All events

12 May 1963

This remarkable photo, used on the cover of the May 1963 CERN Courier, captures the passage of protons extracted from CERN’s Proton Synchrotron (PS).

Initially, the PS had operated with internal targets, but when a beam of higher intensity was needed the fast ejection system was developed to eject the beam towards external targets. During the afternoon of Sunday 12 May 1963 the PS became the source of the world's first beam of 25 GeV protons to travel freely in air.

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From the archive
2 May 1963

A buzz of excitement marked the start of neutrino experiments at CERN in 1963. As many years of hard work were about to be put to the test, this spoof advertisement appeared on the concrete shielding near the heavy liquid bubble chamber.

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From the archive
20 December 1962

By 1962, with CERN’s long-term accelerator construction plans still not fixed, some member states were growing impatient to pursue their own projects. A meeting was called for January 1963, where Europe’s top high-energy physicists would thresh out the whole question of coordinating national initiatives with those carried out at CERN.

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From the archive
22 February 1962

John Linsley detected first cosmic ray with an energy higher than 1020 electronvolts (eV) in New Mexico, US, in 1962. This was the highest energy cosmic ray particle ever detected at the time.  He made this discovery using a ground-based array of detectors. His observations suggested that not all cosmic rays are confined to the galaxy and gave evidence for a flattening of the cosmic ray spectrum at energies above 1018 eV.

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Cosmic rays
29 September 1961

On 29 September 1961, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia gave formal notice to CERN of its intention to withdraw from the organization at the end of the year, after Yugoslavia struggled to pay its yearly contributions. This formal notice confirmed an informal advance notice given on 19 May, by a letter that was circulated to the CERN council.

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Member states
6 March 1961

On 6 March 1961 François de Rose pressed the button to run the first program on CERN’s new IBM 709.  The existing Ferranti Mercury computer had been working at full stretch, but increasing user demand left CERN with a backlog of computing work by the end of 1959. A larger and faster machine was essential, though with the two operating together CERN soon got its first taste of compatibility problems.

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From the archive
6 March 1961

The IBM 709 arrived at CERN in January 1961. It was inaugurated at an official ceremony on 6 March that year, where computer engineer Lew Kowarski delivered a speech (see image).

With Mercury and the 709 operating together, CERN had its first experience of compatibility problems. This was a continuing source of difficulty as various different computers came into operation at CERN.  Many of CERN's programs were also used on a range of computers in its 13 member states. 

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Computing at CERN
16 January 1961

If you’re not ready to start the New Year yet, how about a trip back in time instead? In January 1961 staff were invited to watch CERN’s first documentary film.

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From the archive
1 January 1961

Conferences are a great way to promote international scientific communication, and CERN soon acquired considerable experience in running them.  In January 1961 it set up a Scientific Conference Secretariat to share this expertise, organizing conferences in collaboration with local scientific institutions abroad as well as those on-site. In the early days the Secretariat had a staff of just one person - Miss Steel.

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From the archive
1 January 1961

From the minutes of the CERN council, dated 14 June 1960:

In a letter dated 22 April 1960, the president of the council asked delegates of the member states whether their governments would be prepared to confirm the attitude which they had adopted in 1956 regarding an application by Spain for membership of CERN.

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Member states
23 May 1960

(image: The isotope separator in 1960)

Plans for an isotope separator are published in the proceedings of the International Symposium held in Vienna, May 1960. This isotope separator is built by CERN's Nuclear Chemistry Group (NCG) and used to measure the production rate of radionuclides produced in different targets irradiated with 600 MeV protons from a CERN Synchrocyclotron (SC) beam. Researchers observe high production rates showing that the SC would be the ideal machine for setting up a dedicated experiment for on-line production of rare isotopes. 

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ISOLDE
5 February 1960

The PS came into operation on 24 November 1959, breaking existing records as the world’s biggest and most powerful particle accelerator. The official ceremony a few months later (you can watch part of it in this 1960 documentary) was a celebration of the technical achievement but also of successful European co-operation that paved the way for progress in the aftermath of World War II. A special issue of the CERN Courier gave more information about the new machine.

