European Organization
for Nuclear Research
Organisation européenne
pour la recherche nucléaire
Logo of CERN.png
CERN member states .svg
Member states
FormationSeptember 29, 1954; 63 years ago (1954-09-29)[1]
HeadquartersMeyrin, Canton of Geneva, Switzerland
Official languages
English and French
Council President
Sijbrand de Jong[2]
Fabiola Gianotti

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (French: Organisation européenne pour la recherche nucléaire), known as CERN (n/; French pronunciation: ​[sɛʁn]; derived from the name Conseil européen pour la recherche nucléaire), is a European research organization that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. Established in 1954, the organization is based in a northwest suburb of Geneva on the Franco–Swiss border, (46°14′3″N 6°3′19″E / 46°14′3″N 6°3′19″E / 46.23417; 6.05528) and has 22 member states.[3] Israel is the only non-European country granted full membership.[4] CERN is an official United Nations Observer.[5]

The acronym CERN is also used to refer to the laboratory, which in 2016 had 2,500 scientific, technical, and administrative staff members, and hosted about 12,000 users. In the same year, CERN generated 49 petabytes of data.[6]

CERN's main function is to provide the particle accelerators and other infrastructure needed for high-energy physics research – as a result, numerous experiments have been constructed at CERN through international collaborations. The main site at Meyrin hosts a large computing facility, which is primarily used to store and analyse data from experiments, as well as simulate events. Researchers need remote access to these facilities, so the lab has historically been a major wide area network hub. CERN is also the birthplace of the World Wide Web.[7][8]


The 12 founding member states of CERN in 1954[1] (map borders from 1954–1990)

The convention establishing CERN was ratified on 29 September 1954 by 12 countries in Western Europe.[1] The acronym CERN originally represented the French words for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Council for Nuclear Research), which was a provisional council for building the laboratory, established by 12 European governments in 1952. The acronym was retained for the new laboratory after the provisional council was dissolved, even though the name changed to the current Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Organization for Nuclear Research) in 1954.[9] According to Lew Kowarski, a former director of CERN, when the name was changed, the abbreviation could have become the awkward OERN, and Heisenberg said that this could "still be CERN even if the name is [not]".[citation needed]

CERN's first president was Sir Benjamin Lockspeiser. Edoardo Amaldi was the general secretary of CERN at its early stages when operations were still provisional, while the first Director-General (1954) was Felix Bloch.[10]

The laboratory was originally devoted to the study of atomic nuclei, but was soon applied to higher-energy physics, concerned mainly with the study of interactions between subatomic particles. Therefore, the laboratory operated by CERN is commonly referred to as the European laboratory for particle physics (Laboratoire européen pour la physique des particules), which better describes the research being performed there.

Founding members

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.[11]

Scientific achievements

Several important achievements in particle physics have been made through experiments at CERN. They include:

In September 2011, CERN attracted media attention when the OPERA Collaboration reported the detection of possibly faster-than-light neutrinos.[19] Further tests showed that the results were flawed due to an incorrectly connected GPS synchronization cable.[20]

The 1984 Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to Carlo Rubbia and Simon van der Meer for the developments that resulted in the discoveries of the W and Z bosons. The 1992 Nobel Prize for Physics was awarded to CERN staff researcher Georges Charpak "for his invention and development of particle detectors, in particular the multiwire proportional chamber". The 2013 Nobel Prize for physics was awarded to François Englert and Peter Higgs for the theoretical description of the Higgs mechanism in the year after the Higgs boson was found by CERN experiments.

Computer science

This NeXT Computer used by British scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee at CERN became the first Web server.
This Cisco Systems router at CERN was one of the first IP routers deployed in Europe.
A plaque at CERN commemorating the invention of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau

The World Wide Web began as a CERN project named ENQUIRE, initiated by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 and Robert Cailliau in 1990.[21] Berners-Lee and Cailliau were jointly honoured by the Association for Computing Machinery in 1995 for their contributions to the development of the World Wide Web.

Based on the concept of hypertext, the project was intended to facilitate the sharing of information between researchers. The first website was activated in 1991. On 30 April 1993, CERN announced that the World Wide Web would be free to anyone. A copy[22] of the original first webpage, created by Berners-Lee, is still published on the World Wide Web Consortium's website as a historical document.

Prior to the Web's development, CERN had pioneered the introduction of Internet technology, beginning in the early 1980s.[23]

More recently, CERN has become a facility for the development of grid computing, hosting projects including the Enabling Grids for E-sciencE (EGEE) and LHC Computing Grid. It also hosts the CERN Internet Exchange Point (CIXP), one of the two main internet exchange points in Switzerland.

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