Michele Ferro-Luzzi (1938-2015)

We have learned with great sorrow of the passing away, on 11 May, of Michele Ferro-Luzzi, an engineer well-known to many physicists working at CERN from the late 1960s to the early 2000s.


Michele was born in Rome in 1938. He attended primary and secondary schools in Asmara (Eritrea), where his family had moved to in 1939, and then he went to the University of Rome where he obtained a "laurea" in electronic engineering in 1962.

After completing his military service he was hired by CERN, in 1965, in the applied physics group, created by the Nuclear Physics (NP) Division Leader, Peter Preiswerk, to support physics teams in the design and construction of detectors, which were becoming more and more complex at that time.

Michele’s primary interest was the design of particle beams. He became an expert in beam optics and in all kinds of beam components. For twenty-five years he was the best-known member of his group, involved in nearly all its  activities, and always available whenever and wherever his help was needed. 

Many secondary beams in the PS experimental halls were created by him. Among these, it is worth mentioning several beams of various energies produced at small angles from a South Hall internal target and also, in the East Hall, a system of secondary beams from the slow-extraction e3 proton beam. The splitting of e3 into three branches by means of a specially-designed iron septum magnet was an important achievement at the time. For many years Michele was responsible for all the test beams he had installed in the East Hall, which were intensively used for detector R&D projects. 

He also designed the beam for the third muon g-2 experiment in 1974, and, three years later, the beam used by the Initial Cooling Experiment (ICE), which demonstrated antiproton cooling. His last and most elaborate beam designs were for the SPS: a long-path antiproton beam for the West Hall in 1980 and a similar one in 1981 for EHN2; these last designs could not be implemented.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Michele supervised the group’s important contributions to the design and implementation of large experiment set-ups such as UA1 (1978), the NA4 muon spectrometer (1982) and finally Aleph and Delphi at LEP.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the CERN Directorate took the decision to centralise in a single mechanical service around the Central Workshop all the mechanics resources which had, until then, been distributed across many  divisions. Michele was appointed to assist the leader of this large new service. One year later he was asked to take over this huge task himself.

In a short period of time, many changes in the service structure and a new style of work were adopted and a new working procedure was defined. Ten small, local mechanical workshops were closed and a new building had to be constructed. Contracts for outsourcing staff were reviewed, together with relations with service providers. Michele managed to ensure the best possible transition from the distributed old facility to the new one and, in the end, a labour force of about 160 man-years, including outsourcing, kept the whole service running smoothly and efficiently.

Michele was a delightful colleague, very much appreciated by his collaborators and by users of the services he supervised. In appreciation of his polite but friendly and unconventional manner, his young collaborators and trainees gave him the nickname “Luzzifer”, a tribute to his humour and to his always surprising paradoxes.

We will forever cherish the memory of this dear colleague and friend. Our deep sympathy goes to his wife Anna-Laura and to his four children Anna-Sofia, Giovanni, Massimiliano and Sergio.

His friends and colleagues