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

Keynote Speech
Professor Federico Mayor Zaragoza
Former Director-General of UNESCO
(original version)


CERN's Scientific Achievements and their Impact on Society

Your Majesty,
Mr President,
Honoured Guests,
Director General,
Colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

CERN -Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire or European Organization for Nuclear Research- is the largest laboratory in the world devoted to basic research. As the European Laboratory for Particle Physics it has four fundamental missions:

To answer essential questions about the universe. What is it made of? How it works? How did it come to be the way it is?
To advance the frontiers of science, technology and engineering.
To train young scientists and engineers who will be the experts of tomorrow.
To establish links among scientists from many countries at a world laboratory with unique facilities.

We celebrate today fifty years of the ratification of the Agreement that established CERN and, first of all, I wish to congratulate CERN for its outstanding scientific achievements. All anniversaries are an occasion to look back and to emphasize the steps accomplished and the obstacles overcome but, particularly, to learn how best to look forward and ensure an even more successful future.

At the end of World War Two it was evident that most European nations could not afford the investments required by huge and extremely expensive infrastrucuture... and even more importantly, it was clear that science could be an excellent way of inter-linking countries in the emerging "New Europe".

Louis de Broglie, Niels Bohr, Isidore Rabi, Robert Oppenheimer, among other most distinguished scientists, were underlyining at that time the necessity of "one institution to do research which is beyond the resources of any one nation". In a certain sense, today we are here to pay tribute to all those who were at the origin of an ambitious endeavour that resulted in an organisation that has contributed significantly to the better understanding of the universe and for enhancing the quality of life. At this point, I wish to emphasize the role played by Denis de Rougemont, Director of the European Cultural Centre. His vision and his commitment are a symbol and a model to be followed today.

CERN has been at the forefront of particle physics and will remain so because it has the institutional architecture capable of constantly ensuring excellence and accountability, guided by scientific rigor and prospective capacity.

With 20 member states, 8 observers and 60 non-member states and more than 500 institutes and universities all over the world participating in its programmes, CERN represents an unprecedented example of the diversity of scientists and engineers.

With a staff of 2.500, most of them engineers and technicians, CERN offers unique world-scale experimental facilities to be used by more than 6000 external users. All these figures account for CERN's achievements in scientific advancement, in other words gathering the basic knowledge that is at the heart of most innovative applications, as Bernardo Houssay, Nobel Laureate in Medicine, has said so well "There is no applied science if there is no science to apply".

Let me now, very briefly, make a few remarks highlighting several aspects of the missions of CERN. The ones in which it has excelled.

In scientific research: Among many outstanding results, CERN has provided the experimental proof of electroweak unification (discovery of neutral currents in 1973, discovery of the weak vector bosons in 1983, discovery of electroweak radiative corrections at LEP), has measured the number of fundamental constituents of matter and has shed light on the very subtle difference between matter and antimatter, a rather mysterious phenomenon responsible for the fact that we are all here, 13 billion years after the initial Big Bang. With the LHC around the corner, CERN is facing fascinating new times with formidable and challenging questions to be answered: the structure of the vacuum, the origin of mass, the existence of new interactions and new space-time dimensions, the understanding of the energy-matter budget of the universe. Questions that go beyond Particle Physics. Very exciting and unique times, as Richard Feynman precisely summarized : "The age in which we live is the age in which we are discovering the fundamental laws of Nature, and that day will never come again".

In education: CERN trains around 1.000 persons/year to the benefit of various sectors of society, in particular industry. Also, CERN has promoted physics teaching and learning in schools with special courses for professors, both at high school and universities.

In international cooperation: As President Jacques Chirac once so rightly said: "The type of cooperation CERN has succeeded in establishing will serve as a model to European science as a whole".

CERN has become the most famous example of scientific cooperation because, from the very beginning, its "configuration" was most appropriate to the mobilization of worldwide collaboration.

