Memoirs of a CERN pioneer

François de Rose, the last surviving founding father of CERN, publishes his memoirs during the year of CERN’s 60th anniversary.


François de Rose in the ATLAS cavern during his visit to CERN in 2013.

Sixty years ago, a handful of European scientists saw their dream of cooperation come true. Thanks to their efforts, nations which had been torn apart during the war came together to create the first European scientific organisation. Having lived through bombing, destruction, death and genocide, they regarded European integration as vital to the survival of their respective nations. Their goal was for their domain to participate in the general efforts towards reconstruction and peace.  They successfully rose to the challenge and CERN became one of the world’s most prestigious research laboratories.

Among these early activists was a diplomat, François de Rose. At the ripe old age of 103, the former French ambassador is the last surviving founding father of CERN. As chance would have it, he is publishing his memoirs during the year in which CERN is celebrating its 60th anniversary. A significant part of these memoirs, entitled “Un diplomate dans le siècle”, is devoted to CERN, which he proudly describes as the most beautiful feather in his ambassador’s cap.

With a twist on the words of Charles Aznavour in “La Bohème”, he recounts with his typical humour “un temps que les moins de cent ans ne peuvent pas connaître” (a time that those who are not centenarians cannot know about), a time when he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Niels Bohr, Pierre Auger and Robert Oppenheimer, the great names of particle physics. He relates, in particular, his meeting with Robert Oppenheimer and the French physicists who convinced him to embrace the CERN cause.

In addition to these chapters on CERN, the book contains a bountiful supply of anecdotes concerning twentieth century diplomacy. From his world of speeches and receptions, he brings us encounters, happy – and not so happy – hazards of fate, sound bites and the little stories that all combine to make up history.

We are delighted that his memoirs, originally written for his family, have finally been published for us all to savour and enjoy.


The book by François de Rose is available in the CERN Library.

by Corinne Pralavorio