Gérard Bachy 1942–2022

1 July 2022
Gérard Bachy

Gérard Bachy arrived at CERN in 1967, straight after graduating from ETH Zurich, and spent his entire 35-year career there. He started off as a mechanical engineer with the Big European Bubble Chamber, where he was in charge of the design and manufacture of the expansion system. In 1972 he joined the team of John Adams that was building CERN’s new flagship facility, the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS), taking on responsibility for its coordination and installation. The first protons were injected into the SPS on 3 May 1976. Gérard was then approached by Giorgio Brianti, deputy head of the SPS division, to set up a section in charge of the underground-area infrastructure and installation of the experiments. He formed a motivated team where new ideas thrived and were put into practice – including a bicycle-driven system for moving detector components weighing several dozen tonnes using air cushions. 

In 1981, when the huge Large Electron–Positron (LEP) collider project was taking shape, Gérard and his team were brought in by director-in-charge Emilio Picasso. They were soon merged with the engineering group to become the LEP–IM group, which went on to play a key role in the realisation of LEP. More innovations were in store to solve the many challenges associated with this project: modular access shafts; a monorail to facilitate the installation of various components; highly precise planning, logistics and others. The project moved fast, culminating in the start-up of LEP on 14 July 1989.

The engineering for the accelerators was spread across the various CERN divisions, which hampered efficiency. In 1990, Director-General Carlo Rubbia entrusted Gérard with bringing all the different activities together under one umbrella, and the mechanical technologies division was born. Over the next five years, the focus was on modernising the facilities, infrastructures and working methods, first for the LEP200 project and then for the LHC preparations. Gérard fostered the development of the engineering and equipment data-management service, encouraged the creation of quality assurance plans and promoted a project-management culture.

In 1996, Hans Hoffmann, the technical coordinator for ATLAS, appointed Gérard as project engineer in his technical coordination and integration team. Gérard’s experience was to have a big impact on important technical choices, such as the “large wheel” concept for the ATLAS muon spectrometer. He retired in June 2001 to be able to devote more time to his other great passions, sailing and travel. 

Gérard Bachy was a brilliant engineer and a charismatic leader. He played an undisputed role at the top level of engineering at CERN and acted as a mentor for many of us.

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