From the archive
  1. 25/04/1900

    Bertha Pauli’s son Wolfgang is born

    Bertha Camilla Schütz (known as Maria) was born…

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  2. 04/10/1918

    Wolfgang Pauli begins his studies in Munich

    In October 1918 Wolfgang Pauli left Vienna to…

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  3. 11/09/1927

    The Como congress 1927

    Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg and Enrico…

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  4. 10/01/1928

    Wolfgang Pauli appointed professor at ETH Zürich

    Despite some reservations about his lecturing…

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  5. 04/12/1930

    December 1930 - Pauli’s Neutrino letter (now in music and art!)

    On 4 December 1930, Wolfgang Pauli wrote his…

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  6. 12/04/1932

    The Copenhagen Faustparodie

    Among the scientific documents in CERN’s Wolfgang…

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  7. 15/10/1934

    Pauli and Sommerfeld in Geneva

    Wolfgang Pauli is seen here with his former…

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  8. 15/11/1945

    Wolfgang Pauli learns that he has been awarded the Nobel prize

    Wolfgang Pauli was awarded the 1945 Nobel prize…

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  9. 10/12/1946

    Pauli travels to Sweden to receive the Nobel prize

    The date on this menu for Wolfgang Pauli’s Nobel…

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  10. 15/02/1952

    CERN is born, mother and child are doing well

      “We have just signed the Agreement which…

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  11. 25/08/1952

    Redesigning the Proton Synchrotron

    Too often trip reports are just boring…

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  12. 01/07/1953

    Signing the CERN Convention

    After long months of negotiation - success! The…

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  13. 05/10/1953

    Settling into Geneva

    Even before the official creation of CERN in 1954…

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  14. 17/05/1954

    Construction of CERN begins

    A historic moment passed almost unnoticed on 17…

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  15. 29/09/1954

    CERN exists!

    A telegram from Jean Mussard informed Edoardo…

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  16. 07/10/1954

    The new CERN Council

    When the CERN Convention was signed in 1953, it…

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  17. 02/11/1954

    “OERN is difficult to pronounce in most languages”

    Has it ever struck you as odd that the initials…

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  18. 20/12/1954

    Baby CERN’s first Christmas

    In his seasonal greetings to CERN’s Director-…

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  19. 11/05/1955

    Inaugural meeting of the CERN Staff Association

     “Wholeheartedly agree – the sooner the better…

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  20. 10/06/1955

    Laying the foundation stone of CERN

    “On this tenth day of June, one thousand nine…

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  21. 11/07/1955

    Election of the CERN Staff Association Committee

    Voting for the Committee members of CERN’s newly…

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  22. 11/11/1955

    Does CERN need to buy a computer?

    When CERN was just over a year old, the…

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  23. 14/06/1956

    Neutrinos detected at last!

    On 14 June 1956 a telegram from Frederick Reines…

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  24. 16/07/1956

    Birth of the CERN fire brigade

    Safety is top priority in any scientific research…

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  25. 05/06/1957

    The P.A.U.L.I. and its uses

    In June 1957, V. F. Weisskopf proudly announced…

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  26. 01/08/1957

    The first circulating beam in the Synchrocyclotron

    A log book entry written by Wolfgang Gentner, the…

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  27. 01/10/1957

    Closure of CERN’s Theoretical Study Division in Copenhagen

    During the construction of CERN in the 1950s,…

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  28. 05/07/1958

    8th Annual International Conference on High Energy Physics

    The 8th Annual International Conference on High…

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  29. 24/02/1959

    Yesterday’s Tomorrow’s World

    Fans of vintage British TV science documentaries…

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  30. 05/03/1959

    Preparing CERN’s HBC30 bubble chamber for testing

    The 30cm liquid hydrogen bubble chamber (HBC30…

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  31. 06/08/1959

    CERN Courier No. 1

    ‘It is a pleasure to introduce our long expected…

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  32. 24/11/1959

    The Proton Synchrotron is up and running

    The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s…

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  33. 05/02/1960

    Inauguration of the Proton Synchrotron

    The PS came into operation on 24 November 1959,…

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  34. 20/04/1960

    First session of the CERN Computer Users’ Committee

    Demand for CERN’s Mercury computer had increased…

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  35. 14/06/1960

    CERN commemorates Wolfgang Pauli

    CERN has the privilege of housing the scientific…

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  36. 01/01/1961

    Miss Steel and the Scientific Conference Secretariat

    Conferences are a great way to promote…

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  37. 16/01/1961

    Matter in question

    If you’re not ready to start the New Year yet,…

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  38. 06/03/1961

    Inauguration of the IBM 709

    On 6 March 1961 François de Rose pressed the…

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  39. 20/12/1962

    Summoning the Founding Fathers

    By 1962, with CERN’s long-term accelerator…

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  40. 07/01/1963

    CERN on ice

    It needed more than a broom to tackle the giant…

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  41. 02/05/1963

    The lighter side of neutrino experiments

    A buzz of excitement marked the start of neutrino…

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  42. 12/05/1963

    Fast ejection of protons from the PS

    This remarkable photo, used on the cover of the…

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  43. 25/04/1964

    CERN Open Day!

