Saturday, October 2, 2010

Deceased--Georges Charpak

Georges Charpak
August 1st, 1924 to September 29th, 2010

"France Mourns Georges Charpak, Physicist and Wit"


Barbara Casassus

October 1st, 2010


French physicist Georges Charpak, who died on 29 September, aged 86, will be remembered for his contribution above all to science and humanity, but also for a lexicon of humorous soundbites.

Polish-born Charpak, who won the Nobel physics prize in 1992 for inventing the proportional chambers used in particle physics, arrived in France at the age of seven. He joined the French Resistance in World War II, was interned in Dachau, and in the 1950s joined CERN, the European particle physics lab in Geneva. From that time, he knew that basic research would "engulf my life." It would also impact many other lives, since the detectors he invented or upgraded have been used in a number of particle discoveries since the 1960s.

He didn't take his discovery too seriously; however, he is reported to have quipped that the invention that earned him the Nobel Prize was just a cheap repair and that Scotch had played a vital role in high energy physics. The French daily Le Figaro reported that Charpak once wrote that "physics resembles the most demanding and sometimes most destructive of mistresses. Night and day, summer, winter, morning and night, she pursues you, invades you, fulfills you, or throws you into despair."

Charpak revolutionized the way science is taught in schools with his "hands on" method that replaces theory with practice and has been emulated in several other countries. Among the numerous tributes, French President Nicolas Sarkozy described him as "a great humanist, whose life and commitment are an example for the country and its youth."

Even though a supporter of nuclear power, Charpak was one of three signatories to an editorial in the French daily Libération in August that called for a halt to the building of the experimental fusion reactor ITER in the south of France because the cost of the project has running out of control and the plant will be "unusable."

Charpak's last book, Memoirs of a Rootless Person, Physicist, Citizen of the World, was published in 2008.

Georges Charpak [Wikipedia]

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