Simon van der Meer

Simon van der Meer (24 November 1925 – 4 March 2011) was a Dutch particle accelerator physicist who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1984 with Carlo Rubbia for contributions to the CERN project which led to the discovery of the W and Z particles, two of the most fundamental constituents of matter.[1][2]

Simon van der Meer
Simon Van der Meer
Born24 November 1925
Died4 March 2011 (aged 85)
Alma materDelft University of Technology
Known forStochastic cooling
AwardsDuddell Medal and Prize (1982)
Nobel Prize in Physics (1984)
Scientific career


One of four children, Simon van der Meer was born and grew up in The Hague, the Netherlands, in a family of teachers.[3] He was educated at the city's gymnasium, graduating in 1943 during the German occupation of the Netherlands. He studied Technical Physics at the Delft University of Technology, and received an engineer's degree in 1952. After working for Philips Research in Eindhoven on high-voltage equipment for electron microscopy for a few years, he joined CERN in 1956 where he stayed until his retirement in 1990.[4][5][6]

Van der Meer was a relative of Nobel Prize winner Tjalling Koopmans – they were first cousins once removed.[7][8] In the mid-1960s, Van der Meer married Catharina M. Koopman; they had a daughter (Esther) and a son (Mathijs). He also had a sister (Ge) and a granddaughter.

Work at CERN

Simon’s contributions to CERN and accelerator physics speak for themselves.[9][10]
These started with magnet design in the 28 GeV Proton Synchrotron (PS) era in the 1950s and the 1961 invention of a pulsed focusing device, known as the ‘van der Meer horn’. Such devices are necessary for long-base-line neutrino facilities and are used even today.

That was followed in the 1960s by the design of a small storage ring for a physics experiment studying the anomalous magnetic moment of the muon. Soon after and in the following decade, he did some very innovative work on the regulation and control of powersupplies for the Intersecting Storage Rings (ISR) and, later, the SPS.

His ISR Collider days in the 1970s led to his technique for luminosity calibration of colliding beams, first used at the ISR and still used today at the LHC, as well as in other colliders.

Last but not the least was the Nobel Prize-winning idea behind stochastic cooling and the application of that at CERN in the late 1970s and 1980s, specifically in the Antiproton Accumulator, which supplied antiprotons to the Proton-Antiproton Collider.

During his work at the ISR, Simon developed a technique using steering magnets to vertically displace the two colliding beams with respect to each other; this permitted the evaluation of the effective beam height, leading to an evaluation of the beam luminosity at an intersection point. The famous ‘van der Meer scans’ are indispensable even today in the LHC experiments; without these, the precision of the calibration of the luminosity at the intersection points in the Collider would be much lower.

For the new SPS machine constructed in the early seventies, he proposed that the generation of the reference voltages for the bending and quadrupole supplies should be based on measurements of the field along the cycle, and gave an outline of the correction algorithms. His proposal resulted in the first ever computer-controlled closed-loop system for a geographically distributed system, as the 7 km circumference SPS was; this was a no simple feat for the early 1970s. Measurements of the main magnet currents were introduced only later, when the SPS had to run as a storage ring for the SPS p–pbar collider.

Van der Meer’s accelerator knowledge and computer programming meant he developed very sophisticated applications and tools to control the antiproton source accelerators as well as the transfer of antiprotons to the SPS Collider for Nobel-winning discoveries. The AA and AC pbar source complex machines remained from 1987 to 1996 the most highly automated set of machines in CERN’s repertoire of accelerators.[11]

His prolific inventiveness to the whole park of accelerators at CERN that run so well today for physics, whether they might be for neutrinos sent to Gran Sasso, colliding proton beams at the LHC, or antiproton physics at the Antiproton Decelerator (AD), owe him an immense amount of gratitude. Likewise, the Fermilab antiproton programme that has been running since 1983–85 and the successes of the p–pbar Tevatron Collider up to 2011 and its discovery of the top quark, owe him considerable gratitude.

Nobel prize

Van der Meer invented the technique of stochastic cooling of particle beams.[12] His technique was used to accumulate intense beams of antiprotons for head-on collision with counter-rotating proton beams at 540 GeV centre-of-mass energy or 270 GeV per beam in the Super Proton Synchrotron at CERN. Such collisions produced W and Z bosons which could be detected for the first time in 1983 by the UA1 experiment, led by Carlo Rubbia. The W and Z bosons had been theoretically predicted some years earlier, and their experimental discovery was considered a significant success for CERN. Van der Meer and Rubbia shared the 1984 Nobel Prize for their decisive contributions to the project.[13]
Without Van der Meer, particle physics would have probably taken a very different course over the 1980s, 1990s and the early 21st century.

