Kitty Wakley 1928–2023

5 July 2023
Kitty Wakley
Kitty Wakley commanding the CERN document typing service. Credit: Marie-Suzy Vascotto

A pillar of CERN is no more. Kitty Wakley, originally from Liverpool, UK started working at CERN in around 1960 and was the beloved leader of the document typing service (“typing pool”) until it was dissolved more than 30 years later. Back in the days before physicists and engineers became familiar with word-processing systems and LaTeX, they would present her with their scruffy, hand-written manuscripts for preprints and technical reports. The (occasionally approximate) English would be polished and typed to the highest standards by her team, following the CERN publication rules that her service had established.

Kitty presided over a close-knit team assembled from diverse backgrounds. She was a rather strict boss, in keeping with the usual unwritten standards of the time, but her team members still remember her fondly over 30 years later. Throughout her career at CERN, Kitty was unfailingly kind, cheerful and helpful towards all those who called on her services, from early-career researchers and technicians to Nobel prize-winners. Her mission was to help them disseminate their science in the best possible way, such as by working through the weekend with her team on the presentation of the discovery of the W boson.

Kitty was a much-loved institution of CERN. A lover of Italian opera, following her retirement from CERN she settled in Spain, where she lived for many years before passing away on 13 May, just four days before her 95th birthday. She is remembered fondly by many scientists who have passed through CERN over the decades.

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