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X-Ray Laser Expert Returning to Livermore for Non-Weapons Work

January 21, 1987|Associated Press

LIVERMORE, Calif. — A scientist whose formula for building an X-ray laser plays a crucial role in the development of the Strategic Defense Initiative, or "Star Wars," is returning as a consultant to the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Last fall, Peter Hagelstein, 32, left the nuclear weapons design center to work on peaceful uses of his research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

In an interview published Tuesday in the San Jose Mercury News, Hagelstein said he will focus on unclassified, non-weapons work in the X-ray laser program. His contract at Livermore calls for him to serve as a consultant for up to 45 days this year at $315 a day.

Hagelstein left Livermore four months ago after telling friends he wanted to do research that would "benefit all mankind." At MIT, he is attempting to develop a new laboratory X-ray laser at wave lengths short enough to be used for medical and scientific research.

Early in his career, he set out to develop a laboratory X-ray laser that could view cells inside the human body. He was recruited by the Livermore lab, a leading site for laser research, and said he joined without realizing until he arrived that nuclear weapons work also was done there.

Instead of developing the cell-viewing laser, he discovered a formula for building an X-ray laser triggered by a nuclear bomb. That work earned him the Energy Department's top award and led President Reagan to propose a defense system featuring lasers that could knock out incoming Soviet missiles.

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