DESY celebrated its 50th birthday (Dec. 2009)


DESY was established on 18 December 1959 with the signing of the State Treaty between the City of Hamburg and the Federal Republic of Germany. The founding father and first director, Professor Willibald Jentschke, wanted to set up a competitive particle accelerator to take an active part in the upcoming research field of particle physics. In 1964, the first accelerator, which incidentally also gave the research centre its name Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron, took up operation. The DESY accelerator, the largest one at its time, was followed by the storage rings DORIS in 1974, PETRA in 1978 and HERA in 1990. All these accelerators were used for the thorough investigation of the innermost structure of matter by measuring subatomic particle collisions in detectors, some as big as a house. Researchers working on PETRA detected the gluon, the “glue” particle that transmits the strong force between quarks and holds these elementary particles together, and HERA accurately resolved the complicated structure of the proton.

From the very beginning, scientists at DESY pioneered a second field of research based on the use of particle accelerators: research with synchrotron light. This special light is emitted from particles in the accelerator, thus making them the brightest X-ray sources of the world. The synchrotron light of DORIS III and PETRA III gives access to much clearer insights into the nanocosmos; the free-electron lasers FLASH and the future European XFEL, both using superconducting linear accelerators, will enable “movies” of the nanocosmos. With these glimpses into the nanoworld, it is possible to study the function of bio molecules or materials at the atomic level – a prerequisite to develop new medication or advanced materials. The best example for success in this field is this year’s Nobel Prize in Chemistry won by Professor Ada Yonath, who headed a Max Planck Working Group at DESY for 18 years and decoded the structure and function of the ribosome.

After the German reunification, DESY in Zeuthen joined the lab in Hamburg. In Zeuthen in Brandenburg, scientists are focusing on astroparticle physics and the development of high-performance computers.

(...from DESY Press release, 18 December 2009)

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