Van der Meer and Ernest Lawrence are the only two accelerator physicists who have won the Nobel prize.

Apart from his Nobel Prize Van der Meer also became a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1984.[14]


  1. ^ "The Nobel Prize in Physics 1984". The Nobel Foundation. Retrieved 31 October 2009.
  2. ^ Darriulat, Pierre. "The W and Z particles: a personal recollection". CERN Courier. 44 (3): 13–16.
  3. ^ "Obituary: Simon Van der Meer". The Daily Telegraph. 9 March 2011. Retrieved 10 March 2011.
  4. ^ Telegdi, Val (January 1991). "Simon van der Meer retires". CERN Courier. 31 (1): 14–15.
  5. ^ Simon van der Meer – Biographical. (4 March 2011). Retrieved on 3 April 2014.
  6. ^ Caspers, Fritz; Koziol, Heribert; Mohl, Dieter (June 2011). "Simon van der Meer: a quiet giant of engineering and physics". CERN Courier. 51 (5): 24–27.
  7. ^ "Ancestors of Tjalling Koopmans". Family Affairs. 2010. Retrieved 18 March 2017.
  8. ^ D.Th. Kuiper. Tussen observatie en participatie: twee eeuwen gereformeerde en antirevolutionaire wereld in ontwikkelingsperspectief (in Dutch). Uitgeverij Verloren. ISBN 90-6550-694-2.
  9. ^ Chohan, Vinod C (2011). "Simon van der Meer (1925-2011): A modest genius of accelerator science". Rev. Accel. Sci. Technol. 4 (1): 279–291. doi:10.1142/S1793626811000550.
  10. ^ Chohan, Vinod (2012). Simon van der Meer and his legacy to CERN and particle accelerators. Geneva: CERN. p. 28.
  11. ^ Chohan, Vinod; Van der Meer, Simon (December 1989). "Aspects of automation and applications in the CERN antiproton source". CERN: 1–11.
  12. ^ Nobel Press Release. (17 October 1984). Retrieved on 3 April 2014.
  13. ^ The Economist, "Simon van der Meer", 19 March 2011, p. 96.
  14. ^ "Simon van der Meer (1925 - 2011)". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 24 January 2016.

External links

1984 in science

The year 1984 in science and technology involved some significant events.

Antiproton Accumulator

The Antiproton Accumulator (AA) was an infrastructure connected to the Proton–Antiproton Collider (SppS) — a modification of the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) — at CERN. The AA was built in 1979 and 1980, for the production and accumulation of antiprotons. In the SppS the antiprotons were made to collide with protons, achieving collisions at a center of mass energy of app. 540 GeV (later raised to 630 GeV and finally, in a pulsed mode, to 900 GeV). Several experiments recorded data from the collisions, most notably the UA1 and UA2 experiment, where the W and Z bosons were discovered in 1983.

The concept of the project was developed and promoted by C. Rubbia, for which he received the Nobel prize in 1984. He shared the prize with Simon van der Meer, whose invention of the method of stochastic cooling made large scale production of antiprotons possible for the first time.

Carlo Rubbia

Carlo Rubbia, (born 31 March 1934) is an Italian particle physicist and inventor who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1984 with Simon van der Meer for work leading to the discovery of the W and Z particles at CERN.

Delft University of Technology

Delft University of Technology (Dutch: Technische Universiteit Delft) also known as TU Delft, is the largest and oldest Dutch public technological university, located in Delft, Netherlands. It counts as one of the best universities for engineering and technology worldwide, typically seen within the top 20. It is repeatedly considered the best university of technology in the Netherlands.With eight faculties and numerous research institutes, it hosts over 19,000 students (undergraduate and postgraduate), more than 2,900 scientists, and more than 2,100 support and management staff.The university was established on 8 January 1842 by William II of the Netherlands as a Royal Academy, with the main purpose of training civil servants for the Dutch East Indies. The school rapidly expanded its research and education curriculum, becoming first a Polytechnic School in 1864, Institute of Technology in 1905, gaining full university rights, and finally changing its name to Delft University of Technology in 1986.Dutch Nobel laureates Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, and Simon van der Meer have been associated with TU Delft. TU Delft is a member of several university federations including the IDEA League, CESAER, UNITECH International, and 4TU.

