Roger Bailey 1954–2023

13 September 2023
Roger Bailey
Roger Bailey front and centre in the CERN Control Centre in late 2009 when the LHC set a new energy record of 1.18 TeV per beam. Credit: CERN-AC-0911205-62

It was with deep sadness we learned that Roger Bailey, who played a key role in the operation of CERN’s accelerators, passed away on 1 June while mountain biking in Valais, Switzerland. He was 69. 

Roger began his career with a doctorate in experimental particle physics from the University of Sheffield in 1979, going on to a postdoctoral position at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory until 1983. Throughout this time, he worked on experiments at CERN’s Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) and was based at CERN from 1977. In 1983 he joined the SPS operations group, where he was responsible for accelerator operations until 1989. Roger then moved to the Large Electron Positron collider (LEP), coordinating the team’s efforts through the commissioning phase and subsequent operation, and became operations group leader in the late 1990s.

After LEP shut down in 2000, Roger became progressively more involved in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), planning and building the team for commissioning with beam. He then took a leading role in the LHC’s early operation, helping to push the LHC’s performance to Higgs-discovery levels before becoming director of the CERN Accelerator School, sharing his wealth of experience and inspiring new generations of accelerator physicists.

Those of us who worked with Rog invariably counted him as a friend: it made perfect sense, given his calm confidence, his kindness and his generosity of spirit. He was straightforward but never outspoken and his well-developed common sense and pragmatism were combined with a subtle and wicked deadpan sense of humour. We had a lot of fun over the years in what were amazing times for CERN. Looking back, things he said, and did, can still make us chuckle, even in the sadness of his untimely passing. Rog had a passionate, playful eye for life’s potential and he wasn’t shy. There was an adventurous spirit at work, be it in the mountains or the streets of New York, Berlin or Chicago. His specialities were tracking down music and talking amiably to anyone.

During a service to celebrate Roger’s life on 16 June, a poem of his called It’s a Wrap was read by his daughter Ellie, revealing a physicist’s philosophical view on life and the universe. Two of his favourite quotes were on the order of service: Mae West’s “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough” and Einstein’s “Our death is not an end if we can live on in our children and the younger generation. For they are us, our bodies are only wilted leaves on the tree of life.” Another, by Hunter S Thompson, was mentioned in a homage given by his son, Rob: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!” 

Way to go, Rog, way to go.

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