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Albert Hofmann (1933–2018)

It is with great sorrow that we inform our colleagues of the untimely death of Albert Hofmann

(Image: Hélèna Moya/CERN)

Albert Hofmann died on the night of 28 December 2018. We all had the good fortune to share time with this wonderful person and were deeply saddened to hear of his untimely death.

Albert finished his studies at ETH Zurich in the mid-sixties and then went on to work at the Cambridge Electron Accelerator (CEA) at Harvard University. The team at CEA was a highly reputed one, including names like Gus Voss and Herman Winick. We used to joke with Albert saying that, according to him, everything associated with accelerators was invented at CEA. He left CEA and came to the CERN ISR in 1973, joining the ISR Accelerator Theory group, where he made seminal contributions to the performance of this collider. When the ISR was closed, Albert returned to California to work on the SLC damping rings and on SPEAR. He was invited to return to CERN in 1989 to take joint responsibility for the commissioning of LEP. Albert made remarkable contributions to the performance of LEP throughout its operating lifetime of eleven years. He subsequently returned to California to work with Ron Ruth on a compact light source developed by Lyncean Technologies.

Albert was an inspiration, a mentor and a role model for everyone who worked with him. He was world-renowned as a brilliant accelerator physicist and, just as importantly, he was a kind, sweet person.

We witnessed on many occasions how younger staff were magnetically attracted to Albert for his simplified explanations of complicated physics issues. He gave many inspiring lectures at the CERN Accelerator School, simplifying, as only he could, some of the most difficult concepts in accelerator physics.

He also wrote his monumental book on synchrotron radiation. He was such a perfectionist that he often expressed his fear that this book would never be finished, as he wanted to include all the new ideas that were continuously being invented.

He was always over-generous in giving scientific credit to colleagues who had in some cases only made a minor contribution. Albert also had an impish, tongue-in-cheek sense of humour and told fascinating stories about his childhood and about the early days of colliders.

We feel an acute sense of loss as we say goodbye to this generous, modest, inspiring and unpretentious role model.

His colleagues and friends


A more complete obituary will be published in the March-April 2019 issue of the CERN Courier.