31 May 2003

The year 2002 saw the passing away of two great former CERN director-generals, Willibald Jentschke on 11 March and Viki Weisskopf on 21 April. On 31 October, the laboratory hosted a symposium to remember Willi, a man of great charm and an intelligent leader.


In organizing this symposium, we felt it appropriate to focus the discussions on the discovery of neutral currents, which was probably the highlight of Willi’s mandate. At the time, this was seen as a major step forward, and it was indeed a very great discovery. Yet for a number of reasons it somehow escaped celebration. It seems strange today that such an important event should have been left unattended, and it is interesting to consider why that might have been. Perhaps it is because many of the experimental physicists involved died prematurely. That is one possibility; others may offer different explanations.

To discuss neutral currents, and perhaps throw some light on why their discovery remained relatively obscure, we invited a distinguished theorist in the person of Tini Veltman and a distinguished experimentalist in the person of Don Perkins to talk at the symposium. Talks from Herwig Schopper and Klaus Winter were devoted to Willi’s life and personality.

Another major development that took place at CERN just as Willi’s mandate began is the start of the Intersecting Storage Rings (ISR), the world’s first hadron collider. Kjell Johnsen’s talk covers that important episode in the history of our field.

The years of Willibald Jentschke’s mandate between 1971 and 1975 were, in my view, the years when CERN emerged as a leading laboratory and I am sure that this is due to the insight and vision of this great director-general. However, there is another laboratory on which he left an even greater mark, and that of course is DESY, the laboratory that he founded in Hamburg. For that reason, we invited Erich Lohrmann, one of DESY’s first physicists, to tell us the extraordinary story of how DESY came to be.

I would like to thank Cecilia Jarlskog and Daniel Treille, who both put so much effort into organizing the two symposia hosted at CERN in 2002 in honour of Viki Weisskopf and Willibald Jentschke, two men who played such important roles in the history of CERN.

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