AIP History Center Newsletter
Volume XXXVI , No. 1, Spring 2004

Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg and Enrico Fermi
L-R: Wolfgang Pauli, Werner Heisenberg and Enrico Fermi, 1927, Lake Como. CERN photo.

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Cataloging Underway in Huge CERN Archive
by Anita Hollier

In the aftermath of the Second World War, a small group of distinguished scientists and politicians had the dream of rebuilding European science through international collaboration. Nuclear physics, in particular, was a field where the focus had shifted very clearly from Europe to the United States, and early discussions soon crystallized into a call for the creation of a European center for nuclear research. The idea received decisive support at the 1950 UNESCO General Conference from the American delegationís Isidore Rabi, and plans began to take shape. The dream was realized in 1954 with the creation of CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, in Geneva, Switzerland. Its modest goal: to build the biggest particle accelerator yet seen.

By its 25th anniversary in 1979 CERN had plenty to celebrate, including the achievement of its first ambitious project with the start-up of the proton synchrotron in 1959. Among other celebrations, a history of CERN was commissioned.1 Historic documents were rescued from offices and basements and brought together to form the kernel of the CERN Archive. The Archive now contains ca. 1 linear kilometer of records. It pursues an active collection policy with contact persons in each of CERNís divisions and in selected experimental collaborations. The records reflect not only CERNís scientific work, but also international relations, general policy and management.

The Archive is cataloged to item level on a bibliographic database which is available on-line from the Archive home page at The archive team is working to provide descriptions for the backlog of material still unlisted. A series of collection-level descriptions is also underway to facilitate browsing, and a brief Guide gives an overview of the whole Archive and acts as a gateway to other finding aids.

John Adams
On 24 November 1959, the Proton Synchrotron accelerated particles to 24 GeV. John Adams, leader of the construction team, announced the achievement in the Main Auditorium. In his hand can be seen an empty vodka bottle, which he had received from Nikitin with the message that it was to be drunk when CERN passed Dubnaís world record energy of 10 Gev. The bottle now contains a polaroid photograph of the 24 GeV pulse ready to be sent to the Soviet Union. CERN photo.

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The CERN Archive is also home to the archive of Wolfgang Pauli (1900-1958). Pauliís discoveries, notably his neutrino hypothesis and Exclusion Principle (for which he won the Nobel prize for physics in 1945), made an important contribution to the rapid development of modern nuclear and particle physics. During his lifetime he became known as ďthe conscience of physics,Ē and his incisive criticism was equally appreciated and feared by his colleagues. The bulk of the archive comprises Pauliís imposing scientific correspondence with Einstein, Bohr, Heisenberg and many others (these letters are being published in German by Springer Verlag). It also includes Pauliís notes and manuscripts, his collection of books and reprints, photographs and personal items. A digitization project is underway. So far, around 2000 letters and 200 photos have been made available on-line at

For information, contact Anita Hollier ETT/SI - CERN Archive, CERN - European Org. for Nuclear Research, Geneva 23, Switzerland, CH-1211, Tel.: +41 22 767 49 53, Fax: +41 22 767 28 60 or E-mail:

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