    If you were one of the estimated 70,000 visitors…

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  44. 06/12/1964

    Fun and games at the traditional CERN Christmas party

    The tradition of holding a Christmas party for…

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  45. 04/11/1965

    No parking problems with a palanquin

    A suggestion to ease parking problems on the CERN…

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  46. 21/02/1966

    A CERN stamp

    On 21 February 1966 the Swiss Postal Authorities…

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  47. 04/03/1968

    Muons are like drunken cowboys

    In March 1968 staff were invited to watch the new…

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  48. 19/07/1968

    The 55th Tour de France comes to CERN

    CERN’s internal magazine carried detailed…

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  49. 06/08/1968

    CERN’s new telephone exchange

    Dialling zero for an outside line could be…

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  50. 09/08/1968

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

    Summer at CERN means summer students – and a…

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  51. 04/06/1969

    An Apollo 9 astronaut visits CERN

    Astronaut Rusty Schweickart’s visit to CERN on 4…

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  52. 16/09/1970

    The European Southern Observatory at CERN

    A new group set up at CERN in the 1970s had…

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  53. 27/01/1971

    The world’s first proton-proton collider

    The scene is the control room of the Intersecting…

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  54. 09/12/1971

    New home for CERN apprentices

    A “modest ceremony” marked the opening of a new…

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  55. 01/03/1972

    Computers: why?

    What is a computer? Why does CERN need the new ‘…

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  56. 31/07/1974

    Completion of the SPS tunnel

    A team photo celebrates the completion of the SPS…

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  57. 14/09/1975

    Chatting about physics at the National People’s Congress

    A trip to China in September 1975 helped pave the…

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  58. 07/05/1977

    Inaugurating the Super Proton Synchrotron

    On 7 may 1977 Europe inaugurated the world’s…

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  59. 29/09/1979

    CERN Staff Day

    Official 25th anniversary celebrations were held…

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  60. 30/08/1983

    His Holiness the Dalai Lama visits CERN

    CERN is a centre for scientific research, but…

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  61. 13/09/1983

    Speeches from the Swiss and French presidents at the LEP ground-breaking ceremony

    CERN staff and their families were joined by…

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  62. 12/03/1989

    First outline of the World Wide Web

    Tim Berners-Lee made a first proposal for…

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Bertha Pauli’s son Wolfgang is born

Bertha Camilla Schütz (known as Maria) was born in Vienna in 1878. A writer and journalist, she followed in her father’s footsteps as collaborator on the Neue Freie Presse, writing theatre reviews and historical essays. In 1899 she married Wolf Pauli and their first child was born on 25 April 1900. Wolfgang junior, seen here at the age of 20 months, grew up to be a Nobel prizewinning physicist, and his sister Hertha (1906-1973) became an actress and writer. Their mother was a pacifist, a socialist and a feminist, participating in the electoral campaign of 1919 to urge women to cast their newly won vote for the Social Democratic Party. She died (suicide) on 15 November 1927.

Wolfgang Pauli begins his studies in Munich

In October 1918 Wolfgang Pauli left Vienna to study at the University of Munich. His Kollegienbuch gives a glimpse of the lecture courses he followed. During the first semester Pauli attended a couple of morning courses (Unorganische Experimentalchemie and Experimentalphysik I), but gradually the nightlife of Munich claimed more of his attention. He would return late and continue working through much of the night, developing the habit of dropping in only towards the end of morning lectures to check the blackboard and see what he had missed. Sommerfeld tolerated this from his brilliant student, and Pauli achieved the highest mark in all disciplines at the oral doctoral examination on 25 July 1921.

The Como congress 1927

Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg and Enrico Fermi relax on Lake Como during the 1927 International Conference on Physics. The 1927 conference (held in Como to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of Alessandro Volta) is famous for Niels Bohr’s first presentation of his ideas on complementarity. His lecture “The Quantum Postulate and the Recent Development of Atomic Theory” became the basis of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics; a fuller version was presented at the Fifth Solvay Conference (Brussels) in October. Bohr had discussed his ideas with colleagues both before and after these conferences, and Pauli was particularly involved in the preparation of the final manuscript.  

Wolfgang Pauli appointed professor at ETH Zürich

Despite some reservations about his lecturing style, Wolfgang Pauli was appointed professor of theoretical physics at the ETH, Zürich, on 10 January 1928. He started on 1 April at a basic annual salary of 15,000 francs. Pauli’s lectures could sometimes be challenging. The equations in this photo  (taken in Copenhagen in 1929) look fairly legible, but K. Alex Müller recalls his habit of standing at the centre of the blackboard and writing equations around himself, almost in circles, rather than horizontally. Students in the ETH’s famous lecture room 6c tended to sit in two groups, to his left and his right, in order to be able to see round him! Markus Fierz considered Pauli the sort of teacher whose defect it is to think about their subject while lecturing; consequently, the listener participates in a sort of soliloquy which, since it is not really addressed to him, is sometimes barely intelligible. But - Fierz added - this taught the student, above all, to think critically about a theory.

December 1930 - Pauli’s Neutrino letter (now in music and art!)

On 4 December 1930, Wolfgang Pauli wrote his famous letter to the ‘Dear radioactive ladies and gentlemen’ postulating a neutral particle to solve the puzzle of missing energy during beta decay. This letter forms the basis of a new work by ART@CREATIONS, Liebe Radioaktive Damen und Herren, featuring music composed by Petros Stergiopoulos and Oded Ben-Horin.   Pauli had to wait nearly 26 years for experimental confirmation of the neutrino. As he wrote to its discoverers, Frederick Reines and Clyde Cowan, ‘Everything comes to him who knows how to wait.’

The Copenhagen Faustparodie

Among the scientific documents in CERN’s Wolfgang Pauli Archive is a rather unusual item – a copy of the script parodying Goethe’s Faust performed at the Niels Bohr Institute conference, 3-13 April 1932 (exact date of performance not known). Written mostly by Max Delbrück, and decorated with caricatures of the protagonists, the skit features Pauli (Mephistopheles) trying to sell the idea of the neutrino (Gretchen) to a sceptical Paul Ehrenfest (Faust)! Pauli had postulated the existence of this weightless particle in his famous letter to the ‘Dear radioactive ladies and gentlemen’ at the Tübingen conference in December 1930, but he had to wait until 1956 for experimental confirmation by Reines and Cowan, so in 1932 it was still the subject of debate. Pauli’s reputation for sharp wit made him ideal for his satanic rôle, but in his absence the part was played by Léon Rosenfeld. The rôle of God was assigned to Bohr. The script (in German), can be seen here. An English translation is given in George Gamow’s Thirty Years that Shook Physics.

