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An inspirational inventor: Anton Oed 1933–2018

7 October 2019
Anton Oed

Anton Oed, a passionate inventor and a source of inspiration for many of us today, passed away on 30 September 2018. His introduction of micro-strip gas chambers (MSGCs) at the Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) in 1988 was a decisive breakthrough in the field of radiation detectors. It demonstrated a significant gain in spatial resolution and counting rate, and the invention immediately stimulated the development of a new class of micro-pattern gas detectors (MPGDs).

Anton was born 1933 in Ulm, Germany, and studied physics at the University of Tübingen. For his diploma thesis on “The double resonance spectrum of 23Na”, he received the prize of the Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences of the University of Tübingen. In his doctoral thesis, again in atomic physics, he studied the double-quanta decay of the hydrogen 2S level.

Anton arrived at the ILL in Grenoble in 1979, and set about developing the detector of the “Cosi Fan Tutte” spectrometer to measure the mass, charge and kinetic energy of fission fragments. The results obtained with this detector were so precise that it has been taken as a reference for several nuclear instruments in other institutes. Anton later started developing the MSGC technique to upgrade detectors of neutron diffractometers. Several ILL instruments are now equipped with MSGCs that have been in operation for more than 10 years.

The development of MSGCs for high-energy physics started at the beginning of the 1990s. Encouraging results were obtained by the RD28 collaboration at CERN but the relative fragility of MSGCs under harsh irradiation conditions motivated the development of new detectors with improved robustness. Among these, Micromegas and gas electron multipliers (GEMs) have become very successful and are currently being implemented in various upgrades to the LHC experiments. MSGC detectors are also used to detect X-rays on ESA’s INTEGRAL telescope.

In 1997 Anton received the R W Pohl medal from the Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft for the invention of the MSGC. To honour his memory, the ILL has established a prize promoting his innovative spirit and the ability to solve technical challenges in the field of micro-pattern gas detectors.

Memories of the technology’s development and of Anton’s personality were shared during a special session at the MPGD 2019 conference held in La Rochelle from 5–10 May. He has always been of great inspiration to many of the collaborators working with him. We will remember him as a very friendly and enthusiastic person, as well as for his kindness towards everybody.

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