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Early Days of CERN in Geneva

Politics & Public. 1950 - 1960. Early Days of CERN in Geneva. CONCEPTION. FINDING a HOME. Two days later on 1st July 1953 in Paris, the Swiss delegation was able to sign the convention creating CERN, subject to ratification by the twelve signatory states. .

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Early Days of CERN in Geneva

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  1. Politics & Public • 1950 - 1960 Early Days of CERN in Geneva CONCEPTION FINDING a HOME Twodayslater on 1st July 1953 in Paris, the Swissdelegationwas able to sign the convention creating CERN, subject to ratification by the twelvesignatory states. In Dedember 1951 and February 1952 took place, in Paris and Geneva, two UNESCO conferencesthatled to the creation of a ‘Council of Europeanrepresentatives for the study and plans of an International Laboratory and the organization of otherforms of cooperation in Nuclearresearch’. At that time particlephysicswas part of NuclearPhysics. The Swissrepresentatives, Mr Albert Picot, and Prof. Paul Sherrer, PhysicistfromZürich, indicatedthatSwitzerlandcouldbechosen as host of the laboratory. Workstarted in 1953 before the convention wasratified and CERN wasofficiallyborn. A small team of physicists and engineersworked in semi-independent groups in various institutes, . In January 1952, The «Tribune de Genève» reported the arguments in favour of Geneva: greatscientificpast, highlyspecializedmanpower, small state, swissneutrality. Whilethe administration setteldin a nice Villa de Cointrin, above, the Magnet group wasinstalled in the ‘»reactor building» at the recentlybuilt Institut de Physique, below, weretechnicalsupprtwasprovided(right) On 4 octobre 1952, during a meeting of the council in Amsterdam, Geneva waschosenby consensuyamongthe candidatures of Arnhem, Copenhaguen, Genèva and Paris. The choice of Geneva eliminatedanypossible ambiguitiesregardingthe mission of the institution do performwork of scientific nature, and not military. OPPOSITIONS An area in the commune of Meyrin waschosen as best site for the laboratory. Albert Picot took the members of the CERN Council in October 1953 to visit the location where the construction of the Nuclear Center wouldtake place, and meet the local population. In Geneva itself, however, therewas no such consensus. Part of the public opinion, led by the communist party, raisedfearsthat the laboratorywouldgeneratevarious dangers: hazardous fumes, risk of bombingduring a possible new armedconflict, risk to Swissneutrality. When Albert Picot presented to the Grand Conseil Genevois, the project of a Laboratory for NuclearResearch in Geneva, the leftistwingopposedit, fearing‘Allegiance of the future scientificorganization to the powers of the Atlantic Treaty’, while Picot hadarguedprecisely the opposite: ‘itis to free themselvesfrom the American influence thatEuropeanScientists have decided to join efforts’. The workers party gatheredenough signatures for a referendum proposing to prohibit establishment of anyInternational instituteperformingatomicor nuclearresearch. Happily for CERN, this initiative wasrepelled by a popular vote on 28 and 29 June1953, after a bitterlyfoughtcampaignduringwichscientistsmarched in the streets! On 17 May 1954 the construction of the first buildings began in Meyrin and on 29 September the convention wasratified by the first ninemember states. CERN and the region The direct impact of CERN on Geneva is difficult to measure, but the spin-off benefits are huge, and the city is undoubtedly proud of its prestigious resident. On arrival in Geneva by road or by air, signs underline CERN's presence. Since 1965 CERN has grown into the neighbouringregion in the Pays de Gex in France to allow construction of the ISR and then the SPS and LEP/LHC. This is a unique example of such duality of hosts and CERN serves as a precursor in legal and commercial matters. Thanks to the neutral and pacific nature of its host, CERN has been able to welcomephysicistsfrom the whole world acrossall borders, performingtogetherexperiments at the frontier of knowledge. Alain Blondel withmanycredits to Maurice Bourquin and CERN

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