From the archive

A CERN stamp

21 February 1966

On 21 February 1966 the Swiss Postal Authorities issued a 50 centime postage stamp in honour of CERN. Five Swiss artists visited CERN and were shown around the site, then each presented two designs. The judges selected a design by H. Kumpel  showing the flags of the thirteen Member States of CERN superimposed on a bubble chamber photograph. The flags are arranged to represent the approximate outline of the Swiss border.

A further commemorative stamp was produced by France in 1977 for the inauguration of the Super Proton Synchrotron, and another Swiss stamp marked CERN’s 50th anniversary in 2004.

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From the archive

Muons are like drunken cowboys

4 March 1968

In March 1968 staff were invited to watch the new documentary film about CERN. They probably enjoyed themselves, as Guido Franco’s aim was to inform the public through entertainment. He sought to engage an audience’s attention and make them want to learn, rather than forcing information on them. If that sounds uncontentious, you might be surprised at the strength of feeling the film aroused.

 

Despite considerable editing at the end of 1967 to meet criticisms of the first version, opinion still varied widely. Some were enthusiastic, feeling it captured the spirit and excitement of particle physics research; others found it frivolous, mocking scientists and portraying them as playboys having a wonderful time at the taxpayers’ expense. Even the fiercest critics thought it reflected great credit on Franco as a film-maker, however, they just feared it could do untold damage to the reputation of CERN.

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From the archive

The 55th Tour de France comes to CERN

19 July 1968

CERN’s internal magazine carried detailed instructions about closed roads, blocked entrances, and suggested detours. Staff were invited to respect the parking ban and to obey police instructions, but plenty of them took the opportunity to pile outside and watch as well. On 19 July 1968 the Tour de France came right past CERN’s main entrance!

CERN staff joined fans lining the route to encourage riders on Stage 20, which took the riders 242.5 km from Sallanches to Besançon, over the Faucille pass in the nearby Jura mountains. This was the last year that the Tour ran on a national team format; stage 20 was won by Jozef Huysmans (Belgium A), who finished 32nd overall when the race ended two days later.

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From the archive

CERN’s new telephone exchange

6 August 1968

Dialling zero for an outside line could be frustrating in 1965. With just 17 lines serving 1,000 CERN extensions, callers faced long waits – and if the overloaded battery failed no-one could got through at all. Phone traffic had increased by 70% between 1963 and 1965, complaints were frequent and the exchange staff were feeling overloaded too.

No more lines, extensions or operators’ desks could be added to existing exchange, so a new one was commissioned. Stop-gap measures until it was ready in August 1968 included pleas for patience and strict rationing of the only 140 new internal phone numbers remaining at CERN.

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From the archive

T. D. Lee lectures to CERN’s summer students

9 August 1968

Summer at CERN means summer students – and a succession of distinguished speakers from within and outside the organization who share their knowledge with young scientists each year. This photo shows Nobel Prize-winner T. D. Lee explaining symmetry principles in physics to the 1968 intake.

The summer student programme was set up in 1962 as an extension of the existing fellows and visitors scheme. In its first year, 70 students were selected from around 500 applicants; they stayed for 68 weeks, lodging at the University in Geneva or in temporary barracks on the CERN site. Since then the programme has continued to grow, and the combination of work experience, lectures, discussions and workshops and an active social life remains just as popular.

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From the archive

An Apollo 9 astronaut visits CERN

4 June 1969

Astronaut Rusty Schweickart’s visit to CERN on 4 June 1969 was a big hit. The auditorium was packed, and his talk on The Flight of Apollo 9 and the Future of Space Exploration was screened to other equally crowded rooms around CERN. Just three months earlier he had been the Lunar Module pilot on the Apollo 9 mission, which carried out a series of tests in earth orbit paving the way for the landing of the first man on the moon on 20 July. The Lunar Excursion Module was the small spacecraft that would separate from the parent capsule in lunar orbit to carry two astronauts down to the surface of the moon and back.

 

In the two days following Rusty’s talk a further 1,250 people watched the Apollo 9 film, and Rusty was able to return incognito for a good look round CERN. More photos and an audio recording of part of the question and answer session are available if you’d like to know more.

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From the archive

The world’s first proton-proton collider

27 January 1971

The scene is the control room of the Intersecting Storage Rings (ISR) on 27 January 1971. Kjell Johnsen, leader of the ISR construction team, has just announced successful recording of the first ever interactions from colliding proton beams. It was a triumphant moment, not least because the ISR had been an ambitious and highly controversial project, with several years of heated debate preceding its final unanimous approval by the CERN council in June 1965.

The interconnected rings, 300 metres in diameter and fed from the Proton Synchrotron (PS), ran from March 1971 until December 1983. At the official inauguration on 16 October 1871, Werner Heisenberg handed the President of the CERN council, Edoardo Amaldi, a golden key that controlled the transfer of protons from the PS to the ISR, symbolizing their hopes that the new machine would be the key to a thorough understanding of the world of elementary particle physics. He said such a symbolic key should first be in the hands of the experimentalists.  At the closure ceremony on 26 June 1984, the key was formally handed back to the theorists, in the person of Viktor Weisskopf.

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From the archive

New home for CERN apprentices

9 December 1971

A “modest ceremony” marked the opening of a new training centre for CERN’s apprentices in December 1971. The converted barrack was fitted with a range of equipment, enabling them to practice their skills and spend more time learning together before heading around the laboratory for further training.

The apprenticeship programme had been set up in conjunction with the Geneva authorities to take advantage of the extraordinary range of specialist skills found at CERN. It began in 1966 with the enrolment of five young people, two in design office work, one as a laboratory assistant and two in administration. Starting at around the age of 15, they spent three or four years at CERN before moving on to further education or directly into employment.

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From the archive

Computers: why?

1 March 1972

What is a computer? Why does CERN need the new ‘number crunchers’ anyway? These are some of the questions Lew Kowarski tries to answer in a special issue of the CERN Courier devoted to computing at CERN in 1972.

In his introduction he explains that high-energy physics is not just about hunting down and photographing strange particles, as though they were so many rare animals. Other articles give details of electronics experiments, bubble chamber experiments, data acquisition and analysis, mathematical computing applications in theoretical studies and more. But it is perhaps the advertisements that really capture the state of the art nearly half a century ago.

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From the archive

Completion of the SPS tunnel

31 July 1974

A team photo celebrates the completion of the SPS tunnel in July 1974. The Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) was the first of CERN’s giant accelerators. It was also the first cross-border accelerator. Excavation took around two years, and on 31 July 1974 the Robbins tunnel-boring machine returned to its starting point having crossed the Franco-Swiss border and excavated a tunnel with a circumference of 7 kilometres and an average depth of 40 metres below the surface.

The SPS was commissioned in 1976, and a highlight of its  career came in 1983 with the announcement of the Nobel prize-winning discovery of W and Z particles.

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From the archive

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