Burton Richter joins the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). In 1970, Richter’s group receive funds to begin building the storage ring (now called SPEAR) as well as a large magnetic detector. In 1982 he becomes its Technical Director until 1999.

Burton Richter receives half of the Nobel Prize in Physics along with Samuel C.C. Ting "for their pioneering work in the discovery of a heavy elementary particle of a new kind".

Burton Richter enters the Massachusetts Institute of Technology unsure whether he wants to pursue physics or chemistry. Thanks to the influence of undergraduate professor Francis Friedman, Richter chooses physics. Richter works under professor Francis Bitter and is introduced to the electron-positron system. He works also with Martin Deutsch, who is conducting his classical positronium experiments. Richter completes his senior thesis on the quadratic Zeeman effect in hydrogen under Bitter.

Burton Richter arranges with physicist David Frisch to spend six months at the Brookhaven National Laboratory where he works with one of the world's most powerful proton accelerators to discover if particle physics is his true passion.

Burton Richter attends Far Rockaway High School in Queens.

Burton Richter remains at the MIT for his graduate studies. During his first year as a graduate student, he works with Bitter on a measurement of the isotope shift and hyperfine structure of mercury isotopes. His Ph.D. thesis on the photoproduction of pi-mesons from hydrogen is made under the direction of Prof. L.S. Osborne.

In collaboration with David Ritson and with financial support from the Atomic Energy Commission, in 1973 Richter completes the construction of the Stanford Positron-Electron Asymmetric Ring (SPEAR), a colliding-beam accelerator with which he discovers the J-particle (a subatomic particle now usually called the J/psi particle), the first of a new class of very massive, long-lived mesons.

Richter moves at Stanford's High-Energy Physics Laboratory to work with a 700-MeV electron linear accelerator. His study of electron-positron pairs by gamma-rays establishes that quantum electrodynamics is correct to distances as small as about 10-13 cm. He becomes Assistant Professor of Physics in 1960 and Associate Professor in 1963. He becomes Full Professor in 1967, in 1984 the Paul Pigott Professor in the Physical Sciences. He remains the facility's Emeritus Director in 2005.

Burton Richter spends the academic year, 1975-76, on sabbatical leave at CERN where he works out the general energy scaling laws for high-energy electron-positron colliding-beam storage rings.

Burton Richter is born in New York, the elder child of Abraham Richter, a textile worker and Fanny Pollack.