Georges Charpak was a French physicist, Holocaust survivor and winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize in Physics.
Charpak (born August 1, 1924; died September 29, 2010) was born in Dubrovytsia, Volyn' (Ukraine).
Charpak's family moved from Poland to Paris when
he was seven years old. During World
War II, Charpak served in the resistance and was imprisoned by Vichy authorities in 1943. In
1944 he was deported to the Nazi concentration
camp at Dachau,
where he remained until the camp was liberated in 1945.
Charpak became a French citizen in 1946.
He received his doctorate 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 CERN (European Organization for
Nuclear Research) 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 Science in 1985. In
1992, he won the Nobel
Prize in Physics “for his invention
and development of particle detectors, in
particular the multiwire proportional chamber.”
The following press release from the
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences describes Charpak's
A breakthrough in the technique for
exploring the innermost parts of matter.
This year's Nobel Prize in physics
is awarded to Georges Charpak, France, for his invention
and development of detectors in high energy physics.
Since 1959 Charpak is working at CERN, the European
laboratory for particle physics situated in the canton
of Geneva in Switzerland. Charpak invented the multiwire
proportional chamber at CERN. The pioneering work was
published in 1968. 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. Sometimes
only one particle interaction in a billion is the one
searched for. The experimental difficulty lies in choosing
the very few but exceptionally interesting particle
interactions out of the many observed. Photographic
methods, once so very successful in exploring particle
processes, are not good enough for this. In the new
wire chamber Charpak used modern electronics and realised
the importance of connecting the detector directly to
a computer. The invention made it possible to increase
the data collection speed with a factor of a thousand
compared to previous methods for registering charged
particle trajectories. At the same time the high spatial
resolution was very often considerably improved. His
fundamental idea has since been developed and for more
than two decades Charpak has been at the forefront of
The development of detectors very often
goes hand in hand with progress in fundamental research.
Various types of particle detectors based on Charpak's
original invention have been of decisive importance
for many discoveries particle physics during the last
two decades. Several of these have been awarded the
Nobel Prize in physics. Charpak has actively contributed
to the use of is new type of detector in various applications
in for example medicine and biology.