"Science should be universal, without a doubt. However, one should not believe unconditionally in this."


Gilberto Gil's Grammy-winning 1998 album Quanta includes a song dedicated to Lattes, called "Ciência e Arte".

Related Research Articles

Meson subatomic particle; hadron made of equal number of quark(s) and antiquark(s): normally one of each

In particle physics, mesons are hadronic subatomic particles composed of one quark and one antiquark, bound together by strong interactions. Because mesons are composed of quark subparticles, they have physical size, notably a diameter of roughly one femtometer, which is about 1.2 times the size of a proton or neutron. All mesons are unstable, with the longest-lived lasting for only a few hundredths of a microsecond. Charged mesons decay to form electrons and neutrinos. Uncharged mesons may decay to photons. Both of these decays imply that color is no longer a property of the byproducts.

Brazilian Silicon Valley

Brazilian Silicon Valley is a term commonly applied to the region of Campinas and in southern region this term is applied for Florianópolis city, Brazil because of its similarity to the 'original' Silicon Valley, located in California in the USA.

C. F. Powell British physicist

Cecil Frank Powell, FRS was an English physicist, and Nobel Prize in Physics laureate for his development of the photographic method of studying nuclear processes and for the resulting discovery of the pion (pi-meson), a subatomic particle.

University of Campinas public research university in Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil

The University of Campinas, commonly called Unicamp, is a public research university in the state of São Paulo, Brazil. Unicamp is consistently ranked among the top universities in Brazil and Latin America.

Giuseppe Occhialini Italian physicist, who contributed to the discovery of the pion or pi-meson decay

Giuseppe Paolo Stanislao "Beppo" Occhialini ForMemRS was an Italian physicist, who contributed to the discovery of the pion or pi-meson decay in 1947, with César Lattes and Cecil Frank Powell. At the time of this discovery, they were all working at the H. H. Wills Laboratory of the University of Bristol.

Oscar Sala, Italian-Brazilian nuclear physicist and important scientific leader, Emeritus Professor of the Institute of Physics, University of São Paulo.

Gleb Wataghin Italian physicist

Gleb Vassielievich Wataghin was a Russian-Italian experimental physicist and a great scientific leader who gave a great impulse to the teaching and research on physics in two continents: in the University of São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil; and in the University of Turin, Turin, Italy.

Roberto Salmeron is a Brazilian electrical engineer and experimental nuclear physicist and an emeritus Research Director at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).

Marcelo Damy de Sousa Santos was a Brazilian physicist.

José Leite Lopes was a Brazilian theoretical physicist who worked in the field of quantum field theory and particle physics.

The timeline of particle physics lists the sequence of particle physics theories and discoveries in chronological order. The most modern developments follow the scientific development of the discipline of particle physics.

In particle and nuclear physics, a nuclear emulsion plate is a photographic plate with a particularly thick emulsion layer and with a very uniform grain size. Like bubble chambers, cloud chambers, and wire chambers nuclear emulsion plates record the tracks of charged particles passing through. They are compact, have high density and produce a cumulative record, but have the disadvantage that the plates must be developed before the tracks can be observed.

Donald Hill Perkins is a British physicist and an Emeritus Professor at the University of Oxford. He achieved great success in the field of particle physics and is also known for his books.

Waldyr Alves Rodrigues, Jr. was born at Araraquara, SP, Brazil on March 14, 1946. He obtained his B.Sc. in Physics in 1968 at the University of São Paulo (Brazil), where he has been a research student of Mário Schenberg and became an Assistant Professor in 1969. He then moved to Torino, Italy where he did post-graduate studies at the Scuola di Perfezionamento in Fisica Nucleare and obtained a degree in theoretical Nuclear Physics in 1971. Later that year, he returned to Brazil and became an Associate Professor at the new Physics Institute of Campinas State University (UNICAMP).

Carlos Henrique de Brito Cruz, born in Rio de Janeiro on July 19, 1956, is one of Brazil's most noted physicists and a member of the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. The scientific director of the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) and a full professor of quantum electronics at the Gleb Wataghin Physics Institute at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Brito Cruz is engaged in research in which he uses femtosecond lasers to study ultrafast phenomena.

Eni de Lourdes Puccinelli Orlandi is a Brazilian researcher with great influence in French Discourse Analysis, being the one to bring it to Brazil by translating to Portuguese Michel Pêcheux's books and articles.

Elisa Frota Pessoa, born Elisa Esther Habbema de Maia, was a Brazilian experimental physicist. She was one of the first women to graduate in physics in Brazil, in 1942, and a founding member of the Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisas Físicas. She was distinguished by her studies of radioactivity with nuclear emulsions; reactions and disintegrations of K and π mesons in nuclear emulsions; and reactions of protons and deuterons with nuclei of average masses.


  1. "Eugene Gardner". Physics Today. 4: 30. 1951. doi:10.1063/1.3067133.
  2. "Prizes and Awards". The World Academy of Sciences. 2016.