Pauli and Sommerfeld in Geneva

Wolfgang Pauli is seen here with his former teacher Arnold Sommerfeld attending a conference on the electron theory of metals in Geneva, 15–18 October 1934. The conference proceedings don’t mention any leisure activities, but these included a cable car trip up the nearby Salève mountain to enjoy views of Geneva town, the lake and the Alps. The Salève is in France and Sommerfeld had no French visa, so conference organiser Jean Weiglé obligingly smuggled him up to join the others in his car. 

Wolfgang Pauli learns that he has been awarded the Nobel prize

Wolfgang Pauli was awarded the 1945 Nobel prize in physics for his Exclusion Principle. When he received the telegram from Arne Westgren (15 November 1945) Pauli was working at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, having left Europe for the USA during the Second World War. Pauli was the first resident member of the Institute to receive a Nobel  prize; his colleagues greeted it with great enthusiasm and the Director organised an official ceremony. Unexpectedly, after speeches by various distinguished guests, Albert Einstein rose to give an impromptu address, referring to Pauli as his intellectual successor. Pauli was deeply touched by this speech, recalling it in a letter to Max Born ten years later (24 April 1955), and regretting that, since it had been entirely spontaneous, no record of it remained.

Pauli travels to Sweden to receive the Nobel prize

The date on this menu for Wolfgang Pauli’s Nobel prize festivities is 1946, yet he was awarded the  physics prize for his exclusion principle in 1945. In a letter to Niels Bohr (25 November 1945) he explains the delay: “Dear Bohr! It was a great exciting surprise that the Nobel prize was awarded to me this year although I had thought already a week earlier, when the congratulation telegramm of you and your wife arrived, that it was a good omen …  The decision, whether or not I should go to Stockholm on December 10 was really not easy. The American authorities kindly offered me exit and re-enter permits for a trip to Stockholm and back for this very particular purpose. Considering all circumstances of the present situation, particularly the possibility of a delay by such a trip of my getting naturalized, I finally decided to postpone my participation in the ceremony in Stockholm to next year after having heard that Stern and Rabi are doing the same…” Pauli was working in the USA during the war, and US naturalization was particularly important to him because his application for Swiss nationality had been turned down in 1938 and was not granted until 1949.

CERN is born, mother and child are doing well

  “We have just signed the Agreement which constitutes the official birth of the project you fathered at Florence. Mother and child are doing well, and the doctors send you their greetings.” This was the message sent to Isidor Rabi on 15 Feb 1952 by the signatories of an agreement establishing the provisional European Council for Nuclear Research. Scientists and politicians had been pressing for the creation of a European laboratory to pool resources depleted after World War Two, and Nobel laureate Rabi added his support at the fifth UNESCO General Conference (Florence, June 1950), where he tabled a resolution to “assist and encourage the formation of regional research centres and laboratories in order to increase and make more fruitful the international collaboration of scientists…”  The first resolution concerning the establishment of a European Council for Nuclear Research was adopted at an intergovernmental meeting of UNESCO in Paris in December 1951. The provisional Council, set up in 1952, was dissolved when the European Organization for Nuclear Research officially came into being in 1954, though the acronym CERN (Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire) was retained.

Redesigning the Proton Synchrotron

Too often trip reports are just boring administrative documents, but this one caused a radical rethink of the design for CERN’s Proton Synchrotron. Suddenly a relatively straightforward engineering challenge became a development project for an untested idea. Plans were already underway for CERN’s large accelerator, a scaled-up version of Brookhaven’s Cosmotron, when Odd Dahl, Frank Goward and Rolf Wideröe visited Brookhaven in 1952. There they joined in discussions about a new strong-focusing (or alternating gradient focusing) technique, which meant smaller magnets could be used to guide particles round an accelerator provided they were arranged with their field gradients facing alternately inwards and outwards instead of the conventional outward-facing alignment. Dahl recommended laying aside plans for a 10 GeV accelerator for the time being in order to investigate the idea further (CERN-PS-S4). It was a risky decision to follow this unexplored route, but one that paid off by allowing construction of a much more powerful machine at little extra cost. When the Proton Synchrotron came into operation in November 1959 it had an energy of 24 GeV, later increased to 28 GeV.

Signing the CERN Convention

After long months of negotiation - success! The work of the provisional Council responsible for planning the new international laboratory for nuclear physics reached a successful conclusion on 1 July 1953 with the signature of the CERN Convention. The drafting committee and the administrative and financial working group had worked at UNESCO House throughout the week leading up the Council’s sixth meeting in Paris (29-30 June) to finalize the document, and signature took place the next day at a conference held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Delegates of nine countries signed, with the remaining three expressing their intention to do so shortly. The convention was gradually ratified by the 12 founding member states (Belgium, Denmark, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Yugoslavia) and the European Organization for Nuclear Research officially came into being on 29 September 1954. The text of the Convention is available here.

Settling into Geneva

Even before the official creation of CERN in 1954, staff began to settle into temporary offices around Geneva. On 5 October 1953 part of the PS (Proton Synchrotron) Group, including Frank Goward, John Adams, Mervyn Hine, John and Hildred Blewett, Kjell Johnsen and Edouard Regenstreif, arrived to take up residence in offices that had been made available in the University of Geneva’s Institute of Physics . In the same month plans were made to convert the Villa de Cointrin (see photo), which later became the first headquarters for the CERN Directorate,  Administration and Finance Groups. The building was currently empty and in need of repair, and was being offered for an annual rent of around 3,000 CHF.