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From the archive
24 November 1959

Le Synchrotron à protons (PS) accélère des protons pour la première fois le 24 novembre 1959 et devient, pour un court laps de temps, l’accélérateur de particules le plus puissant du monde. Avec une énergie de faisceau de 28 GeV, il est mis au service du programme de physique des particules du CERN ; il continue, aujourd’hui encore, de fournir des faisceaux aux expériences de l’Organisation.

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L’histoire du CERN
24 November 1959

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world’s biggest and most powerful particle accelerator, but for a few months in 1959 the Proton Synchrotron (PS) shared the same distinction.

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From the archive
24 November 1959

The Proton Synchrotron (PS) accelerated protons for the first time on 24 November 1959, becoming for a brief period the world’s highest energy particle accelerator. With a beam energy of 28 GeV, the PS became host to CERN’s particle physics programme, and provides beams for experiments to this day.

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CERN accelerators, The history of CERN
1 June 1959

Austria signed as a member state of CERN on 1 June 1959. The press release announcing the accession noted:

Following applications made in 1958 by the Austrian government, the council agreed unanimously to accept Austria as the 13th European member state to participate in CERN. Welcoming Mr W Goertz, permanent representative of Austria to the UN, MF de Rose, president of CERN council said:

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Member states
5 March 1959

The 30cm liquid hydrogen bubble chamber (HBC30) - here seen being inserted into its vacuum tank in March 1959 - was the first bubble chamber to be used for physics experiments at CERN. After testing with nitrogen and hydrogen it was placed in the Synchro-Cyclotron, and its first five days of operation in November yielded 100,000 photographs. In March 1960 it was moved to the proton Synchrotron, and by the time it ceased operations in spring 1962 it had consumed 150 km of film.

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From the archive
30 June 1958

CERN's first computer, a huge vacuum-tube Ferranti Mercury, was installed in 1958. It was one million times slower than today's large computers. Though the Mercury took 3 months to install – and filled a huge room – its computational ability didn't quite match that of a modern pocket calculator. "Mass" storage was provided by four magnetic drums each holding 32K × 20 bits – not enough to hold the data from a single proton-proton collision in the Large Hadron Collider.

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Computing at CERN
1 January 1958

Before electronic computers were available at CERN, a Dutchman called Willem "Wim" Klein performed astonishing feats of mental arithmetic to help his colleagues with their calculations.

Klein was born in Amsterdam in the Netherlands on 4 December 1912. He first displayed his mathematical talents in circuses around Europe. He joined CERN's Theory Division in 1958, where he was in considerable demand as a calculator in the days before the first electronic computers.

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Computing at CERN
1 October 1957

During the construction of CERN in the 1950s, most staff were lodged in temporary offices nearby.  But the theoretical physics group (one of three study groups set up in 1952 as part of the ‘provisional CERN’) began life at the Theoretical Physics Institute, University of Copenhagen.  Niels Bohr led the group until September 1954, then handed over to Christian Møller. The photo shows CERN’s Director General Cornelius Bakker signing an agreement on the legal status of the group in Denmark in 1956.

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From the archive
1 August 1957

A log book entry written by Wolfgang Gentner, the head of SC Division, and signed by various colleagues, tells us that a short celebration was held on the 1st of August 1957 following the successful  appearance of the first circulating beam.

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From the archive
5 June 1957

In June 1957, V. F. Weisskopf proudly announced acquisition of an instrument with unique possibilities - an intricate mechanism for testing complicated physics theories and producing new ideas. But it required careful handling! Inexperienced operators testing a theory would often see no reaction at first, or just hear faint noises reminiscent of German expressions such as “Ganz dumm” and “Sind sie noch immer da?” It was rather bulky, almost spherical in shape, and very much dependent on the correct fuel supply.

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From the archive
11 May 1957

Le Synchrocyclotron (SC) d'une énergie de 600 MeV, construit en 1957, est le premier accélérateur du CERN. Il produit des faisceaux pour les premières expériences du Laboratoire en physique des particules et en physique nucléaire. En 1964, on commence à restreindre son utilisation à la seule physique nucléaire. C’est le Synchrotron à protons (PS), plus récent et bien plus puissant, qui servira aux expériences de physique des particules.

