Léon Charles Van Hove

Director-General (January 1976 – December 1980)

Belgian physicist who oversaw proposals for the Large Electron-Positron collider.

Léon Van Hove at CERN in March 1976 (Image: CERN)

Léon Charles Van Hove (1924–1990, Belgian) was born in Brussels, Belgium, on 10 February 1924. He studied mathematics and physics at the Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) where he received his PhD in mathematics in 1946. From 1949 to 1954 he worked at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, in New Jersey in the US, and then at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. In 1954, he was made professor and director of the Theoretical Physics Institute at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands.

Van Hove's connection with CERN began in 1961, when Victor Weisskopf invited him to lead the organization's Theory Division. Van Hove twice served as director of the Theoretical Physics Department (from 1966 to 1968 and on a part-time basis from 1972 to 1974). In 1976, the two CERN laboratories (Prévessin and Meyrin) were formally amalgamated. John Adams was executive Director-General, responsible for the administration of CERN and the construction of machines and buildings, while Van Hove became Director-General for research.

His mandate, from January 1976 to December 1980 saw the preliminary proposal for the Large Electron-Positron Collider (LEP), with ideas for its experimental programming. The machine was built under the mandate of Van Hove's successor Herwig Schopper.

From 1975–80, Van Hove was a member of the Pauli Committee, and chairman from 1980 until his death in 1990. He chaired the Ad-Hoc Archive Committee, which established today's Archive Committee.