Construction of CERN begins

A historic moment passed almost unnoticed on 17 May 1954, as the first excavation work started in the Meyrin countryside and construction of CERN began. Future events of this kind were celebrated with speeches, press coverage and parties, but this was a quiet and purely unofficial ceremony. Geneva had been chosen as the site for the proposed laboratory in October 1952 and approved by a referendum in the canton of Geneva in June 1953, but CERN’s status was provisional until completion of the ratification process at the end of September 1954. Nonetheless, CERN staff were already hard at work, and those based locally (at the Institut de Physique and Villa Cointrin) assembled in Meyrin along with representatives of the Genevan authorities and the chairman of the provisional CERN Council, Robert Valeur, to watch work begin on their new home.   

CERN exists!

A telegram from Jean Mussard informed Edoardo Amaldi (Secretary-General of the provisional CERN) that the CERN Convention had finally come into force on 29 September, when France and Germany deposited their instruments of ratification at UNESCO House in Paris. Three more member states were yet to ratify – this took another five months – but the necessary conditions had now been met. The provisional Council ceased to exist and, after a few days during which Amaldi was the sole owner of all CERN’s assets, the new organization held its first meeting in Geneva on the 7-8 October 1954.

The new CERN Council

When the CERN Convention was signed in 1953, it was assumed that the long-awaited European laboratory would soon become a reality. But ratification formalities took longer than expected. Meanwhile work on the ground was forging ahead, so it was a relief for the interim governors when the new CERN Council finally took office some 15 months later. An important item at the first Council meeting on 7-8 October 1954 was the transfer of all assets and liabilities of the interim organization. Council officers and senior CERN staff were also appointed, various procedural, financial and staff questions settled, and a provisional organizational structure adopted. This structure was approved at the second meeting in February 1955 (shown in photo) along with the headquarters agreement with Switzerland. CERN was finally starting to take shape! If you’re interested to know more, the minutes of the first meeting are available here.

“OERN is difficult to pronounce in most languages”

Has it ever struck you as odd that the initials CERN refer to an organization that ceased to exist when the current organization was created? If so, you’re not alone. The Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire was a provisional body set up in 1952 to establish a world-class fundamental physics research centre in Europe. It was dissolved when it had successfully accomplished its mission but by then, of course, the acronym CERN had stuck. Most people felt this wouldn’t cause any particular legal or other complications, though Lew Kowarski (second from the left in this 1955 photo) considered the idea “so silly as to be intolerable”. You can read Director of Administration Dakin’s memo here.

Baby CERN’s first Christmas

In his seasonal greetings to CERN’s Director-General and staff, the President of the CERN Council acknowledged the difficulties faced by a young organization and the devotion shown by all those involved in overcoming them. The reply, sent a few days later, emphasized how much had been achieved: “…Less than three months after its official birth, CERN finds itself in possession of an active programme of research and building in full progress, adequate accommodation and a considerable staff. The stage of teething troubles is behind us; our approaching adolescence will bring difficulties of its own but we can look ahead with confidence…”

Inaugural meeting of the CERN Staff Association

 “Wholeheartedly agree – the sooner the better!” – CERN’s personnel officer was enthusiastic about the idea of creating a Staff Association in 1955. The Director of Administration, Sam Dakin, was similarly encouraging, writing to the Director-General: “Very often I am conscious that in attempting to judge the needs and wishes of the staff, we have to rely on ordinary gossip and that for official comments we have only those of Divisional Directors who may not always accurately know or represent the feeling of their staff. […] In such matters as, for instance, the health insurance, scales of pay, annual leave and so on, I should feel much better satisfied that we were adapting our policy to meet the real needs of the case if we have discussed it with the staff representatives as well as with the Directors.” (You can read the letters here.) The Association held its inaugural meeting in the large lecture theatre of Geneva’s Institut de Physique at 6.15pm on Wednesday 11 May 1955. The rules and statutes were approved at this meeting and the President (A. Sarazin) and Committee members were elected over the next few weeks.

Laying the foundation stone of CERN

“On this tenth day of June, one thousand nine hundred and fifty five, on ground generously given by the Republic and Canton of Geneva, was laid the foundation stone of the buildings of the headquarters and the laboratories of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the first European institution devoted to co-operative research for the advancement of pure science” The stone was laid by the organization’s first Director-General, Felix Bloch, and speeches referred to the challenge of setting up the new laboratory, the cooperation and goodwill that had made it possible and a vision for the future.  The headquarters agreement with the Swiss Federation was signed the following morning, and in the afternoon the grounds of CERN were thrown open to the public. Construction had started long before the foundation stone, of course, so there was already plenty for visitors to see, and staff were on hand to act as guides. Want to know more? The commemorative booklet for the Foundation Stone Ceremony and the Open Day flyer are available here. 

Election of the CERN Staff Association Committee

Voting for the Committee members of CERN’s newly formed Staff Association closed at midnight on 11 July 1955; Messrs J.A. Giebel, K. Johnson, J. P. Stroot, E. Zaccheroni, J. Ball, R. Siegfried, Miss C. de Mol and Miss A. Schubert were duly elected, with 177 votes cast.   On 21 July the Chairman, Mr A. Sarazin, requested formal recognition of the Association as sole representative of CERN’s personnel. Cornelis Bakker, who was just taking over from Felix Bloch as Director-General, was happy to grant this, with the proviso that that staff could still approach him directly if they so wished. At this time, not all CERN staff were based in Geneva and he suggested that that those in Copenhagen, Uppsala and Liverpool should also be represented by the Association. The next step was a series of meetings between management and the Association, and the creation of a consultative committee. You can read some of the relevant letters here.

Does CERN need to buy a computer?