Timelines
L’histoire du CERN
11 May 1957

The 600 MeV Synchrocyclotron (SC), built in 1957, was CERN’s first accelerator. It provided beams for CERN’s first experiments in particle and nuclear physics. In 1964, this machine started to concentrate on nuclear physics alone, leaving particle physics to the newer and much more powerful Proton Synchrotron (PS).

Timelines
The history of CERN, CERN accelerators
3 October 1956

The journal Physical Review receives the paper Antineutrons Produced from Antiprotons in Charge-Exchange Collisions by a second team working at the Bevatron – Bruce Cork, Glen Lambertson, Oreste Piccione and William Wenzel. The paper – which announces the discovery of the antineutron – is published in the issue dated November 1956.

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The story of antimatter
16 July 1956

Safety is top priority in any scientific research laboratory, and fire prevention was an important issue from the earliest days of CERN. The newly constructed buildings were fitted with smoke detectors, and voluntary fire brigades and first aid teams were set up among staff members.  

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From the archive
14 June 1956

On 14 June 1956 a telegram from Frederick Reines and Clyde Cowan informed Wolfgang Pauli that neutrinos had been detected from fission fragments - nearly 26 years after Pauli first postulated the neutral particle as a solution to the missing energy during beta decay.

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From the archive
11 November 1955

When CERN was just over a year old, the Scientific Policy Committee was asked its opinion “as to the advisability of purchasing [an] electronic computer”. Lew Kowarski thought we should buy one, and his proposal (CERN/SPC/13) makes fascinating reading. He gives an overview of the current state of the market and outlines some issues to be considered. These included costs and staffing requirements, but also the fact that physicists were unlikely to bother learning to use this new machine unless it was clear that the effort was worthwhile!

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From the archive
1 November 1955

A paper titled "Observation of antiprotons," by Owen Chamberlain, Emilio Segrè, Clyde Wiegand, and Thomas Ypsilantis, members of what was then the Radiation Laboratory of the University of California at Berkeley in the US, appeared in the 1 November 1955 issue of Physical Review Letters. It announced the discovery of a new subatomic particle, identical in every way to the proton – except its electrical charge was negative instead of positive.

A month before the paper appeared, The New York Times had put the news on the front page:

Timelines
The story of antimatter
11 July 1955

Voting for the Committee members of CERN’s newly formed Staff Association closed at midnight on 11 July 1955; Messrs J.A. Giebel, K. Johnson, J. P. Stroot, E. Zaccheroni, J. Ball, R. Siegfried, Miss C. de Mol and Miss A. Schubert were duly elected, with 177 votes cast.

 

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From the archive
10 June 1955

“On this tenth day of June, one thousand nine hundred and fifty five, on ground generously given by the Republic and Canton of Geneva, was laid the foundation stone of the buildings of the headquarters and the laboratories of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the first European institution devoted to co-operative research for the advancement of pure science”

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From the archive
11 May 1955

 “Wholeheartedly agree – the sooner the better!” – CERN’s personnel officer was enthusiastic about the idea of creating a Staff Association in 1955. The Director of Administration, Sam Dakin, was similarly encouraging, writing to the Director-General: “Very often I am conscious that in attempting to judge the needs and wishes of the staff, we have to rely on ordinary gossip and that for official comments we have only those of Divisional Directors who may not always accurately know or represent the feeling of their staff.

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From the archive
20 December 1954

In his seasonal greetings to CERN’s Director-General and staff, the President of the CERN Council acknowledged the difficulties faced by a young organization and the devotion shown by all those involved in overcoming them.

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From the archive
2 November 1954

Has it ever struck you as odd that the initials CERN refer to an organization that ceased to exist when the current organization was created? If so, you’re not alone.

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From the archive
7 October 1954

When the CERN Convention was signed in 1953, it was assumed that the long-awaited European laboratory would soon become a reality. But ratification formalities took longer than expected. Meanwhile work on the ground was forging ahead, so it was a relief for the interim governors when the new CERN Council finally took office some 15 months later.

