The history of CERN

CERN has come a long way since its foundation in 1954. This timeline collects the organization's major contracts, projects, partnerships and scientific advances.

11 03, 1972

With completion of the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) fast approaching, CERN needed a way to control the accelerator’s complex systems. Linking individual cables directly to the control room had worked fine for the Proton Synchrotron (PS), but was not economically viable for a machine 10 times its size.

Frank Beck, who later became head of SPS Central Controls, knew the possibilities of existing touch-screen technology, but found their mechanical designs unsuitable. He turned to his colleague Bent Stumpe, who, in a handwritten note dated 11 March 1972, presented his proposed solution – a capacitive touch screen with a fixed number of programmable buttons presented on a display.

It was extremely simple mechanically. The screen was to consist of a set of capacitors etched into a film of copper on a sheet of glass, each capacitor being constructed so that a nearby flat conductor, such as the surface of a finger, would increase the capacitance by a significant amount. The capacitors were to consist of fine lines etched in copper on a sheet of glass – fine enough (80 μm) and sufficiently far apart (80 μm) to be invisible. In the final device, a simple lacquer coating prevented the fingers from actually touching the capacitors. A prototype was shown to those in charge of the SPS project, who decided to use the technology. Frank Beck and Bent Stumpe described this touch screen in a 1973 CERN report.

When the SPS started up in 1976 its control room was fully equipped with touch screens. By 1977 the capacitive touch screen was already available commercially and being sold to other institutes and companies worldwide. The original touch screen had only 16 fixed “buttons” associated with distinct areas of the screen, but already in 1977 it was obvious that a more flexible arrangement for dividing up the screen would have many advantages. Stumpe developed his original concept to create an X–Y touch screen, which sensed the position touched via two layers of capacitors corresponding to X and Y co-ordinates. Following prototype work at CERN, development began with NESELCO and the University of Aarhus, supported by the Danish state development funds. Despite the involvement of industry, CERN, as many other research labs at that time, did not yet have the necessary knowledge transfer processes in place to ensure a wide dissemination of Bent’s invention… while today this forms an integral part of how the organization creates tangible benefits for society. At this point, CERN’s involvement with the further development of touch screens came to an end.

Today, the CERN Control Centre no longer uses touch screen to control the accelerators. However, touch-screen technology is ubiquitous in devices such as mobile phones, tablets and computers.

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CDS Media
18 03, 2014

CERN announces its anniversary of 60 years of science for peace, with events at the Organization’s Geneva laboratory and in its Members States. 

CERN celebrated twice: first on 1 July 2014 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, where the Organization’s 12 founding members established the CERN Convention on 1 July 1953. And the second celebration of the 60th birthday was in Geneva on 29 September, the date on which the Convention was ratified 60 years ago and the Organization formally came into existence. 

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CDS Media
28 09, 2018

Pierre-Alain Tschudi, the Mayor of Meyrin, Mauro Poggia, state councillor of Geneva and Fabiola Gianotti, CERN Director-General (©CERN)

CERN, the État de Genève and the Ville de Meyrin inaugurate the brand-new Esplanade des Particules, an open space firmly focused on welcoming visitors and the general public. This large public space, designed with pedestrians and sustainable transport in mind, enhances the integration of CERN into the local urban landscape and improves access to the Laboratory.  From today onwards, CERN’s official address will be 1 Esplanade des Particules.

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29 06, 1953

The draft convention was completed in the alotted 18 months and approved unanimously by the representatives of the eleven countries that had signed the original agreement plus the UK, and the document was made available for signature. 

The CERN Convention established financial contributions, which are calculated on the basis of net national income over recent years so that each Member State pays according to their means. 

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05 05, 1952

The first meeting of the CERN Council quickly followed the signing of the agreement. It took place at UNESCO from 5-8 May 1952 with Switzerland’s Paul Scherrer in the chair. At this meeting, governments wishing to host the new laboratory were invited to submit proposals before the end of July and the first five officials were appointed.

