Luisella Goldschmidt-Clermont (1925 – 2013)

Many people make a great impact through their work, but in most cases this effect fades over time. For Luisella Goldschmidt-Clermont, this is certainly not the case.


Photo of Luisella taken in 1971 by her young daughter, Martine.

She played an essential role in two areas which remain very important for many of us at CERN: easy access to information about particle physics and the education of our children. But beyond her professional qualities, she was a warm, well-rounded and intelligent person who was blessed with a sense of humour that helped her in many negotiations.

After completing a degree in social sciences at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), she started work in the Scientific Information Service at CERN in 1954. She was behind the initiative to organise the exchange of article preprints between research centres and to set up a document information infrastructure, which was subsequently adopted on both sides of the Atlantic.  In the 1960s, she played a pivotal role in developing the management of CERN’s preprints and those of the SLAC library in the United States. Later this became the Stanford Physics Information Retrieval System (SPIRES), and subsequently what we now call INSPIRE.

Many of the people who work at CERN stay only for a few years and then return to their home country. The question of how best to educate their children is therefore one which arises in many families. In the mid-1960s, Luisella set herself the task of finding a solution to this problem, with the support of the Staff Association. Setting up a school to serve the needs of the children of CERN personnel was a challenge. Initially, the response from the CERN Management was lukewarm. CERN's Member State delegates were extremely cautious about such a project, as they were more aware than the CERN personnel of the administrative complexities.

So it was Luisella, practically single-handedly, who succeeded in creating a public establishment model for the Lycée International in Ferney-Voltaire that would meet the needs of the local French population and include sections for the teaching of other national curricula. This allowed the children of CERN personnel of other nationalities to reintegrate relatively smoothly into their national education systems.

Anybody who has had to deal with a national bureaucracy can appreciate the challenges that Luisella managed to overcome thanks to her creativity. Thousands of children have benefitted from her efforts and continue to do so, and even though Luisella is no longer with us, her work lives on… And in addition to her campaigning work, she completed a doctorate in sociology at ULB on a subject related to this project.

Luisella subsequently left CERN to pursue a career in social sciences at the ILO and other institutions – an activity which was in keeping with her generous nature and humanist ideals, and where she continued to make a real difference. With Luisella's passing, we have lost a person who always made a difference.

Her friends and colleagues at CERN

To read Luisella Goldschmidt-Clermont's 1971 doctoral thesis ("Contribution à l'étude des problèmes posés par l'intégration européenne - La scolarisation des enfants de fonctionnaires du CERN"), click here.