Homage to Endel Lippmaa, distinguished scientist and politician

Recently, during the last TOTEM collaboration meeting, one of its most eminent members, Professor Endel Lippmaa, celebrated his 80th birthday. TOTEM was proud to pay homage to his impressive list of achievements.


Endel Lippmaa (to the left) enojoys his 80th birthday with  colleagues from the TOTEM collaboration.
After obtaining a PhD from the Tallinn Technical University in 1956 and a DSc from the Institute of Chemical Physics in Moscow in 1969, he was appointed Doctor honoris causa at the University of Jyväskylä (1975), the Tallinn Technical University (1991) and the University of Tartu (1999). Professor Lippmaa has held a number of positions at the Estonian Academy of Sciences since becoming a member in 1972. He is currently a member of several Academies of Sciences. After being a leading force in the Baltic independence drive during the "Singing Revolution" against Soviet occupation in 1987, he served as a minister in three Estonian governments (1991-1996) and is now a member of the Estonian parliament.

During his career, Endel Lippmaa has contributed to a number of breakthroughs in science. His interest in physics began during the Second World War when he started reading books and papers on the subject. “In 1953", he says, "my first publication was in chemical physics. One of my most important contributions in this field was related to the NMR, a very powerful and widely used analytical technique which is at the base of all modern sciences: chemistry, physics, semiconductor electronics, etc. At that time all the technologies I was using were very similar to the ones used at CERN, so for me it was easy to join the work being done at the Laboratory.”
His first contact with CERN dates back to 1992 when, as head of the Department of Physics of the Institute of Cybernetics in Estonia, he was contributing to the early stages of the CMS experiment, approved four years later. At that time his research programmes were closely related to chemical physics, radio spectroscopy, electronics, information science, quantum computing, biophysics and environmental science, as well as nuclear and particle physics.
“My collaboration with TOTEM began with my involvement in forward physics", he explains. "Already with FELIX (which pursued a physics programme complementary to that of the other planned LHC experiments), this branch of physics was becoming more and more important. Today I am delighted to see that the small TOTEM experiment is ready to look for interactions involving very forward particles that have not been seen before at the LHC.”

Throughout his long career, Professor Lippmaa has observed a close relationship between science and politics: they both involve lots of competition. He further states, ironically: “like the Olympic Games, what is important is not the taking part but the winning. Only the best results, which the others have not foreseen, are worth striving for.” As advice to young researchers, he concludes: “You won’t get medals, but the winner will surely be known everywhere: are you ready for that?”

Biographie de Lipmaa

Born on 15 September, 1930 in Tartu, Estonia
• 1948 Tallinn Nomme Gymnasium
• 1953 Tallinn Technical University
• 1956 PhD in engineering
• 1969 DSc in physics and mathematics
• 1971 Professor
• 1990 Foreign Member of the Finnish Academy of Sciences
• 1992 Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences
• 1992 Member of the New York Academy of Sciences
• Since 1980, Laboratory of Chemical Physics, Estonian National Institute of Chemical Physics and Biophysics
• Since 2001, Head of Centre of Excellence of Analytical Spectrometry


by Beatrice Bressan and Virginia Greco