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CERN celebrates its 50th birthday

11 November 2004

On the date of CERN’s 50th anniversary, 29 September 2004, the organization’s host state authorities lit up the sky in celebration. As night fell, 24 powerful floodlights blazed up from the eight access points around the 27 km tunnel that will be oCCEupied by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). These beams emanating from the Geneva plain marked out the extent of the huge ring.

Spectators were invited to a celebration above the village of Crozet, in the foothills of the Jura mountains. Before the illuminations began, speeches by local dignitaries from France and Geneva were followed by a series of live addresses by teleconference link. CERN’s director-general, Robert Aymar, spoke from the CHEP 2004 conference in Interlaken, and two of his predecessors, Luciano Maiani and Chris Llewellyn Smith, joined in from Rome and London respectively. Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web, also made an appearance by video link to wish CERN many happy returns. People born in 1954 were then invited to blow out the candles on an anniversary cake.

Organized by the Department of Justice, Police and Security of the Canton of Geneva, with the participation of the local council of Crozet and the support of local councils in the Canton of Geneva, the Communauté des communes of the Pays de Gex, and the Ain Préfecture, this Franco-Swiss event had great symbolic value because CERN plays host to scientific collaborations from all over the world.
The parties had in fact begun earlier in the month on 17 September, when the people at CERN and their families filled the rooms of Restaurant 1 and the terrace beyond.

In a short speech the director-general Robert Aymar toasted the CERN staff, praising their competence throughout the history of the organization. He noted also how CERN’s diversity of nationalities is its strength, as people from different backgrounds come to collaborate at the laboratory. For musical entertainment, the CERN Big Bang Orchestra, made up mostly of members of various CERN music clubs and l’Ensemble de Jazz de Divonne, played an original composition by Jean-François Mathieu, created especially for CERN’s anniversary, called Acceleration/Celebration.

The celebrations also continued into October. The most ambitious open day in the history of the organization took place on 16 October, and was followed by the official VIP celebration on 19 October. Reports on these events will appear in the December issue of the CERN Courier.

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