Skip navigation

The "barn" Chronicles

Legend has it that the unit ‘barn’ was established in 1942 by physicists M.G. Holloway and C.P. Baker while they were having dinner at the Purdue Memorial Union. They came up with the name because 10-24cm2 is "as big as a barn" for a nuclear reaction process. Professor Alex Sesonske (School Head, 1966-1973) taught in his class that the term came from the common Midwest expression, “someone was such a bad shot at hunting that they couldn't hit the broad side of a barn.”, implying that the probability of neutrons passing through nuclei to cause fission is so rare, their aim could be equated to that of bad hunters. 

 

Digital or PDF

 

PDF

Digital or PDF

Digital or PDF