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From the archive
29 September 1954

La Convention établissant l’Organisation est signée, sous réserve de ratification, par 12 États, lors de la sixième session du Conseil du CERN, qui a lieu à Paris du 29 juin au 1er juillet 1953. Elle est progressivement ratifiée par les 12 États membres fondateurs : la Belgique, le Danemark, la France, la République fédérale d’Allemagne, la Grèce, l’Italie, les Pays-Bas, la Norvège, la Suède, la Suisse, le Royaume-Uni et la Yougoslavie.

Timelines
L’histoire du CERN
29 September 1954

The CERN convention was signed in 1953 by the 12 founding states Belgium, Denmark, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Yugoslavia, and entered into force on 29 September 1954.

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Member states
29 September 1954

At the sixth session of the CERN Council, which took place in Paris from 29 June - 1 July 1953, the convention establishing the organization was signed, subject to ratification, by 12 states. The convention was gradually ratified by the 12 founding Member States: Belgium, Denmark, France, the Federal Republic of Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Yugoslavia. On 29 September 1954, following ratification by France and Germany, the European Organization for Nuclear Research officially came into being.

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The history of CERN
29 September 1954

A telegram from Jean Mussard informed Edoardo Amaldi (Secretary-General of the provisional CERN) that the CERN Convention had finally come into force on 29 September, when France and Germany deposited their instruments of ratification at UNESCO House in Paris.

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From the archive
17 May 1954

Le 17 mai 1954, les premiers coups de pelle sont donnés sur le site de Meyrin (Suisse), en présence de personnalités officielles du canton de Genève et de membres du personnel du CERN.

Timelines
L’histoire du CERN
17 May 1954

A historic moment passed almost unnoticed on 17 May 1954, as the first excavation work started in the Meyrin countryside and construction of CERN began. Future events of this kind were celebrated with speeches, press coverage and parties, but this was a quiet and purely unofficial ceremony.

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From the archive
1 April 1954

The Bevatron in 1958 (Image: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

In 1954, Ernest Lawrence oversaw the building of a proton accelerator called the Bevatron at the radiation laboratory in Berkeley, California. The machine's name comes from BeV, the symbol used at the time for "billion electronvolt", or 109 electronvolts. We now call this unit the gigaelectronvolt, symbol GeV – BeV is no longer used. The Bevatron was designed to collide protons at 6.2 GeV, the expected optimum energy for creating antiprotons.

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The story of antimatter
17 March 1954

On 17 May 1954, the first shovel of earth was dug on the Meyrin site in Switzerland under the eyes of Geneva officials and members of CERN staff.

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The history of CERN
5 October 1953

Even before the official creation of CERN in 1954, staff began to settle into temporary offices around Geneva. On 5 October 1953 part of the PS (Proton Synchrotron) Group, including Frank Goward, John Adams, Mervyn Hine, John and Hildred Blewett, Kjell Johnsen and Edouard Regenstreif, arrived to take up residence in offices that had been made available in the University of Geneva’s Institute of Physics .

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From the archive
1 July 1953

After long months of negotiation - success! The work of the provisional Council responsible for planning the new international laboratory for nuclear physics reached a successful conclusion on 1 July 1953 with the signature of the CERN Convention.

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From the archive
21 February 1953

The detector used for the first observations of atmospheric-Cherenkov radiation: a dustbin with a small parabolic mirror and phototube (Image: G Hallewell)

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Cosmic rays
1 October 1952

Genève est choisie pour accueillir le site du CERN lors de la troisième session du Conseil provisoire, en 1952. Cette décision est entérinée par un référendum mené dans le canton de Genève en juin 1953, par 16 539 votes contre 7 332.

Timelines
L’histoire du CERN
1 October 1952

Geneva was selected as the site for the CERN Laboratory at the third session of the provisional council in 1952. This selection successfully passed a referendum in the canton of Geneva in June 1953 by 16,539 votes to 7332.

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The history of CERN
25 August 1952

Too often trip reports are just boring administrative documents, but this one caused a radical rethink of the design for CERN’s Proton Synchrotron. Suddenly a relatively straightforward engineering challenge became a development project for an untested idea.

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From the archive
15 February 1952

 

“We have just signed the Agreement which constitutes the official birth of the project you fathered at Florence. Mother and child are doing well, and the doctors send you their greetings.” This was the message sent to Isidor Rabi on 15 Feb 1952 by the signatories of an agreement establishing the provisional European Council for Nuclear Research.