Dennis Gabor Medal and Prize

The Dennis Gabor Medal and Prize (previously the Duddell Medal and Prize until 2008) is a prize awarded biannually by the Institute of Physics for distinguished contributions to the application of physics in an industrial, commercial or business context. The medal is made of silver and is accompanied by a prize and a certificate. The original Duddell award was instituted by the Council of The Physical Society in 1923 to the memory of William du Bois Duddell, the inventor of the electromagnetic oscillograph. Between 1961 and 1975 it was awarded in alternate odd-numbered years and thereafter annually.

In 2008 the award was renamed in honour of Dennis Gabor, the Hungarian – British physicist who developed holography, for which he received the 1971 Nobel Prize in Physics. The prize also switched to being awarded in alternate even-numbered years.


Gargamelle was a heavy liquid bubble chamber detector in operation at CERN between 1970 and 1979. It was designed to detect neutrinos and antineutrinos, which were produced with a beam from the Proton Synchrotron (PS) between 1970 and 1976, before the detector was moved to the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS). In 1979 an irreparable crack was discovered in the bubble chamber, and the detector was decommissioned. It is currently part of the microcosm exhibition at CERN, open to the public.

Gargamelle is famous for being the experiment where neutral currents were discovered. Presented in July 1973 neutral currents were the first experimental indication of the existence of the Z0 boson, and consequently a major step towards the verification of the electroweak theory.

Gargamelle can refer to both the bubble chamber detector itself, or the high-energy physics experiment by the same name. The name itself is derived from a 16th-century novel by François Rabelais, The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel, in which the giantess Gargamelle is the mother of Gargantua.

List of Super Proton Synchrotron experiments

This is a list of past and current experiments at the CERN Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) facility since its commissioning in 1976. The SPS was used as the main particle collider for many experiments, and has been adapted to various purpose ever since its inception. Four locations were used for experiments, the North Area (NA experiments), West Area (WA experiments), Underground Area (UA experiments), and the Endcap MUon detectors (EMU experiments).

The UA1 and UA2 experiments famously detected the W and Z bosons in the early 1980s. Following this, Carlo Rubbia and Simon van der Meer won the 1984 Nobel Prize in Physics.The list is first compiled from the INSPIRE database, then missing information is retrieved from the online version CERN's Grey Book. The most specific information of the two is kept, e.g. if the INSPIRE database lists November 1974, while the Grey Book lists 22 November 1974, the Grey Book entry is shown. When there is a conflict between the INSPIRE database and the Grey Book, the INSPIRE database information is listed, unless otherwise noted.

Magnetic horn

A magnetic horn or neutrino horn (also known as the Van der Meer horn) is a high-current, pulsed focusing device, invented by the Dutch physicist Simon van der Meer in CERN, that selects pions and focuses them into a sharp beam. The original application of the magnetic horn was in the context of neutrino physics, where beams of pions have to be tightly focused. When the pions then decay into muons and neutrinos or antineutrinos, an equally well-focused neutrino beam is obtained.


Meer may refer to:

Fatima Meer (1928–2010), South African writer and anti-apartheid activist

Johnny Vander Meer (1914–1997), American baseball pitcher, famed for pitching two consecutive no-hitters

Moosa Ismail Meer, South African journalist and newspaper editor of The Indian Views

Simon van der Meer (1925–2011), Dutch accelerator physicist

Mir Taqi Mir (1722–1810), Urdu poet

Mir (band), Canadian rock band, pronounced "meer"

Meer Campbell, fictional character from the anime series Mobile Suit Gundam SEED

Meer, character in the Deverry Cycle book series

Peter Kalmus

Peter Ignaz Paul Kalmus (born 25 January 1933), is a British particle physicist, and emeritus professor of physics at Queen Mary, University of London.

Stochastic cooling

Stochastic cooling is a form of particle beam cooling. It is used in some particle accelerators and storage rings to control the emittance of the particle beams in the machine. This process uses the electrical signals that the individual charged particles generate in a feedback loop to reduce the tendency of individual particles to move away from the other particles in the beam. It is accurate to think of this as adiabatic cooling, or the reduction of entropy, in much the same way that a refrigerator or an air conditioner cools its contents.

The technique was invented and applied at the Intersecting Storage Rings, and later the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS), at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland by Simon van der Meer, a physicist from the Netherlands. It was used to collect and cool antiprotons — these particles were injected into the Proton-Antiproton Collider, a modification of the SPS, with counter-rotating protons and collided at a particle physics experiment. For this work, van der Meer was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1984. He shared this prize with Carlo Rubbia of Italy, who proposed the Proton-Antiproton Collider. This experiment discovered the W and Z bosons, fundamental particles that carry the weak nuclear force.