When CERN was just over a year old, the Scientific Policy Committee was asked its opinion “as to the advisability of purchasing [an] electronic computer”. Lew Kowarski thought we should buy one, and his proposal (CERN/SPC/13) makes fascinating reading. He gives an overview of the current state of the market and outlines some issues to be considered. These included costs and staffing requirements, but also the fact that physicists were unlikely to bother learning to use this new machine unless it was clear that the effort was worthwhile! He considered the pros and cons of hiring a computer or collaborating with other institutes, but felt that purchase would serve us better “if an electronic computation is to become a standard technique in high-energy physics”. His recommendation was accepted, and the Ferranti Mercury computer was installed in June 1958 (see photo).

Neutrinos detected at last!

On 14 June 1956 a telegram from Frederick Reines and Clyde Cowan informed Wolfgang Pauli that neutrinos had been detected from fission fragments - nearly 26 years after Pauli first postulated the neutral particle as a solution to the missing energy during beta decay. Pauli had outlined his theory in a letter to the ‘Dear radioactive ladies and gentlemen’ at the Tübingen conference in December 1930, excusing his own absence from the conference on the grounds that he had to go to a dance in Zürich. The name “neutrino” was coined by Enrico Fermi in 1933.   Apparently Pauli’s reply to the telegram did not arrive, so it survives only in the form of the draft sent by a secretary - Pauli simply says “Thanks for message. Everything comes to him who knows how to wait.”

Birth of the CERN fire brigade

Safety is top priority in any scientific research laboratory, and fire prevention was an important issue from the earliest days of CERN. The newly constructed buildings were fitted with smoke detectors, and voluntary fire brigades and first aid teams were set up among staff members.   The appointment of CERN’s first fire service chief, Pierre Vosdey, in July 1956 marked the start of the professional firefighting service that CERN enjoys today. Experienced firemen were recruited, who trained more volunteers. The service expanded during 1957, providing 24-hour cover and acquiring a fire engine, an ambulance, a 14 metre ladder, a motor pump, smoke detectors and 250 fire extinguishers. This photo shows some of the team in 1959. Today the CERN fire brigade has around 50 members and continues to work closely with the Swiss and French fire services to ensure safety on-site.

The P.A.U.L.I. and its uses

In June 1957, V. F. Weisskopf proudly announced acquisition of an instrument with unique possibilities - an intricate mechanism for testing complicated physics theories and producing new ideas. But it required careful handling! Inexperienced operators testing a theory would often see no reaction at first, or just hear faint noises reminiscent of German expressions such as “Ganz dumm” and “Sind sie noch immer da?” It was rather bulky, almost spherical in shape, and very much dependent on the correct fuel supply. Weisskopf said that, for reasons not yet fully understood, nobody had been able to make the machine work before noon. In fact, Wolfgang Pauli had been acquired as a professor at the ETH Zürich in 1928, but a footnote explained that the paper had been classified since 1932, and partial publication was only now permitted since the U.S.S.R. had succeeded in building a similar gadget with a radius 1.5 times larger than the original model. You can read the full report here (p.9) along with other fascinating articles in the spoof Revues of Unclear Physics, published at the University of Birmingham to celebrate the 50th birthday of R. E. Peierls.

The first circulating beam in the Synchrocyclotron

A log book entry written by Wolfgang Gentner, the head of SC Division, and signed by various colleagues, tells us that a short celebration was held on the 1st of August 1957 following the successful  appearance of the first circulating beam. The 600 MeV Synchrocyclotron (SC)  was CERN’s first accelerator and provided beams for its earliest particle and nuclear physics experiments.  It was a remarkably long-lived machine, even when superseded by the larger Proton Synchrotron, and operated for 33 years before being decommissioned in December 1990. Work is currently underway to give the SC a new lease of life as an exhibition area and visitor attraction.

Closure of CERN’s Theoretical Study Division in Copenhagen

During the construction of CERN in the 1950s, most staff were lodged in temporary offices nearby.  But the theoretical physics group (one of three study groups set up in 1952 as part of the ‘provisional CERN’) began life at the Theoretical Physics Institute, University of Copenhagen.  Niels Bohr led the group until September 1954, then handed over to Christian Møller. The photo shows CERN’s Director General Cornelius Bakker signing an agreement on the legal status of the group in Denmark in 1956. It was always intended that the group would relocate back to the main CERN site over a period of five years, and the first theorists came to Geneva in 1954. They were based first at the University of Geneva, then in barracks near the airport, before finally moving to the new site in Meyrin. The Theory Group in Copenhagen officially closed on 1 October 1957.

8th Annual International Conference on High Energy Physics

The 8th Annual International Conference on High Energy Physics – known as the Rochester Conference, from the name of its first venue – was held at the Physics Institute of the University of Geneva. The format for this meeting, which was also the 2nd CERN Conference on High Energy Nuclear Physics, differed slightly from previous years. To maximise use of time, rapporteurs were chosen summarise the developments in their field. You can read the proceedings here or look at some of the deliberations of the planning committee here. Even if rapporteurs helped make the content clearer for participants, CERN’s Public Information Office pointed out that it ‘will probably be too hard to digest for the average reporter and reader, even if cleverly "popularized". Thus the main stress should be placed on personalities and the spirit of international cooperation.’ (See memo.) There were plenty of high profile physicists to choose from, including Nobel Prize winner Wolfgang Pauli; a rare recording of him speaking at the conference is online here.   

Yesterday’s Tomorrow’s World

Fans of vintage British TV science documentaries might enjoy this early precursor to Tomorrow’s World. On weekdays (when the outside broadcast cameras weren’t needed to cover sports fixtures!) the Eye on Research crew visited scientific laboratories and research centres to discuss topical issues. This was the BBC’s first regular science and technology series; it broadcast over forty episodes on a wide range of subjects between 1957 and 1962 (they are listed on BBC Genome). Presenting live from CERN on 24 February 1959, we see Raymond Baxter deploying all his famous interviewing skills to help some distinctly nervous scientists explain their work to the viewers. The soundtrack jumps a bit, but it’s still worth a look.

