Bernard Hyams (1925 - 2015)

Bernard Hyams, a distinguished scientist who worked at CERN for 32 years, died on 15 May 2015 at the age of 90.



He started his career in Manchester, at Blackett’s laboratory, working on a magnetic spectrograph to measure the momentum of single cosmic ray particles (1950). Then, leading a group from Manchester University, he set up a cosmic ray experiment at the Pic du Midi Observatory in France. Having joined CERN in 1958, he performed one of the first experiments at the PS by demonstrating that in pion decay the muon spin behaves as expected. After studying vector meson decays into muon pairs, he spent several years working on precision pion measurements.

When the ISR started operation in early 1971, it was realised that there was no experiment in place capable of looking for quarks, which was quite sobering, considering the ISR was constructed as a “discovery machine”. Bernard acted decisively, supporting a small and mostly young team of physicists, who proposed a relatively simple experiment to search for these putative particles, which most people expected to be discovered at the ISR. Thanks to Bernard’s leadership, the experiment was swiftly approved by the ISR Committee, to the surprise of many.

At the beginning of the 80s he pioneered the application of the silicon microstrip technique for high-precision vertex measurements at colliders, in particular by applying this technique at the DELPHI detector. During a sabbatical year at SLAC, in collaboration with Sherwood Parker and James Walker, he developed a VLSI chip for microstrip readout, which allowed compact vertex detectors to be built for collider experiments.

The proposal for DELPHI was put forward and part of the DELPHI Microvertex collected data during the first LEP run in August 1989. It was completed for the next running period in 1990 and was subsequently successfully upgraded a number of times. While continuing his research work, Bernard was Leader of CERN’s Experimental Physics Division from 1984 to 1987. Overall he spent 32 years at CERN, retiring in April 1990.

In 2002, 12 years after his retirement, he received the title of Honorary Professor of the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Krakow, Poland, for his role in bringing physicists from Krakow into contemporary CERN experiments.

Discussing a physics project with Bernard was always a special occasion. His brilliant mind would very quickly grasp the essential points, making suggestions for improvements or criticising, with his slight, British sense of humour, where it was warranted: an instructive and wonderful lesson for aspiring physicists.

Bernard was always attentive to the feelings of others and visibly enjoyed the exciting CERN atmosphere and contact with younger colleagues. Many, especially when difficult decisions had to be taken, requested his advice because of his wisdom and generosity in judging people. He was scrupulously fair and never pushed himself to the forefront, preferring to work hard in the shadows for the good of the collaboration. It was a privilege to know and work with him. His influence went far beyond the boundaries of CERN and, no matter where they met him, all of his colleagues remember him as a great friend who will be sorely missed.

Bernard was very attached to his family, from his wife Hanna to his grand-daughter Solongo. He followed his wife’s work as a psychotherapist with affection and stayed as close to her as possible during her long illness. He died just one month after his beloved wife, surrounded by his family.

Our warmest thoughts and sympathy go to Bernard Hyams’ family, and to the many who have shared an important part of their professional lives with him.

His friends and colleagues