January 22, 1908–October 1, 1996
BY HENRY H. BARSCHALL
RAY HERB IS FAMOUS for the design and development of pressurized electrostatic accelerators, which were the most widely used tools for nuclear physics research in the post-World War II period. This was, however, only one of his great contributions to physics and technology. He also used his accelerator to perform precision measurements in nuclear physics, supervised the Ph.D. research of over fifty physics students, and pioneered many advances in accelerator and vacuum technology. In his later life he founded a company that produced over 100 electrostatic accelerators not only for nuclear physics but for such diverse applications as detecting forgeries at the Louvre museum and inspecting cargoes passing through the Chunnel connecting England and France.
Ray was born in 1908 in Navarino on a small farm in north-central Wisconsin, one of eight children. He did his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Wisconsin in Madison where he received a Ph.D. in physics in 1935. He spent his entire life in Wisconsin, except for the summer of 1935 when he worked at the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institution in Washington and from 1940 to 1945 when he was at the Radiation Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology