Robert Lévy-Mandel (1923-2010)

Former CERN Director Robert Lévy-Mandel passed away on 3 July at the age of 87.


After obtaining a diploma from the Institut polytechnique in Grenoble, in 1948 he started work at the CEA, and was involved in the development and construction of the Saclay institute's first particle accelerator, a Van de Graaff machine. From 1954 to 1957 he was responsible for the coordination, development and construction of the CEA’s Saturne synchrotron, which entered service in 1958.

In 1963 he was appointed head of the Saturne Synchrotron Department. The team led the construction of the Gargamelle bubble chamber, which was installed at CERN, and made contributions to other major facilities, including the Big European Bubble Chamber (BEBC).

In 1971 he was invited to come to Geneva by John Adams, who was in charge of the SPS accelerator project. With the start of the SPS project, CERN had two laboratories, one at Meyrin and one at Prévessin, each with its own Director General: Willibald Jentschke at Laboratory I and John Adams at Laboratory II. Robert Lévy-Mandel was entrusted by John Adams with responsibility for site installation work at the Prévessin laboratory, then under construction. As an engineer, he worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the project.
The SPS started up in 1976 and reached 400 GeV, 100 GeV more than the expected energy. With the two CERN laboratories combined, Robert Lévy-Mandel joined the Directorate, with responsibility for technical services and site management. At this time, planning for the Large Electron-Positron collider (LEP) was already in full swing.

Emilio Picasso, appointed leader of the gigantic LEP project in 1980, asked Robert Lévy-Mandel to produce the safety report for the future accelerator. The task was a particularly sensitive one as the underground ring tunnel, measuring an unprecedented 27 km in circumference, would run under numerous French and Swiss villages, and the plans were meeting determined opposition. Robert Lévy-Mandel produced the INB (Installation nucléaire de base) reports that were submitted to the French authorities to obtain approval for the project. He set up a programme for consultation with the French and Swiss municipalities and organized numerous briefings for the local authorities together with Henri Laporte, the head of civil engineering. His talent for diplomacy proved particularly valuable in getting the local authorities on side and allaying their concerns. When he retired, the former mayors of the Pays de Gex organized a farewell dinner in his honour, in recognition of the work he had done during the construction of LEP.

Robert Lévy-Mandel retired in 1988, just before LEP started up. However, like many former members of the CERN staff who had dedicated large portions of their lives to the Laboratory, he maintained his attachment to CERN, and continued to participate in discussions and work at the Laboratory.

Robert Lévy-Mandel will be remembered for his great dignity and tact, as well as for his tireless devotion to CERN and seemingly boundless capacity for work.
When he retired, he had this to say: “Emilio Picasso, Günther Plass and the group leaders created the kind of warm, open atmosphere that fosters creativity and is absolutely essential for the teamwork that you need on a major project.” We would pay him the same compliment.

Our sincere condolences go to his two daughters, Anne and Françoise, to his grandchildren and to the entire family.

Emilio Picasso and the members of the LEP project management