In social impact: here may I quote the words of Professor Isidore Rabi in his 30th CERN's Anniversary speech: "Science is capable of providing... an ever deep insight into the world in which we live and of the constituents of which we are made". Progressively, knowledge provides ways and tools that benefit the struggle against disease and uplift the quality of life. Some examples are:

In biomedicine: medical "imaging" for better detection, diagnosis and treatment follow-up of tumours and the ENLIGHT network for the coordination of research in light - ion and proton cancer therapy, a form of radiotherapy ideally suited to the treatment of deep-seated tumours;
In communication: we shall not forget that the world wide web was invented at CERN to cope with growing intra and inter communication needs and CERN is playing a crucial role in benchmarking the potentialities of the GRID technologies through the LHC Computing Grid Project, the largest software development project ever funded by the EU.

The links between science and society are of growing relevance. Through the media, training of professors and specialists, advising the parliaments, etc. Scientific achievements must reach the people and the decision makers. Some European scientific organizations (like FEBS), as well as the EU itself have developed recently strategies in order to better inform. Together with the advisory function, the preventive function is today crucial, at the governance, industrial and entrepreneurial levels.

In the knowledge based economy, to ensure competitiveness in production and trade. The European Commission decided in Lisbon, in 2000, that Europe will be unable, by the year 2010, to compete with US and Japan without increasing investment in basic research in order to become "the leader of a knowledge-based economy", to retain and attract the best talents.

The Commissioner Philippe Busquin has promoted scientific and technological development in the "ERA" (European Research Area). In order to rapidly reinforce fundamental research, the establishment of a European Fund for Research Excellence has been proposed by the European Research Council Expert Group that I have chaired. An amount of 2 Billion Euros per year from the Framework Programmes could ensure that the goals of Lisbon are attained. It is in this context of the ERA and ERC that I wish to emphasize the actuality of CERN: Europe today has what it has been fighting for.

As Denis de Rougemont expressed it so well, "We will not find Europe unless we build it".  However, we also have a duty to be aware and inform others of all that has been accomplished, in order to ensure that our awareness of the pre-eminent role played by CERN in the fields of scientific development, education, international co-operation, health, communication and technology, etc. becomes a commitment.

Above all, CERN's 50th Anniversary marks the beginning of a new stage in the Organization's history. CERN has become the world's leading "super-laboratory". The Laboratory is in good shape and is at the forefront of its field, but we must all remember the importance of maintaining, renewing and increasing public and private sector support.  It is thanks to political commitment, expressed in budgetary terms, that CERN is the global beacon that it is today.   All investment in science is positive, just as all knowledge is positive. It is the applications to which that knowledge is put that can become negative and even perverse.   Here today I ask you for more enthusiastic support than ever.  It is not merely a scientific and economic issue.  Above all, it is a political issue and a question of having the vision to realise the ideal of universal co-operation, happiness, justice and peace for our "global village".

My thanks go to all those who have dreamt, promoted, built, worked and studied at CERN. To all those who work and dream here today. To all the scientists, engineers, technicians and administrators. To Mr. François de Rose, a witness to the past and one of the Organization's founders... To Dr. Robert Aymar... To Professor Luciano Maiani... To Sir Christopher Llewellyn Smith... To Professor Carlo Rubbia... To Professor Herwig Schopper, who always looked beyond the present... A celebration on this scale is always more forward-looking than retrospective.    When, during my visit to CERN on 23 July I was invited by the Director-General, Dr. Robert Aymar, to sign the Visitors Book, I wrote that "Only CERN's future will be better than its past".  That is the challenge for the future, but it is also my conviction. We must act upon the words of His Majesty the King of Spain in his speech on the occasion of CERN's 30th Anniversary when he said: "Knowledge is humanity's most precious possession as it is the only one which is common to all and knows no borders... scientific progress is a particularly effective means of strengthening peace and international solidarity".  It is the horizon, the world we dream of leaving to future generations...

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