CERN: 70 years of research and discovery

10 July 2024

Particle laboratory CERN in Geneva has been a source of discoveries since 1954, and it is also a magnet for researchers.

Jos Engelen, former director of Nikhef and former research director of CERN, looks at Wikipedia’s list of historical achievements of the lab in Geneva. The discovery of the Higgs particle. The discovery the W and Z bosons. Antihydrogen. CP violation. First quark-gluon plasma. Neutral currents. And the World Wide Web, too, of course.

A pretty successful series, full of exciting physics, stretching from the 1950s to the present day. ‘Yet also a bit one-sided. CERN work is not only about breakthroughs, but also about sharpening and refining what we already know and are technically able to do. But what you mostly fail to see from the list is how the existence of CERN has given a huge boost to particle physics itself.’

‘Certainly also for the Netherlands,’ says Engelen. ‘Thanks to CERN, as a small country, we have been able develop into a country that matters in particle physics. Look at Nikhef’s current research agenda, which is at once broad and ironclad, from LHC to astroparticles and gravitational

CERN, the Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire, was founded in 1954, partly by the Netherlands, to rebuild European science after the war and as a centre for peaceful cooperation. International cooperation has been paramount from the outset, and this remained so even during the Cold War, during which east and west were so vehemently opposed elsewhere.

Continue reading below or download the PDF (source: Nikhef magazine DIMENSIES #11)