The highest French civil award “Chevalier de la legion d’honneur” was conferred on Sydney Galès for his lifelong excellent achievements in science and his great service to the community. He received the honour on November 9, 2015 from the French secretary of state for Higher education and research. The ceremony took place at the ‘Frederic and Irène Joliot-Curie’ auditorium of the institute of Nuclear Physics of Orsay (IPN-Orsay) in the presence of a large number of French, European and Japanese colleagues. It was an excellent opportunity to reminisce about and contemplate Sydney’s contributions to science and to the community of Nuclear Physics in Europe and worldwide.
Sydney Galès, Director of Research with the highest rank in the CNRS (France), is an internationally renowned physicist. Thanks to his outstanding research career and his daring initiatives, he has decisively contributed to the strategic roadmaps made over several decades at the national and international levels. This is in particular true with regard to the important orientations of the field of nuclear physics and its applications. His contributions to the associated accelerator and instrumental technologies have also been of crucial importance. One can definitely state that his contribution to promote this field of research in France and worldwide has been exceptional.
Because of Sydney’s outstanding expertise and internationally recognised scientific authority, he has occupied very important high-level positions and responsibilities at national and international levels since 1990. He has filled strategic positions such as director of IPN-Orsay, director of GANIL and deputy scientific director of IN2P3-CNRS, the French funding agency for nuclear physics, particle physics and related areas. In March 2013 he was appointed Scientific Director of the Extreme Light Infrastructure for Nuclear Physics [ELI-NP], one of the three new pan-European large-scale laser-centres, the ESFRI distributed facility. The ELI-NP is being constructed in Bucharest and involves beyond the state-of-the-art ultra-short and ultra-intense laser and gamma source technologies.
He has often served on national and international programme and scientific advisory committees, scientific councils, and evaluation and review panels and often as chair. We mention, in particular, his election to chair the Nuclear Physics European Collaboration Committee (NuPECC), because of its strategic influence on the European scientific policies regarding Nuclear Physics. He participated in setting-up the European Centre for Theoretical Physics (ECT*) in Trento (Italy) and he has been a member or chairman of several international committees that audited or reviewed nearly all the big infrastructures for nuclear physics in the world (i.e., GANIL, France; RIKEN, Japan; KORIA, South Korea; JINR, Dubna, Russia; IMP, Lanzhou, China). It is also worth mentioning that with a feeling of responsibility for educating and training the younger generation of nuclear physicists, Sydney was one of the founding fathers of the “Joliot-Curie School” of nuclear physics.
In 2015 Sydney Galès was also recognised for his achievements by the French Physical Society, which awarded him the Grand Prix “Felix Robin” to honour his works and achievements in physics.
Chair of EPS-Nuclear Physics Division
Director of the Institute of Nuclear Physics-Orsay