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From the archive
15 December 1951

William H. Sweet and Gordon L. Brownell at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston suggested using the radiation emitted by positron annihilation to improve the quality of brain images by increasing sensitivity and resolution. They published a description of the first positron-imaging device to record three-dimensional data of the brain in their 1953 paper Localization of brain tumors with positron emitters in Nucleonics XI. This was the beginning of positron emission tomography. 

Timelines
Discovering the positron
1 April 1951

Danish physicists Otto Kofoed-Hansen and Karl-Ove Nielsen, working at the Institute for Theoretical Physics at the University of Copenhagen, are first to demonstrate how to produce radioisotopes with an on-line technique. In a paper entitled Short-lived Krypton isotopes and their daughter substances Kofoed-Hansen and Nielsen demonstrate the feasibility of on-line production of short-lived radioactive isotopes.

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ISOLDE
9 December 1949

À la fin de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, la recherche scientifique européenne ne brille plus au niveau mondial. Inspiré par l’exemple des organisations internationales, un petit groupe de scientifiques visionnaires a l’idée de créer un laboratoire européen de physique atomique. Raoul Dautry, Pierre Auger et Lew Kowarski en France, Edoardo Amaldi en Italie et Niels Bohr au Danemark sont parmi ces précurseurs. En plus de réunir les scientifiques européens, un laboratoire de ce type permettrait de répartir les coûts, toujours plus élevés, des installations de physique nucléaire.

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L’histoire du CERN
9 December 1949

At the end of the Second World War, European science was no longer world-class. Following the example of international organizations, a handful of visionary scientists imagined creating a European atomic physics laboratory. Raoul Dautry, Pierre Auger and Lew Kowarski in France, Edoardo Amaldi in Italy and Niels Bohr in Denmark were among these pioneers. Such a laboratory would not only unite European scientists but also allow them to share the increasing costs of nuclear physics facilities.

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The history of CERN
20 December 1947

Stereoscopic photographs showing an unusual fork (a b) in the gas. The direction of the magnetic field is such that a positive particle coming downwards is deviated in an anticlockwise direction (Image: Nature)

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Cosmic rays
10 December 1946

The date on this menu for Wolfgang Pauli’s Nobel prize festivities is 1946, yet he was awarded the  physics prize for his exclusion principle in 1945. In a letter to Niels Bohr (25 November 1945) he explains the delay:

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From the archive
12 November 1946

Groups led by Bruno Rossi in the USA and Georgi Zatsepin in Russia started experiments on the structure of Auger showers. These researchers constructed the first arrays of correlated detectors to detect air showers.

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15 November 1945

Wolfgang Pauli was awarded the 1945 Nobel prize in physics for his Exclusion Principle. When he received the telegram from Arne Westgren (15 November 1945) Pauli was working at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, having left Europe for the USA during the Second World War. Pauli was the first resident member of the Institute to receive a Nobel  prize; his colleagues greeted it with great enthusiasm and the Director organised an official ceremony.

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From the archive
18 July 1938

Pierre Auger, who had positioned particle detectors high in the Alps, noticed that two detectors located many metres apart both signaled the arrival of particles at exactly the same time. A systematic investigation of the showers showed coincidences between counters separated horizontally by as far as 75 metres. While the counting rate dropped sharply in going from 10 centimetres to 10 metres, the rate decreased slowly at larger distances.

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Cosmic rays
30 March 1937

The muon was discovered as a constituent of cosmic-ray particle “showers” in 1936 by the American physicists Carl D. Anderson and Seth Neddermeyer.

Timelines
Cosmic rays
30 March 1937

The muon was discovered as a constituent of cosmic-ray particle “showers” in 1936 by the American physicists Carl D. Anderson and Seth Neddermeyer.

