Donald William Kerst (November 1, 1911 – August 19, 1993) was an American physicist who was working on advanced particle accelerator concepts (accelerator physics) and plasma physics. He is most notable for his development of the betatron.
He was born in Galena, Illinois. At the University of Wisconsin he earned a bachelor's degree in 1934, then was awarded a Ph.D. in 1937. For a year he worked at General Electric Company, then he taught at the University of Illinois from 1938 until 1957, wherein he attained the rank of professor. During World War II, he worked at Los Alamos, New Mexico. From 1957–62 he was employed at the General Atomic Laboratory, La Jolla, working on the Manhattan Project. He then became a professor at the University of Wisconsin until his retirement in 1980. From 1972–73 he was chairman of the Plasma Physics Division of the American Physical Society.
In 1940, Kerst developed the betatron and became the first person to accelerate electrons using electromagnetic induction, reaching energies of 2.3 MeV. Thereupon he built several betatrons of increasing energy, attaining 300 MeV. From 1953–57 he was technical director of the Midwestern Universities Research Association, where he worked on advanced particle accelerator concepts, most notably the FFAG accelerator. He then began working on the problem of plasma physics, particularly for the control of thermonuclear energy.
He was married to Dorothy Birkett Kerst. The couple had two children. He died at the University Hospital and Clinics in Madison, Wisconsin from a brain tumor.
Read more about Donald William Kerst: Awards and Honors