Archives of Georges Charpak

Identity Statement [Top]

Reference code(s)

CERN-ARCH-GC-01-001 to CERN-ARCH-GC-07-004


Archives of Georges Charpak


1959 – 2007 (mostly post-1992)

Level of description


Extent of the unit of description

116 boxes, 117 items, 13 linear meters

Context [Top]

Name of creator

Georges Charpak (8th March 1924 – 29th September 2010)

Biographical history

Georges Charpak was born in 1924 in Dąbrowica in Poland (now Dubrovytsia, Ukraine). His family moved to Paris when he was 7 years old. He began his studies in mathematics at the Lycée Saint Louis (Paris) in 1941. However, the outbreak of World War II forced him to flee Paris under a false identity. He joined the resistance and in 1944 he was deported to the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau. He was released in 1946 and obtained French nationality in the same year. In 1945 he entered the Ecole des Mines (Paris), where he studied engineering, specializing in the steel industry. He obtained his degree in 1948. In 1949, he became a pupil of Frédéric Joliot Curie at the Collège de France and obtained a research position at the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS). He obtained his PhD in nuclear physics from the Collège de France (Paris) in 1954, with a thesis on the emission of very low energy radiation associated with the disintegration of nuclei.

Following his meeting with Leon Lederman, Georges Charpak joined CERN in 1959, where he worked first in the Synchro-cyclotron division (SC), then in the Nuclear Physics division (NP) (1961), and the Experimental Physics division (EP) (1976). After his retirement from CERN he continued to work in the Particle Physics Experiment Division (PPE), the Accelerator Technology division (AT), and the Large Hadron Collider division (LHC).

He was part of the group that in 1961 precisely measured the anomalous magnetic moment of the muon (g-2), predicted by QED. He worked mainly on the development of new techniques for particle detection. In 1968 he invented the multiwire proportional chamber (a gas-filled box with a large number of parallel detector wires, each connected to individual amplifiers), for which he received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1992. This invention, and Charpak’s subsequent developments, launched the era of fully electronic particle detection. His detectors are also used for biological research and could eventually replace photographic recording in applied radiobiology. Georges Charpak was also involved in other research; for example, he worked on fossil sound and the use of neutrino beams to search for oil deposits. Georges Charpak retired from CERN in 1989, and with some other physicists founded, a firm called "Biospace" to provide researchers in biology with innovative imaging tools based on his discoveries in high-energy physics and particle detection.

Parallel to his core research, Georges Charpak was involved in many other activities. His main commitments were the reform of science education for children (in 1996 he developed the “La main à la pâte” (“hands-on”) project) and the popularisation of science in general, protests against colonial wars, defence of Soviet dissidents, and the fight against nuclear weapons. Georges Charpak was a member of the French Academy of Sciences from 1985 and a member of the scientific committee of the Institut d’oncologie cellulaire et moléculaire humaine (IOCMH) in the University of Paris XI.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Received from Georges Charpak in January 2008

Content & Structure [Top]

Scope and content

The documents in this collection were created or compiled by Georges Charpak, and deal with his scientific work and activities in other domains, particularly education and humanitarian work. They cover the period from his arrival at CERN in 1959 and continue after his retirement.

Charpak's correspondence after receiving the Nobel Prize in 1992 makes up the bulk of the collection, but there are also some earlier notebooks and work documents. 

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information

The following groups of documents have been scheduled for destruction; they will first be offered to the CERN Library:

  • Charpak's publications (c. 1 lm) classified by year in files. Documents concerning the preparatory work for these publications have been kept elsewhere in the Archives; copies of Charpak’s publications are also kept in the CERN Library.
  • Charpak's library of articles and preprints filed by subject (c. 10 lm). The documents are not annotated by Charpak and the majority are already kept in the CERN Library.


No further accruals are expected.

System of arrangement

01 Research at CERN (CERN-ARCH-GC-01-001 to 010)

  • Career record
  • Laboratory notebooks
  • Research work
  • Special projects
  • Photos

02 Publications (CERN-ARCH-GC-02-001 to 009)

03 Conferences (transparencies and slides) (CERN-ARCH-GC-03-001 to 011)

04 Correspondence (CERN-ARCH-GC-04-001 to 074)

  • Main correspondence series
  • Particular scientists

05 Research outside CERN (CERN-ARCH-GC-05-001 to 002)

  • Institut d’oncologie cellulaire et moléculaire humaine (IOCMH)
  • French Academy of Sciences
  • Sponsorship of the project “Futura, la Corse technopolitaine”
  • Biospace

06 World Citizen (CERN-ARCH-GC-06-001 to 007)

  • International scientific cooperation
  • Defense of Russian scientists
  • Fight against the proliferation of nuclear weapons
  • Compagnie générale des matières nucléaires (COGEMA)

07 Science education for children and the general public (CERN-ARCH-GC-07-001 to 004)

Conditions of access and use [Top]

Conditions governing access

See file level description and the CERN operational circular No 3: rules applicable to archival material and archiving at CERN. In general, records on any subject that are over 30 years old, and all records of a purely scientific nature, may be consulted.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copyright is retained by CERN, no reproduction without permission.

Language / scripts of material

Most of the material is written in English or French. A few documents are in Arabic.

Finding aids

Listed to file level in the CERN Archives Database.

Allied materials [Top]

Related units of description

CERN-ARCH-DG-CR-2-3-1317 ; Dossier No 1317
Rubbia Carlo : Lunch in honour of G. Charpak organized by Mairie de Meyrin - 19 March 1993. CERN.
Geneva. Director-General (1989-1993). 1993-03-19

CERN-ARCH-DG-CR-2-3-1265 ; Dossier No 1265
Rubbia Carlo : G. Charpak's Nobel lecture at CERN - 21 January 1993.
CERN. Geneva. Director-General (1989-1993). 1993-01-21

CERN-ARCH-DG-CR-2-3-1196 ; Dossier No 1196
Rubbia Carlo : Party for Prof. Geoges Charpak - 19 October 1992.
CERN. Geneva. Director-General (1989-1993). 1992-10-19

CERN-ARCH-DG-CR-2-3-0160 ; Dossier No 160
Rubbia Carlo : Special seminar in honour of G. Charpak - 30 October 1989.
CERN. Geneva. Director-General (1989-1993). 1989-10-30

Audio-visual : Special seminar, 65th birthday of Geoges Charpak - 1989
CERN. Geneva. Translation and Minutes Service. 1989-10-30

Archives of the Muon g-2 experiment 1959-1989 (1 lm)
CERN. Geneva

Videos :

Ecole des Mines (Paris)

The Ecole des Mines in Paris does not hold any documents relating to Georges Charpak except his student record (registration number: 3569). This contains his appointment as a student, and a letter from Charpak citing administrative difficulties in obtaining his birth certificate, vaccination certificate, medical certificate and baccalauréat certificate.

French Academy of Sciences

The French Academy of Sciences keeps biographical files for all members. These contain basic information, titles and scientific work, academic career, lists of publications, correspondence with researchers, and usually also a picture.

Description control [Top]

Archivist's note

Description prepared by Margot Georges.

Date(s) of description

Geneva, the 20th July 2011.