Science Bringing Nations Together

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Bridging the Atlantic

First Contacts 

In August 1952 a European delegation led by Norwegian Odd Dahl went to Brookhaven to learn about US plans for the giant Cosmotron being built there at that time. Brookhaven specialists organized a think-tank during which they discovered a way of increasing the energy of an accelerator.

Left to right: G. Collins, Chairman of the Brookhaven Cosmotron Department, Odd Dahl, who was to be in charge of CERN's accelerator project, accelerator pioneer R. Wideroe of Swiss company Brown Boveri, and F. Goward. 

The Brookhaven team generously shared this new insight with their European visitors, who gratefully took the idea home. The result was the Proton Synchrotron, PS, which began operation in 1959 and is still the cornerstone of CERN's accelerator complex. Thanks to the Brookhaven idea, the PS has an energy nearly three times higher than originally foreseen.
This early visit set the tone for the relationship between European and American physicists. It is a relationship based on mutual respect, coloured by a healthy spirit of competition, and has lasted to this day.

Strengthening the Links 

Although American physicists had been visiting CERN from the beginning, substantial US participation in the Laboratory's research did not come until the 1970s when CERN switched on the world's first proton-proton collider, the Intersecting Storage Rings, ISR. The chance of doing physics at such an innovative machine proved irresistible to the American particle physics community, and almost half of the experiments at the ISR had US participation.

While taking part in an ISR experiment, S. Ting learns that he has been awarded the 1976 Nobel prize for physics.

In the 1980s Sam Ting became spokesman of the first CERN experiment, L3, to be formally supported by the US Department of Energy. European physicists had always been involved in post-war US research, but with the ISR this movement was no longer one way. American physicists participated in CERN experiments whilst CERN Member State physicists were welcomed across the Atlantic.

When CERN SPS experiment UA1 made the 1984 Nobel prize-winning discovery of W and Z particles, American physicists were there, and when Fermilab near Chicago switched on its Tevatron proton-antiproton collider in 1985, European physicists were there with their American colleagues for the first data.

C. Rubbia (left) and S. van der Meer, 1984 Nobel prize winners in physics, accept their colleagues' applause. 


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