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory continues to use stochastic cooling in its antiproton source. The accumulated antiprotons are used in the Tevatron to collide with protons to create collisions at CDF and the D0 experiment.

Stochastic cooling in the Tevatron at Fermilab was attempted, but was not fully successful. The equipment was subsequently transferred to Brookhaven National Laboratory, where it was successfully used in a longitudinal cooling system in RHIC, operationally used beginning in 2006. Since 2012 RHIC has 3D operational stochastic cooling, i.e. cooling the horizontal, vertical, and longitudinal planes.

Super Proton Synchrotron

The Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) is a particle accelerator of the synchrotron type at CERN. It is housed in a circular tunnel, 6.9 kilometres (4.3 mi) in circumference, straddling the border of France and Switzerland near Geneva, Switzerland.

Super Proton–Antiproton Synchrotron

The Super Proton–Antiproton Synchrotron (or SppS, also known as the Proton–Antiproton Collider) was a particle accelerator that operated at CERN from 1981 to 1991. To operate as a proton-antiproton collider the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) underwent substantial modifications, altering it from a one beam synchrotron to a two-beam collider. The main experiments at the accelerator were UA1 and UA2, where the W and Z boson were discovered in 1983. Carlo Rubbia and Simon van der Meer received the 1984 Nobel Prize in Physics for their decisive contribution to the SppS-project, which led to the discovery of the W and Z bosons. Other experiments conducted at the SppS were UA4, UA5 and UA8.

Timeline of particle physics

The timeline of particle physics lists the sequence of particle physics theories and discoveries in chronological order. The most modern developments follow the scientific development of the discipline of particle physics.

Tjalling Koopmans

Tjalling Charles Koopmans (August 28, 1910 – February 26, 1985) was a Dutch American mathematician and economist. He was the joint winner with Leonid Kantorovich of the 1975 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on the theory of the optimum allocation of resources. Koopmans showed that on the basis of certain efficiency criteria, it is possible to make important deductions concerning optimum price systems.

UA1 experiment

The UA1 experiment (an abbreviation of Underground Area 1) was a high-energy physics experiment that ran at CERN's Proton-Antiproton Collider (SppS), a modification of the one-beam Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS). The data was recorded between 1981 and 1990. The joint discovery of the W and Z bosons by this experiment and the UA2 experiment in 1983 led to the Nobel Prize for physics being awarded to Carlo Rubbia and Simon van der Meer in 1984. Peter Kalmus and John Dowell, from the UK groups working on the project, were jointly awarded the 1988 Rutherford Medal and Prize from the Institute of Physics for their outstanding roles in the discovery of the W and Z particles.

It was named as the first experiment in a CERN "Underground Area" (UA), i.e. located underground, outside of the two main CERN sites, at an interaction point on the SPS accelerator, which had been modified to operate as a collider.

The UA1 central detector was crucial to understanding the complex topology of proton-antiproton collisions. It played a most important role in identifying a handful of W and Z particles among billions of collisions.

After the discovery of the W and Z boson, the UA1 collaboration went on to search for the top quark. Physicists had anticipated its existence since 1977, when its partner — the bottom quark — was discovered. It was felt that the discovery of the top quark was imminent. In June 1984, Carlo Rubbia at the UA1 experiment expressed to the New York Times that evidence of the top quark "looks really good". Over the next months it became clear that UA1 had overlooked a significant source of background. The top quark was ultimately discovered in 1994–1995 by physicists at Fermilab with a mass near 175 GeV.

The UA1 was a huge and complex detector for its day. It was designed as a general-purpose detector.

The detector was a 6-chamber cylindrical assembly 5.8 m long and 2.3 m in diameter, the largest imaging drift chamber of its day. It recorded the tracks of charged particles curving in a 0.7 Tesla magnetic field, measuring their momentum, the sign of their electric charge and their rate of energy loss (dE/dx). Atoms in the argon-ethane gas mixture filling the chambers were ionised by the passage of charged particles. The electrons which were released drifted along an electric field shaped by field wires and were collected on sense wires. The geometrical arrangement of the 17000 field wires and 6125 sense wires allowed a spectacular 3-D interactive display of reconstructed physics events to be produced.The UA1 detector was conceived and designed in 1978/9, with the proposal submitted in mid-1978.Since the end of running, the magnet used in the UA1 experiment has been used for other high energy physics experiments, notably the NOMAD and T2K neutrino experiments.

