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Charpak, Georges

CHARPAK, GEORGES (1924– ), French physicist and Nobel Prize laureate. Born in Dabrovica, Poland, Charpak came to France with his parents when he was seven years old. A member of the Resistance in World War II, he was imprisoned by the Vichy authorities in 1943 and deported to the Dachau concentration camp, where he remained from 1944 until the liberation of the camp in 1945. He became a French citizen in 1946.

Charpak studied at the Ecole des Mines de Paris and was a professor at the Ecole Supérieure de Physiques et Chemie in Paris. He received a Ph.D. in 1955 from the College de France, Paris, where he worked in the laboratory of Frederic Joliot-Curie. In 1959 he joined the staff of the European Laboratory for Particle Physics at CERN in Geneva, and in 1984 also became Joliot-Curie Professor at the School of Advanced Studies in Physics and Chemistry, Paris. He was made a member of the French Academy of Sciences in 1985. In 1992 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for his invention of particle detectors in high-energy physics so that, as stated in the Swedish Academy of Sciences citation, "largely due to his work, particle physicists have been able to focus their interest on very rare particle interactions, which often reveal the secrets of the inner parts of matter." His invention of the multiwire proportional chamber, enabling the collection of data a thousand times faster than with the old photographic methods, was particularly noted. It also has applications in medicine, biology, and industry.