Franco Bonaudi 1928–2008

Franco Bonaudi, one of the true pioneers of CERN’s accelerators, passed away on 21 December 2008.

Even before the first provisional CERN Council meeting of May 1952, Franco, a young research engineer at the Politechnico di Torino agreed to go to Liverpool, at Edoardo Amaldi’s request, to learn about synchrocyclotrons and join the study group led by Cornelius Bakker for the first CERN accelerator, the 600 MeV Synchrocyclotron. Two years later, from a barrack in the centre of the Meyrin construction site, he quickly learnt how to deal successfully with industrial partners, a skill he continued to use in leading the apparatus-layout group of the PS and throughout his career at CERN.

In 1963 he spent a year’s sabbatical at the Stanford 20 GeV linear accelerator, where he helped design the experimental areas and establish a successful exchange programme of physicists and engineers between SLAC and CERN. On his return he designed the future experimental areas of the Intersecting Storage Rings (ISR), and in 1967 took responsibility for the ISR General Layout Group. The ISR saw its first colliding beams on 27 January 1971, by which time Franco was fully occupied in the installation of experiments as leader of the ISR Experimental Support Group.

Franco was CERN’s Director of Accelerators from 1976 to 1978. This was a crucial period when the SPS was turned on, Carlo Rubbia’s idea of converting the new ring into a pp collider was shown to be feasible; and the Initial Cooling Experiment ring proved that a successful antiproton accumulator could be built using Simon Van der Meer’s stochastic cooling. But Franco never felt at home in the directorate and much preferred working directly with his engineering and physics colleagues. Joining the UA2 experiment led by Pierre Darriulat, he participated in the discovery of the W and Z bosons, CERN’s Nobel Prize-winning successes of 1984.

In 1983, Emilio Picasso, the new project leader for LEP, asked him to bring his talents to the management team and take responsibility for the design and construction of the experimental areas. Once the LEP beams were successfully circulating in 1989 and the experiments taking data, Franco became scientific secretary of the Detector Research & Development Committee, a new committee advising the research board and the director-general on the numerous detector development projects looking forward to very-high-rate, 14 TeV collisions in the LHC.

Franco retired from CERN in March 1993 after 41 years of dedicated work. For many years he continued his scientific work as a member of advisory committees for the European Southern Observatory and INFN Frascati, as well as giving accelerator physics seminars and courses in Torino. He also helped his lifelong friend, the late Sergio Fubini, to establish with Eliezer Rabinovici a scientific "peace-bridge" in the Middle East, which later led to the creation of the SESAME synchrotron-radiation laboratory in Jordan.

He appreciated life to the full, enjoying music and the arts. He was particularly knowledgeable about classic films. Always curious and with a range of interests, he was a great conversationalist; fascinated by language and languages, he took classes in Swiss-German and Russian to add to his near-perfect English, French, German and native Piedmontese and Italian. He was always receptive and scrupulously fair and, above all, a leader remembered with gratitude and respect by all who worked with him.

Franco’s mark on the first four decades of CERN’s existence is such that the inscription on the tomb of the architect Sir Christopher Wren would be equally appropriate: "Si monumentum requiris circumspice". For Franco’s memorial, just look around CERN.

His friends and colleagues.


Neil Tanner 1930–2008

Neil William Tanner, who was well known over many years among the international nuclear physics community, passed away on 11 December 2008.

Neil was born in Melbourne and, on graduation from Melbourne University in 1953, was awarded an Overseas Scholarship by the Commission for the 1851 Exhibition. He joined the nuclear structure group in the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge, working with Tony French on the reactions leading to the production of 12C in stars.

On gaining his doctorate, Neil went to California Institute of Technology, at the invitation of W A Fowler, to continue his studies in nuclear structure on the Van de Graaff machines there. While there he made important measurements on the limits of parity violation in strong interactions, before returning to England to take up a research post in the new department of nuclear physics set up by Denys Wilkinson at Oxford University.

Using the tandem accelerators at Harwell and Aldermaston, and later the coupled electrostatic accelerators in Oxford, Neil supervised an expanding group of students exploiting new ion beams and new detectors, such as multigap spectrometers, to explore the theory of the giant dipole resonance and resonance fluctuations. In the 1960s, interest in pion physics brought him to the Synchrocyclotron at CERN and his close association with Ernst Michaelis helped him to become a valued member of the team.

Soon after arriving in Oxford, Neil was elected to a Fellowship at Hertford College, where he quickly went beyond his expected role as a dedicated tutor. Concerned about negative aspects of college admissions procedures, he initiated changes that helped applicants from state schools and improved the academic standing of the college. Outraged protests from those whose privileged positions had been undermined dwindled as the justice and the benefits of the reforms became apparent.

Neil was also an enthusiastic supporter of the college boat club and was instrumental in the construction of a new college boathouse. After retirement he became the iconic patron of the physics society, named in his honour.

In the 1990s, Neil turned his attention to neutrino studies, strengthening the Oxford-based group at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Ontario, Canada. He made important contributions to the optical design of the detectors and to the reduction of backgrounds.

Neil married in 1956 and is survived by his wife, Margaret, and by a daughter and two sons.

Friends and colleagues.