Preparing CERN’s HBC30 bubble chamber for testing

The 30cm liquid hydrogen bubble chamber (HBC30) - here seen being inserted into its vacuum tank in March 1959 - was the first bubble chamber to be used for physics experiments at CERN. After testing with nitrogen and hydrogen it was placed in the Synchro-Cyclotron, and its first five days of operation in November yielded 100,000 photographs. In March 1960 it was moved to the proton Synchrotron, and by the time it ceased operations in spring 1962 it had consumed 150 km of film. Bubble chambers were one of the main experimental tools used in high-energy physics during the 1950s and 1960s. They were filled with superheated liquid, and if a charged high-energy particle passed through the liquid started to boil along its path, producing a trail of tiny bubbles that could be photographed. CERN’s first bubble chamber was a small (10cm) trial model, developed to test this exciting new technique. Larger models soon followed, including the giantess Gargamelle and the Big European Bubble Chamber (BEBC).

CERN Courier No. 1

‘It is a pleasure to introduce our long expected internal bulletin,’ wrote Director-General Cornelis Jan Bakker, ‘I hope it will benefit not only from your attention but also from the many suggestions which will certainly arise in CERN's fertile minds.’ The first CERN Courier featured visiting  VIPs, a forthcoming trip to Russia, feedback on the 13th CERN Council Session and a round-up of news at CERN and abroad (Other Peoples' Atoms). Behind the scenes, an introductory report from the editor discussed the objectives and format of the proposed journal, and also how to finance it. Disagreement about whether it would be ethically acceptable to include advertisements rumbled on for quite some time.

The Proton Synchrotron is up and running

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s biggest and most powerful particle accelerator, but for a few months in 1959 the Proton Synchrotron (PS) shared the same distinction. The PS reached its full design energy of 24 GeV (later increased to 28 GeV) during the night of 24 November 1959, and the following morning project leader John Adams announced the achievement to staff in CERN’s main auditorium. In this photo he holds a vodka bottle that he had been given during a trip to the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna with instructions that the contents should be drunk when CERN passed the Russian Synchrophasotron’s world-record energy of 10 GeV. The bottle in his hand contains a photo of the 24 GeV pulse ready to be sent back to the Soviet Union!

Inauguration of the Proton Synchrotron

The PS came into operation on 24 November 1959, breaking existing records as the world’s biggest and most powerful particle accelerator. The official ceremony a few months later (you can watch part of it in this 1960 documentary) was a celebration of the technical achievement but also of successful European co-operation that paved the way for progress in the aftermath of World War II. A special issue of the CERN Courier gave more information about the new machine. A press conference and visit were followed by lunch, then the official inauguration by Niels Bohr, speeches and a reception. The guest list included several hundred eminent scientific and political figures. The back cover of the commemorative brochure also featured VIPs - the men and women who made up the PS team.

First session of the CERN Computer Users’ Committee

Demand for CERN’s Mercury computer had increased rapidly since its arrival in 1958, and by 1960 it was time to impose some sort of order on the users: “The present informal arrangement where every programmer may contact any operator makes it impossible for the operators to work efficiently.” A Users’ Committee was set up (see the minutes of the first meeting here), a reception desk was established and some rules laid down. “Programmers have always the strong tendency to ask the operator to perform various emergency actions as soon as their programmes fail. If the operator follows such directions computer time is usually lost unnecessarily. If she refuses (as she is supposed to do), experience shows that people tend to argue. Consequently every effort will be made to have no programmer in the computer room outside normal working hours.” Any questions were to be directed to the Office of the Programming King, Mr Lake. 

CERN commemorates Wolfgang Pauli

CERN has the privilege of housing the scientific archive of 1945 Nobel-prizewinning physicist Wolfgang Pauli. This small but historically valuable collection was donated by Pauli’s widow who, with the help of friends, tracked down originals or copies of his numerous letters. This correspondence, with Bohr, Heisenberg, Einstein and others, provides an invaluable resource on the development of 20th century science. Franca Pauli can be seen here with two of CERN’s founding fathers, Francis Perrin and François de Rose, at the inauguration of CERN’s Pauli Memorial Room (Salle Pauli) on 14 June 1960 (press release, in French). The Archive also includes photographs, manuscripts, notes, and a rare audio recording of Pauli lecturing in 1958. Many items have been digitized and are available online; more information is available here.

Miss Steel and the Scientific Conference Secretariat

Conferences are a great way to promote international scientific communication, and CERN soon acquired considerable experience in running them.  In January 1961 it set up a Scientific Conference Secretariat to share this expertise, organizing conferences in collaboration with local scientific institutions abroad as well as those on-site. In the early days the Secretariat had a staff of just one person - Miss Steel. A keen traveller and one of the great characters of CERN, E. W. D. Steel brought experience from an international career in refugee work when she joined the Organization as a secretary in 1955. She soon discovered that conference organizing committees generally had plenty of scientific knowledge, but were less skilled in dealing with the practicalities. She also observed that “most theoretical physicists are delightful people but they are often nervous and highly strung and need to be handled with care”! Her autobiography A ‘One and Only’ Looks Back is filled with anecdotes of a rich and rewarding life.  

Matter in question

If you’re not ready to start the New Year yet, how about a trip back in time instead? In January 1961 staff were invited to watch CERN’s first documentary film. CERN was of growing interest to journalists, including those in ‘the field of television and moving pictures, news and featurial films’, and by the end of 1958 the organization decided it was time to make a film of its own. The contract was awarded to Georges Pessis in May, and filming soon began. A team of CERN advisors carefully considered all aspects of the work, including what it should be called. After some brainstorming they settled on Matter in Question for the English version. The first private viewing took place on 12 July 1960; the head of the Public Information Service told Pessis that the photography had been very favourably received, and no one had been too critical of the music – possibly jazz wasn’t to everyone’s taste.