Read the paper:"Note on the nature of cosmic-ray particles"

Timelines
2 February 1934

In 1929 Ernest Lawrence – then associate professor of physics at the University of California, Berkeley, in the US – invented the cyclotron, a device for accelerating nuclear particles to high velocities without the use of high voltages. Lawrence was granted 

Timelines
The story of antimatter, CERN accelerators
1 September 1933

Bruno Rossi (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

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Cosmic rays
3 March 1933

 

The discovery was confirmed soon after by Occhialini and Blacket, who published Some photographs of the tracks of penetrating radiation in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A. Anderson's observations proved the existence of the antiparticles predicted by Dirac. For discovering the positron, Anderson shared the 1936 Nobel prize in physics with Victor Hess.

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Discovering the positron
9 September 1932

Photograph from Occhialini and Blacket’s paper showing tracks of radiation (Image: Blackett, P.M.S., & Occhialini, G.P.S., Royal Society of London Proceedings Series A 139 (1933) 699)

Timelines
Cosmic rays
9 September 1932

In 1932 Carl Anderson, a young professor at the California Institute of Technology in the US, was studying showers of cosmic particles in a cloud chamber and saw a track left by "something positively charged, and with the same mass as an electron". After nearly a year of effort and observation, he decided the tracks were actually antielectrons, each produced alongside an electron from the impact of cosmic rays in the cloud chamber.

Timelines
The story of antimatter
12 April 1932

Among the scientific documents in CERN’s Wolfgang Pauli Archive is a rather unusual item – a copy of the script parodying Goethe’s Faust performed at the Niels Bohr Institute conference, 3-13 April 1932 (exact date of performance not known). Written mostly by Max Delbrück, and decorated with caricatures of the protagonists, the skit features Pauli (Mephistopheles) trying to sell the idea of the neutrino (Gretchen) to a sceptical Paul Ehrenfest (Faust)!

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From the archive
1 September 1931

Paul Dirac published a paper mathematically predicting the existence of an antielectron that would have the same mass as an electron but the opposite charge. The two particles would mutually annihilate upon interaction.

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Discovering the positron
28 June 1929

Bothe and Kolhorster’s experiment (Image: L. Bonolis, American Journal of Physics, 79 (2011), 1133. Reproduced under Creative Commons license)

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Cosmic rays
6 May 1929

While studying cosmic rays in a Wilson cloud chamber, the Soviet academic Dimitri Skobeltsyn noticed something unexpected among the tracks left by high-energy charged particles. Some particles would act like electrons but curve the opposite way in a magnetic field. In an independent experiment that same year, Caltech graduate student Chung-Yao Chao observed the same phenomenon. The results were inconclusive, and both scientists disregarded the anomaly. 

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Discovering the positron
13 April 1928

Robert Millikan originally set about to disprove Hess and Kolhörster’s discovery. He and Ira Sprague reached a height of 1500 m in a balloon over Texas where they recorded a radiation intensity of approximately one quarter of Hess and Kohörster's measurement. The difference was caused by a geomagnetic difference between Texas and Central Europe but was blamed on turnover in the intensity curve at high altitude.

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Cosmic rays
10 January 1928

Despite some reservations about his lecturing style, Wolfgang Pauli was appointed professor of theoretical physics at the ETH, Zürich, on 10 January 1928. He started on 1 April at a basic annual salary of 15,000 francs.

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From the archive
2 January 1928

In 1928, British physicist Paul Dirac wrote down an equation that combined quantum theory and special relativity to describe the behaviour of an electron moving at a relativistic speed. The equation would allow whole atoms to be treated in a manner consistent with Einstein's relativity theory. Dirac's equation appeared in his paper The quantum theory of the electron, received by the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A on 2 January 1928. It won Dirac the Nobel prize in physics in 1933.

Timelines
The story of antimatter, Discovering the positron
15 November 1927

Using a cloud chamber, Dimitry Skobelsyn took the first photographs of tracks left by cosmic rays. Skobeltsyn was the first to advance the idea of using the registration of recoil electrons (Compton electrons) in a gas-filled Wilson cloud chamber. In his 1927 experiments, Skobeltsyn worked out the momenta of charged particles passing through the chamber from their degree of deflection by a magnetic field.

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11 September 1927

Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg and Enrico Fermi relax on Lake Como during the 1927 International Conference on Physics.

