Large‐amplitude stress waves have been generated in solids by means of a very high current pulsed electron beam. The electron beam has an average energy of 3 MeV, current of 40 000 A, and pulse duration of approximately 70 nsec. The back surface velocity profiles were measured using a laser‐Doppler interferometer. Data obtained for 6061‐T6 aluminum indicated a slow rise of the plastic wave, thus suggesting the importance of strain rate effects. The utility of the technique for materials research at high pressures and temperatures is discussed.