Simon van der Meer

Nobel Prize winner who saw value in idleness

After the Second World War, Simon van der Meer began his studies in Applied Physics at Delft University of Technology. In 1952, he obtained his degree and then worked for four years at the NatLab laboratory of Philips. However, a new challenge awaited him in Switzerland.

He joined the European CERN institute, at that time still in its infancy, to contribute to the research of elementary particles. He found his feet there and built particle accelerators and storage rings, among other things. In the 1970s, Van der Meer devised a way to counteract the dispersion of particle beams. His method of stochastic cooling made it easier to control particles in an accelerator. The technique was used by Carlo Rubbia to discover the subatomic particles W-boson and Z-boson. For this discovery, Van der Meer and Rubbia received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1984.

It was just one of the many techniques he developed that played an important role in particle physics. He was also one of the initiators of the Large Electron-Positron Collider (LEP), which CERN put into operation in 1989. Van der Meer says that he got the best ideas when he was doing nothing in particular. He stressed that it was precisely the fuzzy, strange ideas that were worth working out.

Van der Meer worked at CERN until his retirement in 1990. The influential physicist died in Geneva in 2011.

Ir. Simon van der Meer is receiving this award for his numerous contributions to particle physics and the discovery of the W-Boson and Z-Boson, for which he won the Nobel Prize.