Ronald Fortune: 1929-2019

4 July 2020
Ronald Fortune

Experimental physicist Ronald Fortune, who joined CERN’s first nuclear research group in January 1956, passed away on 16 June 2019 at the age of 90.

Ron graduated with a degree in physics and mathematics from the University of Aberdeen, UK, before joining electrical engineering firm AEI in Manchester, where he acquired a valuable practical training in several departments and research experience in high-voltage techniques and electron-microscope design. This training was put to immediate use in his first post as scientific officer in the British Royal Naval Scientific Service, where he developed automated instrumentation for the study of atomic-weapon explosions at the Woomera test range in Australia.

Ron’s main career was as a senior scientist at CERN, where he spent 17 years engaged in a wide variety of projects. This included six years in high-energy physics research studying K-mesons, relativistic ionisation effects and hunting for quarks, during which Ron pioneered methods for identifying high-energy particles by measurement of their momentum and ionising power, and developed high-precision optical equipment for the photography of high-energy particles. For his work on relativistic ionisation, he was awarded a doctorate by the University of Geneva. The next eight years were spent in CERN’s applied-physics divisions, where he was a member of the team that developed the world’s first radio-frequency particle separator. Ron also coordinated a large CERN–Berkeley–Rutherford team in the extensive study of accelerator shielding problems. The final phase of his career at CERN was spent in organising the large-scale production of particle detectors (wire chambers) for the nuclear-physics divisions.

In 1973 Ron resigned his staff position at CERN to direct an independent consultancy in physics, engineering-physics and project management. In 1976 the firm signed a contract with the Dutch government, where he was charged with the construction of a five-metre superconducting solenoid for the muon channel of the National Institute for Nuclear Physics Research in Amsterdam, which was successfully brought into operation in 1981.

In later years Ron actively collaborated in neuroscience research carried out at the Geneva University Hospital, co-authoring several peer-reviewed articles in specialised journals.

Ron was a most charming person, always very cheerful and positive with an extraordinary sense of humour.

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