Inauguration of the IBM 709

On 6 March 1961 François de Rose pressed the button to run the first program on CERN’s new IBM 709.  The existing Ferranti Mercury computer had been working at full stretch, but increasing user demand left CERN with a backlog of computing work by the end of 1959. A larger and faster machine was essential, though with the two operating together CERN soon got its first taste of compatibility problems. Planning the inauguration of the IBM required a certain delicacy. CERN’s choice of an American computer over European ones had provoked some grumbling, and it was also important that no major Swiss academic institution was overlooked when issuing the invitations. There had been discussion of “a press conference when we could provide a reasonable number of journalists with information and, since this seemed to be required, drinks”, but in the end CERN provided facilities for a press gathering but let IBM organize this themselves. The inauguration remained a more scholarly affair; guests were treated to lunch, speeches, and a CERN visit – and a short musical performance by the new computer.

Summoning the Founding Fathers

By 1962, with CERN’s long-term accelerator construction plans still not fixed, some member states were growing impatient to pursue their own projects. A meeting was called for January 1963, where Europe’s top high-energy physicists would thresh out the whole question of coordinating national initiatives with those carried out at CERN. Reaching agreement between so many countries was never going to be easy, so Director-General Weisskopf suggested a pre-meeting of even more important people – CERN’s “Founding Fathers”. He felt an “informal exchange of view among people who are beyond the pure scientific level” - people committed to CERN’s aims and with experience in governmental matters – would help find “the best way in which to prepare a sympathetic response for the various European countries”. Discussions began over dinner at Le Béarn in Geneva on 19 December, and continued the next day. You can read the minutes of the meeting here. The top physicists duly met January, and became the European Committee for Future Accelerators. 

CERN on ice

It needed more than a broom to tackle the giant icicles decorating CERN’s labs and offices during the great freeze of 1963. The village of La Brévine, 150km away, lived up to its reputation as Little Siberia with temperatures down to -38°C, while cyclists - and even motorists - enjoyed themselves riding across Europe’s frozen lakes and icy rivers. The Swiss electricity network struggled to cope with high demand, reduced production and the failure of a high-tension cable bringing power from Germany. In response, CERN limited its consumption as much as possible, modifying or cutting the experimental programme until things improved. See more photos of CERN in the 1963 snow here.

The lighter side of neutrino experiments

A buzz of excitement marked the start of neutrino experiments at CERN in 1963. As many years of hard work were about to be put to the test, this spoof advertisement appeared on the concrete shielding near the heavy liquid bubble chamber. CERN inventions such as the fast ejection system, proposed in 1959 by Berend Kuiper and Günther Plass, and the magnetic horn, which earned Simon van der Meer his share of the Nobel prize for physics in 1984, had enabled CERN to produce the most intense beam of neutrinos in the world. The first run in June was anxiously awaited, but everything ran smoothly. During seven weeks a total of 4000 events were observed in the spark chamber and 360 in the bubble chamber, comparing very favourably with the 56 spark chamber events found in the previous neutrino experiment in Brookhaven.

Fast ejection of protons from the PS

This remarkable photo, used on the cover of the May 1963 CERN Courier, captures the passage of protons extracted from CERN’s Proton Synchrotron (PS). Initially, the PS had operated with internal targets, but when a beam of higher intensity was needed the fast ejection system was developed to eject the beam towards external targets. During the afternoon of Sunday 12 May 1963 the PS became the source of the world's first beam of 25 GeV protons to travel freely in air. This photo was taken the following day by members of CERN’s Public Information Office. They placed blocks of plastic scintillator along the path of the beam and set up a camera to record the effect. As expected, the scintillators glowed brightly as the beam passed through them. You can read more in the May and June 1963 editions of the CERN Courier, and there are more photos here.

CERN Open Day!

If you were one of the estimated 70,000 visitors to CERN during the 2013 Open Days – or one of the 2,000+ volunteers busily organizing visits, games and all manner of weird and wonderful activities – you might not recognize this photo! Fifty years ago CERN’s Open Days were conducted on a much more modest scale. Limited to families and guests of staff, CERN’s third Open Day on 25 April 1964 welcomed 1,100 visitors. Various CERN departments displayed their laboratories and equipment, and a kindergarten looked after the youngest visitors while their parents toured the site. A technical press day was also arranged on 19 May, with 36 visiting journalists. CERN’s Public Information Office reported good coverage of CERN’s activities during the year, despite “the general disinterest of the daily press in basic science”.

Fun and games at the traditional CERN Christmas party

The tradition of holding a Christmas party for CERN children began in the first year of CERN’s existence and still continues. In the early 1960s it was decided to hold two parties, so there would be room to invite non-CERN children from the neighbouring districts as well. In 1964 (on  December 6 for those with names from A to K, and December 13 for the rest) children aged between four  and twelve years old enjoyed a film, a conjurer and musical clowns, followed by refreshments. Transport was arranged for those requiring it, and parents were informed that although they would not be admitted to the party itself, arrangement had been made to keep the bar open for those wishing to remain during the festivities - Happy Christmas!    

