Particle Physics Pioneer Charpak Dies

PARIS, Oct. 1 (UPI) — Nobel Prize-winning physicist Georges Charpak, who revolutionized the study of high-energy particle physics, has died in Paris, officials said.

Charpak, inventor of a particle detector that improved the way scientists conducted high-energy particle physics experiments, was 86.


No cause of death was given, The Washington Post reported.

Charpak was born to Jewish parents in Poland. His family moved to France when he was 7. When the Germans invaded in 1940, Charpak was a French resistance fighter but was arrested by Vichy officials in 1943. Transferred to German custody in 1944 he spent a year in the Dachau concentration camp until it was liberated by Allied forces.

After the war, Charpak received a doctorate in nuclear physics from the College de France in Paris.

In 1968, Charpak was a physicist at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, where he developed the multiwire proportional chamber, a particle detector that used computers to collect data 1,000 times faster than previous devices.

Charpak called it “a little thing which propagated in a couple of years like a fire in the experiments of my colleagues.”

“My very modest contribution to physics has been in the art of weaving in space thin wires detecting the whisper of nearby flying charged particles produced in high-energy nuclear collisions,” Charpak said at his Nobel Prize ceremony.

“It is easy for computers to transform these whispers into a symphony understandable to physicists.”

Almost every experiment in the study of subatomic particles today uses detectors based on Charpak’s design.

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