Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on September 29, 2013


September 29, 1954: The European Organization for Nuclear Research is established when their charter is ratified by the 12 founding Member States. Already functioning as a provisional body, they were now globally recognized. After WWII, Europe’s place as a bastion for scientific research was losing ground. In December 1949 the first proposal for a united European scientific community was set forth. French, Italian, and Danish scientists called for a cohesive unit to merge not only findings, but funding.

The French name for the group was Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nulcéaire or CERN. The pure physics research of the day concerned the study of the insides of the atom, hence “nuclear.” One of the first massive projects was the building of a particle accelerator. Built in 1957, it provided CERN researchers with beams for particle and nuclear physics experiments. This early accelerator worked for 33 years before being retired in 1990. A new and improved accelerator continued using ISOLDE (a particular type of beam).

In 1989, Tim Berners-Lee developed a distributed information system for CERN. His boss called the system “vague, but exciting” so work continued on the infant system. Berners-Lee saw his fledgling system as a way for scientists around the globe to share news. By Christmas 1990 a new little idea was blossoming across the planet. The World Wide Web was emerging. Tweaks and debugging, refinement of systems, hardware upgrades and by 1994 there were 10,000 servers and 10 million users on the web.

Today, the world’s premiere scientific researchers still hold physics as their fundamental basis for study. They wish only to find out what the Universe is made of and how it works. There are now 20 Member States (all European) with many non-European countries also involved. CERN employs 2,500 people who build and design the accelerators as well as help with the running of scientific experiments. About 8,000 visiting scientists (half the world’s particle physicists), come to CERN for their research. They represent 580 universities and 85 nationalities. CERN is located on the Switzerland-France border – literally.

“Equipped with his five senses, man explores the universe around him and calls the adventure Science.” – Edwin Powell Hubble

“Nature composes some of her loveliest poems for the microscope and the telescope.” – Theodore Roszak

“Research is what I’m doing when I don’t know what I’m doing.” – Wernher von Braun

“Physics is imagination in a straight jacket.” – John Moffat

“If we wish to make a new world we have the material ready. The first one, too, was made out of chaos.” – Robert Quillen

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: CERN is home to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) which is the highest energy particle collider every constructed and is said to be one of the great engineering milestones of mankind. It took ten years to build with construction beginning in 1998 and being completed in 2008. It was built for many different experimental uses but one of the most widely talked about was the proving or disproving of the Higgs boson which was predicted by the supersymmeric theories. The structure lies in a tunnel with a circumference of 17 miles which is 574 feet below the surface near Geneva, Switzerland. It went live on September 10, 2008 but only nine days later a faulty electrical connection caused an explosion and extensive damage. It took fourteen months to repair the damage and the LHC was again functioning on November 20, 2009.

Also on this day: Come Up and See Me Some Time – In 1650, the first documented dating service opens in England.
The Met – In 1829, the Metropolitan Police of London were formed.
What a Headache – In 1982, the Tylenol murders began.

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