A heartfelt tribute

31 May 2003

As we stand in the CERN Council chamber with your friends, your presence is so alive and strong. I would like to talk to you, Willi, not about you. I have many personal memories about how you helped in many ways. I choose to speak about your physics research interests.


The secret of your success was your personality – a unique blend of knowledge, competence, vision, ideas, Viennese charm, courage and the talent to recognize and attract excellent people.

Among these were Hans Frauenfelder, a friend from the Urbana time who joined you in Hamburg creating a group looking for parity violation, the theoretician Harry Lehmann, your friend Peter Stählin, first research director at DESY, and J S Allen, who had developed an ion detector enabling the study of electron-neutrino correlation. You became interested in establishing the famous V-A interaction.


Among your early collaborators I would like to mention Paul Söding, who was your first student in Hamburg, and Samuel C C Ting, who made DESY famous through his experiments on vector particles. At CERN, you very much enjoyed the challenge of commissioning the ISR, a unique research tool, in collaboration with Kjell Johnsen and Bernard Gregory who preceded you as director-general and took over from you the chair of the ISR. You were also proud of the discovery of neutral currents at CERN during your term of office. You were deeply convinced that the future plans of CERN must be based on international collaboration – a vision that has led CERN into the 21st century.

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