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Pioneer of applied superconductivity: Henri Desportes 1933–2017

10 November 2017

It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Henri Desportes, at the age of 84, on 24 September in the village of Gif sur Yvette, France. He was the head of the CEA Saclay department STCM until his retirement in the mid 1990s. Since the 1960s he was a pioneer of applied superconductivity and rapidly became an internationally recognised expert in the development of numerous accelerator and detector magnet systems for high-energy physics.

In particular, Desportes contributed to the creation of the first superconducting magnets  for many experimental programmes, including: polarised targets (HERA, installed at CERN and then in Protvino); the 15 foot bubble chamber at Argonne National Laboratory in the US; the magnet of the CERN hybrid spectrometer bubble chamber in 1972; the first thin-walled solenoid, CELLO, in 1978 at DESY; and the solenoid for the ALEPH experiment at LEP in 1986. His early participation in the genesis and design of the large magnets for the CMS and ATLAS detectors for the LHC should also not be forgotten.

Desportes supervised numerous work at Saclay on the development of innovative superconducting magnets with a wide range of scientific, technical and medical applications. He was the main initiator of new techniques using helium indirect cooling, the stabilisation of superconductor by aluminium co-extrusion and externally supported coils. Henri worked on all of these subjects with some of the great names in physics. It is partly thanks to him that Saclay has been involved in most of the magnets for large detectors built in Europe since the early 1970s. For this work he received a prestigious IEEE Council on Superconductivity Award in 2002.

We will remember his courtesy, his humour and his unfailing involvement in these flagship projects that have contributed greatly to physics experiments and to several fundamental discoveries.

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