Lorenzo Foà (1937 - 2014)

Lorenzo Foà, a protagonist of Experimental High Energy Physics for five decades and mentor of dozens of students, passed away peacefully and unexpectedly in Pisa on 13 January 2014. He was a professor at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa and spent most of his scientific career at CERN.


Lorenzo Foà (left) in front of the ALEPH detector, 2001. He is photographed with Jack Steinberger (centre) and Pierre Lazeyras (right).

In the early 1960s Lorenzo was among the proponents of two experiments that allowed the first measurements of π0 and η lifetimes via the Primakoff effect at Frascati and then at DESY. Later he joined the CERN-Orsay-Pisa Collaboration, studying polarisation in hadron scattering, and then the Pisa-Stony Brook Collaboration at the CERN ISR. This experiment discovered that the total proton-proton cross section starts increasing at ISR energies, a departure from what had previously appeared to be a flat “asymptotic” behaviour.

In the 1970s Lorenzo was the founder and spokesperson of the FRAMM Collaboration, which established the basis of the NA1 and NA7 experiments. In NA1, a multi-particle spectrometer was used in conjunction with the first active targets to measure the lifetimes of charmed mesons. In NA7, the same spectrometer in a different configuration allowed precise measurements to be made of the electromagnetic form factors of pions and kaons in the space-like region and of the pion in the time-like region. FRAMM was a key stepping stone for the development of new detectors and their successive introduction into modern physics.

In the 1980s Lorenzo was among the founding fathers of the ALEPH experiment, organising Italian participation in the collaboration and coordinating many projects during the construction phase and the physics exploitation. He was spokesperson of the collaboration from 1993 to 1994.

As Scientific Director of CERN he was instrumental in the approval of the LHC in December 1994 after the cancellation of the SSC project in the US (1993). After the approval he succeeded in getting the international community (Japan and the US) on board to complete the funding to allow the accelerator to be constructed in a single stage.

In 1998 Lorenzo joined the CMS Collaboration and was chair of the Collaboration Board from 2000 until 2009 during the delicate period of the end of construction and the commissioning of the experiment. His actions were particularly valuable in strengthening the collaboration and improving structures and procedures, with particular attention to the advancement of young physicists.

The whole HEP community owes a lot to the vision, wisdom and charisma of Lorenzo Foà. He was a great scientist and a significant protagonist in science management both in Europe and around the world. He was also a generous and attentive person and always had the time to tell his friends and students about the important things, both in science and in life.

His colleagues and friends