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Giovanni Muratori (1924–2019)

Remembering a superb engineer

Giovanni Muratori
Giovanni Muratori’s initial analyses of technical problems were invariably correct (Image: CERN)

Giovanni Muratori received a double degree in naval and mechanical engineering at the University of Genoa in 1949, after which he worked at ENI-AGIP on the construction of instruments for oil exploration. He started at CERN in August 1959 in the PS division, where he worked on the heavy-liquid bubble chamber designed to study neutrino physics. He oversaw the design of the cameras – not an easy task in view of the strong magnetic field that precluded the use of electric motors – and, after some initial setbacks, the chamber was ready for data-taking in early 1961. When the event rate was found to be insufficient, a crash programme was set in motion to improve the beam (using van der Meer’s magnetic horn) and to increase the total mass of detectors (by adding spark chambers downstream). Giovanni embarked on the design of the mechanics and optics of these spark chambers, which became operational in 1963.

At the end of 1961 he was transferred to the Nuclear Physics division and, in April 1966, was appointed leader of the Technical Assistance group, which was involved in the design and construction of optical and mechanical equipment. The group developed and constructed a wide variety of detectors and associated equipment, including the R-108 experiment at the ISR, where they built a set of novel cylindrical drift chambers allowing track positions along the wire to be measured using the difference in the arrival times of the signal at the ends of each wire. For NA31 the group built drift chambers installed in a helium-filled tank, as well as a lightweight Kevlar window separating the helium from a vacuum tank.

Early on, the group designed and constructed an automatic machine for winding large wire spark chambers and soon became specialised in the construction of arrays for the new multiwire proportional chambers. Led by Giovanni, the group developed equipment and facilities for Cherenkov detectors, including a dry lab for handling lithium foil and methods of producing precision glass spherical mirrors coated with highly reflecting aluminium coatings. Mirrors made using these techniques were later used in the RICH detector at LEP’s DELPHI experiment.  

Towards the end of his CERN career, he worked on the initial designs of the TPC detector for another LEP detector, ALEPH. He also started a collaboration with a group searching for the existence of a “fifth force” and designed and built a rotor that generated a dynamic gravitational field at around 450 Hz, which was used in the first absolute calibration of the gravitational wave detector EXPLORER at CERN.

Giovanni remained at CERN for several years after his retirement in 1986, during which time he worked on several problems, including the initial design of a prototype liquid argon chamber for use in underground experiments at Gran Sasso. He was a superb engineer. His work was highly appreciated and his opinions respected. He participated actively in the design of equipment with innovative and ingenious ideas. He also loved solving machining and manufacturing problems, whether on a large or a Swiss-watch scale. With his common-sense attitude and his warm and generous spirit, his advice was often sought on personal matters. Giovanni will be remembered with respect and affection by his numerous friends and colleagues. 

His beloved wife Suzanne predeceased him in May 2018. We extend our heartfelt condolences and sympathy to their son, Bruno, and to Fiona, Giovanni and Hugo.

His friends and colleagues