Jiří Niederle 1939–2010

Jiří Niederle, a prominent theoretical physicist who was professor at Charles University in Prague, a member of the CERN Council since 1992 and president of the Czech Committee for Co-operation with CERN, passed away on 22 August after a year of illness.

Jiří Niederle was well known for his contributions to particle physics and mathematical physics. He concentrated on theories unifying fundamental particle interactions, conformal theory and gauge formulations of gravitation. In mathematical physics, he solved problems in the field of the representations of Lie algebras, superalgebras and groups, integrable non-linear systems and the theory of contractions and deformations.

His activities extended beyond his contributions to theoretical physics, however, to the problems connected with the radical reconstruction of international co-operation and organization of science after the collapse of the communist regime in a number of European countries in November 1989. Such reconstruction was unavoidable in all of the scientific institutions in these countries. In the Czech Republic, this enormous challenge fell to Jiří, who was appointed president of the Council for International Co-operation of the Academy of Sciences for 12 years in the periods 1990–1997 and 2001–2005, being re-elected twice. Thanks to his initiative and efforts the Academy of Sciences has again become part of the global community of scientific organizations, despite the previous years of artificial isolation.

Jiří was not only world renowned as an experienced lecturer for university and post-graduate students but also on popular science, including broadcast and televised popular science programmes. He covered topics such as abstract theoretical physics and subjects describing the construction and work of CERN's big machines, the Large Electron–Positron collider and the LHC. He gave much of himself to his outreach activities; this was particularly important in his home country, which is well known for its high level of industry. In these efforts he was continually mediating, encouraging and supporting contacts between Czech industry and CERN.

Science cannot manage without administration, but it may sometimes happen that more attention is given to administration than to science. It was our experience that Jiří always exerted all of his force, effort and authority to reaching the result that defended the interests of science.

Jiří will be severely missed not only as an excellent physicist, professor, international scientist and organizer of science, but also as a close friend and gentleman. His passing is a great loss for all of us as well as the for the worldwide mathematical and particle-physics community.

His colleagues and friends.

• For more about Jiří Niederle, see the article published in honour of his 70th birthday (CERN Courier June 2010 p28).


Jean Meyer 1925–2010

Jean Meyer, who was head of the Service d'expérimentation par les chambres à bulles (SECB) in the department for particle physics at Saclay, passed away on 23 September.

Jean Meyer was born in the territory of Danzig (now Gda̤sk) in 1925. Confronted by the rise of Nazism, he fled and immigrated into France towards the end of the 1930s. As the Nazi threat extended, he fled again to Portugal from where he embarked for Brazil. Despite the factory work that was necessary to ensure his survival, he started to learn physics when he was 15 years old and this was to become his passion. In Brazil, he pursued his studies at the university of São Paulo, where he met several great physicists, among them Gleb Wataghin and Beppo Occhialini, one of the discoverers of the pion in 1947, as well as the theorist David Bohm.

On returning to France, Meyer joined the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA), in Saclay. There, in 1958, he designed the first bubble chambers, as the French groups did not yet have any experience in this field, and he quickly became the head of the service for bubble-chamber experiments (SECB). He then left for CERN, where he was offered a permanent position, and became a member of the committee for the construction of the Big European Bubble Chamber. He participated in kaon physics and the checking of SU(3) symmetry with a series of experiments on kaon-nucleon scattering with, in particular, Roland Barloutaud, Antoine Lévêque and P Granet. He also participated in committees for the future of particle physics together with Murray Gell-Mann.

At the request of the Brazilian government, Meyer went back to Brazil in the middle of the 1970s, and created the Wataghin Institute in São Paulo, where he became director, before becoming director of the Brazilian national centre for scientific research.

Meyer returned to France in 1980 and was again employed by the CEA, managing the SECB once more in 1982. In 1984 he became head of the Laboratoire de Physique Nucléaire et de Hautes Energies (LPNHE) (now the Laboratoire Leprince-Ringuet) at the école polytechnique. He made a big reorganization of the laboratory, introducing topics such as plasma acceleration – an activity that continues there successfully today. He remained director until 1990.

Retirement did not mark the end of Meyer's activities, as he took care of extending recruitment at the école polytechnique throughout Europe, his network of relations enabling him to welcome young foreign students. Together with Guy Aubert, director of the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) of Lyon, and Bernard Bigot, director of studies, Meyer continued the "Europeanization" of the ENS, knowing how to attract brilliant European students in collaboration with many European universities.

In recent years, Alzheimer's disease overshadowed the end of his life, and distanced him more and more from the memories of his friends. However, his dynamism and kindness remain in the thoughts of all those who knew him.

His colleagues and friends.


Joaquim Prades Hernández 1963–2010

Joaquim (Ximo) Prades passed away on 31 August in Granada, after a long battle with cancer that he conducted in his characteristic quiet and optimistic fashion. He maintained his excellent scientific activity until the very end.

Ximo was born in Castellò de la Plana, Spain, on 3 February 1963. He received his degree in physics in 1986 at the University of Valencia, where he continued his studies, obtaining a doctorate in 1991. As a postdoctoral researcher he worked in the Centre de Physique Théorique in Marseille (1991–1993), Nordita and the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen (1993–1995) and Valencia (1996), before becoming an associate professor at the University of Granada in 1997.

He worked in many international and national collaborations, often visiting Valencia, Lund University and CERN, where he recently spent a sabbatical year. An active participant in the European research training networks Eurodaphne, Euridice and Flavianet, he was also the leader of the project "Flavour Physics and QCD" of the Spanish National Programme for Particle Physics.

Ximo made notable contributions to particle physics through some 50 publications in journals, as well as many workshop reports and conference proceedings. He began his career working on the kaon bag parameter (BK), using hadronic duality, and on light-Higgs physics. His scientific research was focused on the interplay of QCD in electroweak processes, most of his work being in non-leptonic matrix elements and determinations of Standard Model parameters. His contributions on the muon anomalous magnetic moment, the ΔI=1/2 rule and CP-violation in the kaon system were particularly relevant, together with the determination of the mass of the strange quark and the Cabibbo angle from the hadronic spectral functions measured in τ decays. Ximo also contributed to the physics of rare kaon decays and many other aspects of hadronic physics.

We are deeply saddened by this tragic loss of a young life. Ximo was an exceptional person, both at the human and professional levels. We will miss him greatly, but his memory will always remain with all of us who had the privilege of interacting and working with him.

We offer our condolences to his wife, Blanca Biel, and family.

Johan Bijnens, Fernando Cornet, Elvira Gámiz and Antonio Pich for his many friends and collaborators.