CERN: a jewel in science as part of our heritage

By . Published on 25 June 2014 in:
Awards, June 2014, , , , ,

To celebrate CERN’s 60th anniversary, a special ceremony took place at the laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, on 19 June 2014. The occasion was the declaration as an EPS Historic Site of the first CERN accelerator, the 600 MeV SynchroCyclotron [SC], built in the 1950s when CERN was making its debut as an international particle physics laboratory in Europe.

The SC started up in 1957 and witnessed very important physics achievements over its 33 years of operation. It had a key role in the early stages of our understanding of weak interactions, in particular with the fundamental observation of the rare pion decay into an electron and a neutrino by T. Fazzini, G. Fidecaro, A. Merrison, H. Paul and A. Tollestrup in 1958.

Commemorative plaque
Commemorative plaque

At the SC, the first “muon g-2″ experiment was performed by G. Charpak, F.J.M. Farley, R.L. Garwin, T. Mueller, J.C. Sens and A. Zichichi in 1965, allowing an unprecedented test of Quantum Electro Dynamics with muons instead of electrons by means of the then longest (6m) magnet based on the so-called “shimming technique” to achieve a very high precision field.

Through the years, the SC has been a crucial instrument in nuclear, atomic and solid-state physics, and beyond. For many years, it provided a variety of ion beams via the Isotope Separator On Line DEvice [ISOLDE] facility. Since the ISOLDE proposal was approved in 1964, this was also an occasion to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

The EPS Historic Site ceremony, in the presence of CERN Council Delegates and many representatives of the CERN personnel, in particular Marco Silari, author of this Historic Site proposal, and Maria Borge, spokesperson of ISOLDE, was opened by CERN Director General Rolf Heuer, President of the CERN Council Agnieszka Zalewska and EPS Past President Luisa Cifarelli.

“There are few places in particle physics where so many threads of history intertwine,” said Director General Heuer. “It was the great Enrico Fermi who proposed the SC. It was here that CERN’s first experiments took place, that our path down the road of weak interaction physics was joined, and that the pioneering ISOLDE facility began its long career in fields as diverse as particle astrophysics and nuclear medicine. It is an honour, and a moment of great pride, for CERN’s first accelerator to be recognized in this way by the EPS.”

The SC was the first of a formidable series of accelerators and colliders built at CERN, which now successfully operates the Large Hadron Collider [LHC]. The story of the SC, and its evolution towards the LHC, were illustrated in a beautiful, high-tech documentary (prepared by M. Silari and his team, in collaboration with R. Landua and B. Pellequer) that was projected at the end of the ceremony in the SC hall. This hall has been completely restored and transformed into a museum where visitors will have the opportunity to learn about the origins of CERN and some of its breakthroughs.

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