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From the archive
27 January 1926

In the 1920s, physicists were trying to apply Planck's concept of energy quanta to the atom and its constituents. By the end of the decade Erwin Schrödinger and Werner Heisenberg had invented the new quantum theory of physics. The Physical Institute of the University of Zürich published Schrödinger's lectures on Wave Mechanics (the first from 27 January 1926) and in 1930 Heisenberg's book The physical principles of the quantum theory appeared.

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The story of antimatter
4 October 1918

In October 1918 Wolfgang Pauli left Vienna to study at the University of Munich. His Kollegienbuch gives a glimpse of the lecture courses he followed.

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From the archive
28 June 1914

Increase in ionization with height measured by Hess and Kolhörster (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

German physicist Werner Kolhörster took balloon measurements up to a height of 9300 m, confirming Hess’s results for greater heights. His results confirmed unambiguously that an unknown radiation with an extreme penetrating power was causing ionization. The intensity of the radiation was relatively constant, with no day-night or weather-dependent variations.

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Cosmic rays
7 August 1912

Hess back from his balloon flight on 7 August 1912 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

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Cosmic rays
7 April 1912

In 1911 and 1912 Austrian physicist Victor Hess made a series of ascents in a balloon to take measurements of radiation in the atmosphere. He was looking for the source of an ionizing radiation that registered on an electroscope – the prevailing theory was that the radiation came from the rocks of the Earth.

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The story of antimatter
9 June 1911

Cloud formed on ions due to α-Rays (Image: CTR Wilson Roy, Proceedings of the Royal Society A, Volume 85, Plate 9)

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Cosmic rays
2 April 1911

Domenico Pacini making a measurement on 20 October 1910 (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

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Cosmic rays
15 October 1910

To measure ionizing radiation away from the earth’s surface, several researchers took to the air in balloon flights in the first decade of the 20th century. One of these pioneers, Albert Gockel, measured the levels of ionizing radiation up to a height of 3000 metres. He concluded that the ionization did not decrease with height and consequently could not have a purely terrestrial origin. He also introduced the term “kosmische Strahlung” – cosmic radiation.

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Cosmic rays
1 March 1909

The original Wulf electroscope (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

In 1909 Theodor Wulf, a Jesuit priest, designed and built a more sensitive and more transportable electrometer than the gold leaf electroscopes. He measured the ionization of the air in various locations in Germany, Holland and Belgium, concluding that his results were consistent with the hypothesis that the penetrating radiation was caused by radioactive substances in the upper layers of the Earth’s crust.

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Cosmic rays
30 June 1905

On 30 June 1905 the German physics journal Annalen der Physik published a paper by a young patent clerk called Albert Einstein. The paper, Zur Elektrodynamik bewegter Körper, (On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies) set out Einstein's theory of Special Relativity, which explains the relationship between space and time – and between energy and mass – in the famous equation E=mc2 The paper used Planck's concept of energy quanta to describe how light travels through space.

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The story of antimatter
25 April 1900

Bertha Camilla Schütz (known as Maria) was born in Vienna in 1878. A writer and journalist, she followed in her father’s footsteps as collaborator on the Neue Freie Presse, writing theatre reviews and historical essays. In 1899 she married Wolf Pauli and their first child was born on 25 April 1900. Wolfgang junior, seen here at the age of 20 months, grew up to be a Nobel prizewinning physicist, and his sister Hertha (1906-1973) became an actress and writer.

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From the archive
5 May 1899

In studying electrical conduction through air in 1899, Julius Elster and Hans Geitel designed a key experiment where they found that surrounding a gold leaf electroscope with a thick metal box would decrease its spontaneous discharge. From this observation, they concluded that the discharge was due to highly penetrating ionizing agents outside of the container. In a similar experiment at about the same time, Charles Thomson Rees Wilson in Cambridge came to the same conclusion.

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Cosmic rays
26 February 1896

The first evidence for radioactivity – images formed by Becquerel’s uranium salts (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

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Cosmic rays
28 June 1785

The torsion balance electrometer Coulomb used to make his observations (Image: Wikimedia commons)

In 1785, the French physicist Charles Augustin de Coulomb made three reports on electricity and magnetism to France’s Royal Academy of Sciences. His third paper described an experiment with a torsion balance, which showed that the device would spontaneously discharge due to the action of the air rather than defective insulation.

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Cosmic rays

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