Louis Dick (1921 - 2014)

Louis Dick, a CERN experimental physicist of international renown, passed away on 14 July.


Louis in his office, a veritable archaeological wonder with strata of documents corresponding to various eras of physics.

Born in Geneva on 27 April 1921, Louis obtained a physics degree at ETH-Zurich in 1946 before moving to the Institut du Radium in Paris, where he joined the group led by Frédéric and Irène Joliot-Curie. He took a leave of absence in 1957 to go to CERN, where he remained until well beyond his retirement in 1986.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Louis worked at CERN’s Synchrocyclotron (SC) and later on studies at the Proton Synchrotron (PS). When the first polarised proton target arrived at CERN from Saclay in 1963, Louis proposed using it for studies of spin effects in pion-proton elastic scattering at the PS, and between 1964 and 1966 sizeable spin effects were found. Louis and his collaborators then continued these studies with higher beam intensities, a new detector, and a new polarised target developed at CERN by Michel Borghini and his group.

At the end of the 1970s, in a CERN-Lausanne-Michigan-Rockefeller collaboration, Louis proposed the UA6 experiment. Installed at the Super Proton Synchrotron in 1983, UA6 included a magnetic spectrometer and an electromagnetic calorimeter and made important measurements on, for example, the distribution of gluons in the proton, as well as cross-sections for proton-proton and proton-antiproton elastic scattering in the “forward” region.

In 1986 Louis reached CERN retirement age, but continued to work as a visiting scientist with INFN/Milan. He remained very active, taking part in lively discussions of possible new projects and detector concepts.

An experimentalist full of original ideas, Louis had great competences in detectors, which he always tried to push to their ultimate performance. He tended to favour unconventional experiments, not fashionable among theorists, and pursued his ideas even when not immediately accepted. One important trait was the attention he paid to the young people around him, supporting many of them, and encouraging technicians to broaden their competences through university evening courses. Lastly, his CERN office was a veritable archaeological wonder with strata of documents corresponding to various eras of physics.

Louis will be sorely missed by those who worked with him or even had only occasional physics discussions with him. Much sympathy goes to his wife Line, to his two daughters Anne-Fabienne and Emmanuelle, and to their families.

His colleagues and friends

Extracted from the obituary in CERN Courier, November 2014 (p.42).