The emission of this radiation was predicted theoretically for the first time by the Ukrainian Dmitri Iwanenko and the Russian Isaak Pomeranchuk in 1944 (Physical Review vol.65, p. 343, On the maximal energy attainable in betatron). In 1947 the first observation occurred in General Electric’s research laboratories. It was performed on a particle accelerator of the synchrotron type, with electrons accelerated up to 99.997% of the speed of light.
In a synchrotron accelerator, the charged particle beam is guided in circular orbits by a set of electromagnets. The magnetic field produced by the electromagnets can be varied in time and acts in a synchronized way on the particles, which at each turn have higher velocities and, therefore, higher energies. From this synchronous action comes the name synchrotron accelerator. It is due to this type of accelerator in which it was first observed that the synchrotron radiation received its name.
Later, in 1956, in a synchrotron accelerator of the University of Cornell, USA, the first spectroscopy experiments were carried out in the ultraviolet region with the use of the radiation produced in the accelerator. Thus was started the use of the synchrotron light as a tool for the study of the composition and structure of materials.