Physicist Luis Walter Alvarez, a age 77, lost a long battle with can cer on September 1,1988—and the scientific community lost one of it most creative and feisty members

Luie, as he was known by colleagues and castigators alike, won numerous awards, including the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1968 for his work in developing, and experimenting with, the hydrogen bubble chamber a device used to track the paths of, and thus identify, elementary particles. But long before that he bad been a key member of the Manhattan Project, working to develop the atomic bomb. And two decades after he received sciences most prestigious award—indeed almost to the day he died—he was at the center of a major scientific controversy (see story below) over the precise cause of the extinction of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

Two traits help explain why Alvarez had such a long, rich, and unusually...

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