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Tatiana Fabergé (1930–2020)

A pillar of theoretical physics at CERN for decades

At the Secretariat of the Theory Division
Tatiana Fabergé in her realm (Image: CERN)

Tatiana (Tania) Fabergé, the head secretary of the CERN Theoretical Physics department from 1957 until her retirement in 1995, passed away peacefully on 13 February 2020, shortly before reaching the age of 90.

Tania was the great-granddaughter of Peter Carl Fabergé, jeweller to the nineteenth-century Russian Imperial family. Born stateless to exiled parents in Geneva, she trained in design and worked in the family tradition for a few years. Then, in 1957, teams of CERN theorists from Copenhagen and Geneva were merged to form on the new Meyrin site what is now called the Theoretical Physics department. The new group needed a secretary, and Tania's personality and talent for languages (she eventually mastered seven) won her the job.

Tania went on to become a pillar of theoretical physics at CERN for decades, as the group grew and evolved and the secretariat expanded. Her time at CERN spanned 10 leaders of the Theoretical Physics department and 10 Directors-General. During this time, she welcomed thousands of visitors to the theory group, and generously helped them settle in at CERN. With her robust sense of humour and colourful character that nobody could ever forget, she was a CERN institution and a force of nature, setting the friendly tone that has long been a hallmark of the Theoretical Physics department’s secretariat.

Tania was a talented artist, and also an actress whose theatrical appearances in many of the department’s Christmas pantomimes were highly appreciated. Outside the Laboratory, for many years Tania helped administer physics schools on the Adriatic coast of what was then Yugoslavia. Her home in Versonnex became a second home for Russians working at CERN. She often held open houses, not only for theorists, but also for many others in the wider CERN community, in particular for her legendary parties marking the Russian Orthodox Easter and her name days.

Following her retirement, Tania embraced a new calling. She trotted the globe for many years, connecting with far-flung members of the Fabergé clan, preserving the family heritage, protecting its name, and writing several books of reference about her great-grandfather's work.

Her spirit lives on. With heavy hearts,

Marie-Noëlle Fontaine, Nanie Perrin and John Ellis