Celebrating CERN

Les 50 ans du CERN

50 years at the forefront of science

un demi-siècle à la pointe de la science

CERN 50th Anniversary Celebration
Tuesday, 19 October 2004
Meyrin site

Opening Address
Dr Robert Aymar
Director-General of CERN
(translated from french)

Your Majesty, Your Excellencies,

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear colleagues and friends,


1) Today’s event is the culmination of CERN's 50th anniversary celebrations.  We are very honoured to welcome to our Laboratory you, the representatives of our Member States and the other countries associated with the Laboratory's work. We would like to express our gratitude for your support that has allowed CERN to flourish over the past fifty years.

2) CERN came into being in the wake of the Second World War. Europe was emerging from this conflict in tatters and the European project was only in its early infancy. Against this difficult backdrop, a handful of scientists and politicians, in Europe and America, had the vision and energy to launch a unique undertaking:  the establishment of a centre of research excellence for Europe. Allow me to convey, back through time, my deepest admiration to the Organization's founding fathers.

The vision of these pioneers is embodied in CERN's founding Convention. This text, which is still remarkably relevant even today, commits CERN to a very open programme of fundamental science, whose general aim is to understand how matter was created, what are its constituent parts and thereby to comprehend the evolution of the Universe. But the Convention also stipulates that CERN must contribute to the training of the scientists of tomorrow and, through science, to bringing nations closer together. Over the course of history, these objectives have become more and more relevant. One important tributary of this desire to share knowledge has been the willingness to transfer technology to society. In order to conduct its research, CERN has introduced innovations in many fields, and these have brought great benefits to the whole of society. The best-known example of this is invention of the World Wide Web.

After ratifying the Convention, which gave birth to CERN on 29 September 1954, the twelve founding Member States gave the Laboratory their unstinting financial and intellectual support. They chose the path of international cooperation over the promotion of their domestic programmes. Not only did they have the ambition to found CERN, but they subsequently showed enormous generosity which fostered the Laboratory's rapid development.  

3) Results were not long in coming. From 1957 onwards, CERN commissioned a series of accelerators, many of them unique, some still in operation today. And with these tools, CERN was soon to make its mark on fundamental science.

One of the great aims of modern physics is to define a single framework to describe the four interactions of nature, from the strong interaction, which binds atomic nuclei, to gravity, which determines the large-scale behaviour of the Universe.  CERN has made a major contribution to this field. In 1973, one of its experiments known as "Gargamelle" provided a first verification of the electroweak theory, which unites the electromagnetic and weak forces. Ten years later, two experiments revealed the particles which underpin this theory. This discovery was the first occasion on which work conducted at CERN was rewarded with a Nobel Prize. Throughout the 1990s, experiments at the Laboratory's flagship accelerator LEP placed the electroweak theory on solid experimental ground.

These successes would not have been possible without the unwavering commitment of our Member States and their loyalty to the founding fathers' ideal. On CERN's behalf, I would like to express my profound gratitude to our Member States.

4) Over the years, our Organization has built up a reputation for being a place that is open to the world, with a unique atmosphere. Forgetting their differences, scientists from all nations converge here to work together, their ideas in competition, perhaps, but all sharing a common goal. This melting pot of cultures and mentalities is one of the keys to the Laboratory's success. The skill and dedication of the staff is another key component in this success. This combination of creativity, skill, international exchanges, science and cutting-edge technology has enabled CERN to attract the most brilliant scientists. And this power of attraction is another of the measures of the Laboratory's success.

In the same way, more countries have decided to join the Organization, and today we have twenty Member States. In addition, several countries have been granted observer status to the CERN Council, and many more collaborate on our various research programmes. These reinforcements allowed us to embark on the LHC - Large Hadron Collider - project in 1996, now a truly global endeavour. Following the example of this project, it is desirable for CERN to continue along the path of worldwide collaboration, and with this in mind we are developing new partnerships with countries in Asia and Latin America. Since they promote the development of the research communities in those countries, such collaborations constitute a new source of wealth for CERN, which has always sought to foster outstanding talent. And human talent knows no frontiers. In perpetuating this tradition of science without frontiers, CERN can certainly be considered as an emblematic laboratory for the World Year of Physics in 2005.

5) Operation of the LHC, our next flagship accelerator, will begin in 2007 and our efforts are focussed on that goal. In terms of the performance levels it will have to reach, the LHC will be a unique accelerator. These are the fruit of continuous innovations in high-tech fields from superconductivity to computing. The development of the "Grid", a planet-sized calculator, is a perfect illustration of this new technological momentum.

Since it is raising the curtain on a new era of discovery, the LHC is vital for the future of fundamental physics. For the theories we currently use to describe particles and their interactions are far from complete. Important questions remain, such as the origin of the mass of the elementary particles. And certain phenomena, such as the nature of dark matter or the predominance of matter over antimatter, still require an explanation. The very first instants of the Universe are still shrouded in mystery. The LHC will address these and many other unanswered questions.

6) Before the end of the decade, the first results from the LHC will help us define the optimum research strategies and thereby map out the future of CERN and its role in fundamental physics. This future could be built around a radically new accelerator technology, being studied by a CERN-led international collaboration. The study in question, known as CLIC, will be completed by the end of the decade, and by that time we will have gathered together all the ingredients we need to decide on the future of particle physics at CERN.

7) Before I close, may I to draw your attention to the splendid wooden edifice by which you entered, a magnificent dome equivalent in size to that of Saint Peter's in Rome. This wonderful anniversary gift from the Swiss Confederation, will become the focal point for CERN's relations with the outside world, whether the general public or our institutional and industrial partners. Today, as well as celebrating fifty years of CERN, we are also inaugurating this Globe of Science and Innovation, and I would therefore like to use this opportunity to address my sincere thanks to the Swiss Confederation.

8) To conclude, I wish to send the following message to our Member States, Observer States, and to all the other countries associated with the Laboratory's work. Your vision allowed CERN to see the light of day. Your generosity gave it wings. And your unwavering support has allowed it flourish.  This shared adventure must continue. 

CERN is currently rising to one of the most ambitious challenges in its history, the LHC. As in the past, the Laboratory can count on the skill and dedication of all the members of its personnel and the worldwide community of users. With your support, this Laboratory of excellence, unlike any other in the world, will be able to look forward to a new era of research with confidence, and tread further still along the path of success.

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Version française (originale)