No parking problems with a palanquin

A suggestion to ease parking problems on the CERN site by allocating spaces didn’t go down well in 1965. Possibly the priority given to senior staff, and remarks about the benefits of an invigorating walk, gave offence. In any case, an alternative was proposed: ‘May I suggest instead that “senior administrators, division leaders" and the like, be provided with sedan-chairs or palanquins, in which they could be transported swiftly and effortlessly from corner to corner of the site. Other members of the staff would of course function as bearers. This would not only provide them with invigorating exercise, but also inculcate a due sense of their social position.’ A worried prospective bearer suggested motor scooters, as used by nuns on the wards of an Illinois hospital, instead. To prevent congestion indoors, use of the corridors could be limited to senior staff. Other people would get from office to office via the window ledges, not only enjoying healthful exercise but also freeing up more parking spaces as staffing levels gradually decreased when they fell off. The suggestion does not seem to have been adopted, but remains on file. 

A CERN stamp

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.

Muons are like drunken cowboys

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.

The 55th Tour de France comes to CERN

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.

CERN’s new telephone exchange

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.

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

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 6–8 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.

An Apollo 9 astronaut visits CERN

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.

The European Southern Observatory at CERN

A new group set up at CERN in the 1970s had rather different objectives to those of the rest of the laboratory. Their main task was to build a 3.6 metre telescope to be sent to Chile, following signature of a collaboration agreement between the ESO and CERN on 16 September 1970. The first meeting of the coordinating committee two years later reviewed progress and confirmed that ESO’s Sky Atlas Laboratory was also welcome to continue their work of mapping the southern sky at CERN. The groups relocated to the ESO’s new premises at Garching, Germany, in 1980. See the committee report, read the press release and Professor Blaauw’s article in the August 1970 CERN Courier, or enjoy some more photos of the teams at work.

The world’s first proton-proton collider

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.

New home for CERN apprentices

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.

Computers: why?

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.

Completion of the SPS tunnel

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.

Chatting about physics at the National People’s Congress

A trip to China in September 1975 helped pave the way for increased contact between the scientific communities. Scientists from the People's Republic of China had visited CERN in July 1973, and the reciprocal invitation two years later included social and scientific exchanges plus the traditional group photo at the National People’s Congress Palace. The schedule underwent several changes, you can see a draft here. The visitors assured their hosts that Chinese physicists and engineers would be welcome at CERN for longer periods. ”At first, their reaction was polite agreement as to the desirability of such visits,” reported Viktor Weisskopf. “On September 14, we were received by a high government official: Wu Lein-fu, Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National Congress [centre front of photo]. This man supported the proposal of extended visits of Chinese physicists and engineers to CERN, by quoting a Chinese proverb: "One eye is better than a hundred ears”. I had the impression that, from then on, the Chinese physicists talked much more about extended visits to CERN." You can read more about it in the October 1975 issue of the CERN Courier.

Inaugurating the Super Proton Synchrotron

On 7 may 1977 Europe inaugurated the world’s largest accelerator – the Super Proton Synchrotron; you can read all about it in the CERN Courier. But what was happening behind the scenes? Did you know that organising secretary, Miss Steel, set up a massive card index to keep track of the guests, entering all the details on 6,000 colour-coded cards? She also insisted on sending reply cards to the VIPs, even though treating them like ordinary mortals was considered infra dig; she said the higher you go in a hierarchy, the less legible signatures become, and she wanted to know who the replies came from. Logistics were further complicated by differing conceptions between the different countries as to what constituted an “official delegate”. Her unofficial report makes interesting reading too.

CERN Staff Day

Official 25th anniversary celebrations were held on 25 June, but the fun and games happened on CERN’s real birthday, 29 September. As well as sports, sideshows, films, and Genevan Pipes and Drums, there was Happy Birthday, CERN, written and recorded for the occasion at Fermilab.   Verse three goes like this: “Here's the toast we're proposing:     may your future be greater,     And the budget imposing for your     next accelerator;     May your staff be effective and    your beams full of pep,    May you gain your objective of     constructing the LEP!”    If you can bear to read more, scroll down to page four here - and take a look at one of one of the star attractions at the same time: the Fire Brigade’s 20-metre rescue chute.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama visits CERN

CERN is a centre for scientific research, but also a place for exchanges between science and other fields of human culture and understanding. The visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama on 30 August 1983 provided just such an opportunity. In the morning he and his delegation of monks toured some of CERN’s facilities, including UA1, where the recent discovery of the W and Z bosons had taken place. After joining the visitors for lunch, some of CERN’s physicists gave short presentations on various aspects of CERN’s work, and a discussion explored the different viewpoints of Buddhists and physicists on a range of topics of mutual interest.

Speeches from the Swiss and French presidents at the LEP ground-breaking ceremony

CERN staff and their families were joined by numerous distinguished guests for the official ceremony that launched civil engineering work for the Large Electron-Positron (LEP) collider project on 13 September 1983. Speeches by Herwig Schopper (CERN’s Director-General) and Presidents François Mitterrand and Pierre Aubert  were followed by an inaugural ceremony, then music and celebrations on the lawn.  With a circumference of 27 kilometres, LEP was the largest electron-positron accelerator ever built, and excavation of the LEP tunnel was Europe's largest civil-engineering project prior to the Channel Tunnel. LEP operated for 11 years from July 1989 until its closure on 2 November 2000 to make way for construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in the same tunnel.

First outline of the World Wide Web

Tim Berners-Lee made a first proposal for information management at CERN in March 1989 (no exact date is given). A later version was written in 1990, but this early document is particularly interesting because it includes annotations by his boss, Mike Sendall, whose general comment was ‘Vague but exciting…’! The project eventually grew to become the World Wide Web.   In this document Berners-Lee outlined the problems of losing information at CERN, the advantages of linked information and hypertext and the practical requirements of his idea. He proposed ‘a universal linked information system, in which generality and portability are more important than fancy graphics techniques and complex extra facilities. The aim of the project would be to allow a place to be found for putting any information or reference which one felt was important, and a way of finding it afterwards.’ With the help of Robert Cailliau and others he was able to make the dream a reality.