Edoardo Amaldi was made Secretary General of the provisional organisation, Cornelis Bakker from Amsterdam headed the group that would draw up plans for the laboratory’s first machine --
 a synchrocyclotron with an energy of at least 500 MeV, Niels Bohr headed the theory group, and Odd Dahl from Norway got the job of exploring options for the originally conceived 'bigger and more powerful' machine that would bring together European science and scientists.

Lew Kowarski -- who originally proposed setting up a laboratory for fundamental research, unlinked to military goal, with a nuclear accelerator -- was tasked with organising and setting up an international laboratory, from financial procedures to buildings and workshops.

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14 07, 2015
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Possible layout of the quarks in a pentaquark particle. The five quarks might be tightly bound (left). They might also be assembled into a meson (one quark and one antiquark) and a baryon (three quarks), weakly bound together (Image: Daniel Dominguez)

From the CERN website:

The LHCb experiment at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider has reported the discovery of a class of particles known as pentaquarks. The collaboration has submitted today a paper reporting these findings to the journal Physical Review Letters.

“The pentaquark is not just any new particle,” said LHCb spokesperson Guy Wilkinson. “It represents a way to aggregate quarks, namely the fundamental constituents of ordinary protons and neutrons, in a pattern that has never been observed before in over 50 years of experimental searches. Studying its properties may allow us to understand better how ordinary matter, the protons and neutrons from which we’re all made, is constituted.”

Our understanding of the structure of matter was revolutionized in 1964 when American physicist Murray Gell-Mann  proposed that a category of particles known as baryons, which includes protons and neutrons, are comprised of three fractionally charged objects called quarks, and that another category, mesons, are formed of quark-antiquark pairs. Antiquarks are quarks of antimatter. Gell-Mann was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for this work in 1969. This quark model also allows the existence of other quark composite states, such as pentaquarks composed of four quarks and an antiquark.

Earlier experiments that have searched for pentaquarks have proved inconclusive. Where the LHCb experiment differs is that it has been able to look for pentaquarks from many perspectives, with all pointing to the same conclusion. It’s as if the previous searches were looking for silhouettes in the dark, whereas LHCb conducted the search with the lights on, and from all angles. The next step in the analysis will be to study how the quarks are bound together within the pentaquarks.

Read the full Press Release.

Read the LHCb article.

04 07, 2012
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ATLAS spokesperson, Fabiola Gianotti, presents the collaboration's results. (IMAGE: CERN)

On 4 July 2012, as a curtain raiser to the year’s major particle physics conference, ICHEP 2012 in Melbourne, the ATLAS and CMS experiments present their latest preliminary results in the search for the long-sought Higgs particle. Both experiments have observed a new particle in the mass region around 125-126 GeV. 

The next step is to determine the precise nature of the particle and its significance for our understanding of the universe. Are its properties as expected for the long-sought Higgs boson, the final missing ingredient in the Standard Model of particle physics? Or is it something more exotic? The Standard Model describes the fundamental particles from which we, and every visible thing in the universe, are made, and the forces acting between them. All the matter that we can see, however, appears to be no more than about 4% of the total. A more exotic version of the Higgs particle could be a bridge to understanding the 96% of the universe that remains obscure.

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19 09, 2008
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On 19 September 2008, during powering tests of the main dipole circuit in Sector 3-4 of the LHC, a fault occurs in the electrical bus connection in the region between a dipole and a quadrupole, resulting in mechanical damage and release of helium from the magnet cold mass into the tunnel. Proper safety procedures are in force, the safety systems perform as expected, and no-one is put at risk.

More about the incident: 

A full technical analysis of the incident is available here

Or read an analysis of the LHC incident on CERN's press office website

17 03, 1954
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On 17 May 1954, the first shovel of earth was dug on the Meyrin site in Switzerland under the eyes of Geneva officials and members of CERN staff.

02 11, 2000
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The Large Electron–Positron collider was shut down for the last time at 8.00 a.m. on 2 November 2000. Members of government from around the world gathered at CERN on 9 October to celebrate the achievements of LEP and its 11 years of operational life. With the tunnel now  available for work, teams began excavating the caverns to house the four big detectors on the Large Hadron Collider.