UA2 experiment

The Underground Area 2 (UA2) experiment was a high-energy physics experiment at the Proton-Antiproton Collider (SppS) — a modification of the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) — at CERN. The experiment ran from 1981 until 1990, and its main objective was to discover the W and Z bosons. UA2, together with the UA1 experiment, succeeded in discovering these particles in 1983, leading to the 1984 Nobel Prize in Physics being awarded to Carlo Rubbia and Simon van der Meer. The UA2 experiment also observed the first evidence for jet production in hadron collisions in 1981, and was involved in the searches of the top quark and of supersymmetric particles. Pierre Darriulat was the spokesperson of UA2 from 1981 to 1986, followed by Luigi Di Lella from 1986 to 1990.

Van der Meer

Van der Meer is a Dutch toponymic surname meaning "from the lake". A common contracted form is Vermeer. Abroad the name has often been concatenated to Vander Meer or Vandermeer, and VanderMeer. It may refer to:

Van der MeerBarend van der Meer (1659–1700), Dutch painter

Douwe Mout van der Meer (1705–1758), Dutch VOC sailor and owner of a rhinoceros

Erik van der Meer (born 1967), Dutch football player and coach

Frits van der Meer (1904–1994), Dutch archeologist and theologist

Gerrit van der Meer (born 1950), Dutch television and film producer

Harry van der Meer (born 1973), Dutch water polo player

Johan van der Meer (conductor) (1913–2011), Dutch choral conductor

Johannes van der Meer, alternative name of Jan Vermeer (1632–1675), Dutch painter

John Henry van der Meer (1920–2008), Dutch organologist and museum curator

Jolande van der Meer (born 1964), Dutch swimmer

Jos van der Meer (born 1947), Dutch medical scientist

Karel van der Meer (1905–1978), Dutch football referee

L. Bouke van der Meer (born 1945), Dutch archaeologist

Maartje van der Meer-Offers (1891–1944), Dutch contralto singer

Marleen de Pater-van der Meer (1950–2015), Dutch politician

Maud van der Meer (born 1992), Dutch swimmer

Moritz Hohenbaum van der Meer (1718–1795), Swiss historian

Nicolaes Woutersz van der Meer (1575–1666), Dutch politician

Patrick van der Meer (born 1971), Dutch dressage rider

Rick van der Meer (born 1997), Dutch footballer

Rob van der Meer (born ca. 1956), Dutch Surgeon General

Robin van der Meer (born 1995), Dutch footballer

Robine van der Meer (born 1971), Dutch actress

Simon van der Meer (1925–2011), Dutch physicist

Stientje van Veldhoven-van der Meer (born 1973), Dutch politician

Stijn van der Meer (born 1993), Dutch baseball player

Susie van der Meer (born 1973), German singer-songwriter

Vonne van der Meer (born 1952), Dutch novelist and playwrightVanderMeer, Vandermeer, Vander MeerAnn VanderMeer, American publisher and editor, wife of Jeff VanderMeer

Annie VanderMeer), American video game designer

Jeff VanderMeer (born 1968), American writer, husband of Ann VanderMeer

Jim Vandermeer (born 1980), Canadian ice hockey player

John Vandermeer (born 1940), American ecologist

Johnny Vander Meer (1914–1997), American baseball player

Nancy VanderMeer (born 1958), American politician

Pete Vandermeer (born 1975), Canadian ice hockey player

Tony Vandermeer (born 1962), American politician

Vinod Chohan

Vinod Chandrasinh Chohan (May 1, 1949 – June 12, 2017) was a Tanzanian-born accelerator specialist and engineer. He was a Senior Staff Member at CERN for nearly 40 years.

He held a leading position at CERN's Antiproton Accumulator, a machine that was part of the infrastructure connected to the UA1 and UA2 experiments, where the W and Z bosons where discovered in 1983. Carlo Rubbia and Simon van der Meer received the 1984 Nobel Prize in Physics for this discovery. Chohan worked closely with the latter on the Antiproton Accumulator.Chohan was a substantial contributor to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), leading the team that tested, measured and trained more than a thousand superconducting magnets for the LHC.During his nearly 40 years as a staff member at CERN he held technical and management positions such as in beam diagnostics, instrumentation, accelerator studies, controls, testing of superconducting magnet and safety.

Nobel Prize laureates from The Netherlands
Nobel Peace Prize
Nobel Prize in Physics
Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences
Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine

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