Donald Glaser, a Nobel Prize-winning physicist who invented the bubble chamber, a much-used device for making visible the invisible world of subatomic particles, died Thursday at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 86.
He was an emeritus member of the faculty at the University of California at Berkeley, where his fertile scientific imagination led him from nuclear physics to molecular biology, and the study of the functioning of the brain.
A Berkeley spokesman, Robert Sanders, confirmed the death through Glaser's wife. The cause of his death was not disclosed.
As scientists peered into the subatomic world, with its dazzling array of particles smaller than atoms and their nuclei, Glaser's chamber, for which he won the 1960 Nobel, was one of their primary and most powerful tools.
In the past 60 years, a vast array of new particles have been discovered, and many of them, said Herbert Steiner, a particle physicist, were found with the bubble chamber. These discoveries, he said, contributed to the modern understanding of matter at its most fundamental levels.
Glaser was born in Cleveland on Sept. 21, 1926, and received a bachelor of science degree in physics and mathematics in 1946 from what is now Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
After earning his doctorate in physics at the California Institute of Technology in 1949, he joined the faculty at the University of Michigan, where much of his bubble work was done. He moved to Berkeley in 1959 and shifted his scientific emphasis to molecular biology in 1962, two years after winning the Nobel.
According to a statement from Berkeley, Glaser and two friends in 1971 founded Cetus, one of the first companies to apply discoveries in biotechnology to medicine and agriculture. He also studied the biology of brain functioning.
Survivors include his wife since 1975, Lynn Bercovitz Glaser; two children from an earlier marriage, Louise Glaser of Sacramento, Calif. and William Glaser of Berkeley; and four granddaughters.