Georges Charpak

Memoirs Publication date : June 5, 2008

Georges Charpak has led an amazing life. A Polish-Ukrainian refugee whose family fled anti-Semitic persecution in the Russian civil war, he came to France as a child and became a brilliant student while at the same time participating in the anti-fascist struggle. After being arrested for his activities in the Resistance, he was deported to a concentration camp. When the camp was liberated, he returned to France and continued his studies at the prestigious engineering school L'Ecole des Mines. He later joined the Laboratory of Frédéric Joliot-Curie, where he became a specialist in particle detectors and developed an instrument that would play a key role in high-energy physics, the ruling scientific discipline of the second half of the twentieth century. The multiwire chamber he invented resulted in the discovery of elementary particles — a discovery that is essential for the understanding of the infinitely small, such as of W and Z particles. His multiwire chamber has found other applications, notably in medical imaging.

He spent his scientific career at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research), in Geneva. A militant for several humanitarian causes, he is known for his support of human rights in Eastern Europe and, particularly, for his condemnation of nuclear arms, which he believes pose an ever-growing threat not only to world peace but also to the survival of humanity.

The recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1992, Georges Charpak recounts in this remarkably vivid book the many facets of his fascinating life: refugee, militant, member of the French Resistance, deportee, and brilliant inventor of an instrument that led to groundbreaking discoveries in atomic physics.

Charpak's memoirs cover the major events in the history of experimental and theoretical physics during the past half-century.

As a physicist who is firmly committed to banning nuclear arms, Charpak explains the threats posed today by Iran and North Korea as well as by terrorist groups.

He delivers a message of great hope and belief in the power of schools and education, to which he owes so much.

Georges Charpak was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his invention of a particle detector which led to many major discoveries. A highly popular and respected scientist, he is the author of La vie à fil tendu (1993), Feux follets et champignons nucléaires (1997), Enfants, chercheurs et citoyens (1998), Devenez sorciers, devenez savants (2002), Soyez savants, devenez prophètes (2004) and De Tchernobyl en tchernobyls (2005).