Simon van der Meer
Born: 24 November 1925, the Hague, the Netherlands
Died: 4 March 2011, Geneva, Switzerland
Affiliation at the time of the award: CERN, Geneva, Switzerland
Prize motivation: "for their decisive contributions to the large project, which led to the discovery of the field particles W and Z, communicators of weak interaction"
Field: experimental particle physics
Prize share: 1/2
Simon van der Meer was born and raised in The Hague, Netherlands. His father was a teacher and his mother also came from a family of educators. After studying at the University of Technology, Delft, van der Meer spent several years working at the Philips Research Laboratory in Eindhoven. In 1956 he began working at the new European particle physics laboratory, CERN, where he remained for the rest of his career. Simon van der Meer was married with two children.
According to modern physics, there are four fundamental forces in nature. The weak interaction, responsible for e.g. the beta-decay of nuclei is one of them. According to the theory forces are mediated by particles: the weak interaction by the so called heavy bosons W, Z, about 100 times more massive than the proton. Simon van der Meer developed a method to accumulate a large number of energetic antiprotons in an accelerator ring. These were used in experiment where antiprotons and protons of high energy were brought to collide. In these experiments W and Z particles were discovered in 1983.