IBM’s Zurich Laboratory Honoured with Historic Site Distinction

By . Published on 23 October 2017 in:
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“Teamwork, not only within the borders of a country, but also among countries, has become an imperative necessity of our jet-age era. Advances in the fields of human endeavours are due to a large extent to the cooperation of the best brains and talent available everywhere.”

These words were spoken in 1956 by the then IBM CEO Thomas Watson Jr. during the opening ceremony of IBM’s Zurich research lab, its first outside of the United States.

More than 60 years later, the lab has achieved countless scientific innovations, most notably the scanning tunnelling microscope and high temperature superconductivity, and on 26 September 2017, these accomplishments were honoured by the European Physical Society (EPS) as an Historic Site, joining the Einstein House in Bern, the CERN Synchrocyclotron, and the University of Geneva, as the only other such sites in Switzerland.

The news was unveiled in a ceremony at the IBM lab in front of more than 60 employees and guests. After a short presentation on the history and future of the lab by the current director, IBM Fellow Dr. Alesssando Curioni, and department manager, Dr. Walter Riess, and a panel discussion with three former lab directors spanning from the 1960s to today, a plaque was unveiled in front of the attendees, including several distinguished guests: Rüdiger Voss, EPS President and K. Alex Müller, Nobel Laureate and retired IBM scientist.

Voss also spoke and shared some additional surprising news to the attendees, “This IBM location has achieved many firsts, including the first industrial lab on the EPS Historic Sites List. This will hopefully add some encouragement to industry to keep up their investments in basic research as the ultimate foundation for the progress of science and technology.”

It is not well known that Switzerland wasn’t IBM’s first choice for its first international lab. In 1955, IBM scientist Arthur Lee Samuel, a pioneer in early computer gaming and artificial intelligence, had narrowed down the list to England, Switzerland and the Netherlands, in that order.

He ultimately recommended Zurich, Switzerland, to Watson Jr. based on its proximity to talent at the ETH Zurich and due to its openness to allow other European scientists to work at the lab.

Today, IBM Research – Zurich has employees from more than 45 nationalities working on scientific research scaling from Big data to atoms.

Visit the EPS website and view all EPS Historic Sites

  1. 2016 Kavli Laureates for Nanoscience Honoured at Symposium
  2. EPS Executive Committee and Staff activities September 2017
  3. EPS Executive Committee and Staff activities October 2017

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