What is CERN?

CERN has been around for over 65 years and is responsible for some of the world’s most prominent scientific experiments.

But what does the acronym stand for and when was the institution originally founded?

What is CERN?

CERN is an acronym which stands for European Council for Nuclear Research.

The acronym is derived from the French translation of the institute – European Council for Nuclear Research.


CERN operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the worldCredit: AFP

CERN’s main function is to provide the particle accelerators and other infrastructure needed for high-energy physics.

Many high-level experiments have been built at the institute through international collaborations, such as the creation of the World Wide Web.

CERN is also used to refer to the laboratory, which in 2019 had 2,660 staff members and hosted around 12,400 users from institutions in more than 70 countries.

When was CERN created?

According to the institute’s official website, CERN was founded in 1954 “with a mandate to establish world-class fundamental understanding.”

The organization is based in the suburbs of Geneva and is located on the Franco-Swiss border.

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The laboratory was originally devoted to the study of atomic nuclei, but was soon reoriented to focus on higher energy physics.

According to House of Switzerlandthe place was chosen: “to house CERN largely because of its neutrality and its guarantees against the misappropriation of the results of scientific research for military purposes.

“This was particularly important when the organization was established in 1954, as the world was just entering the Cold War.

“Switzerland offers other assets including its location at the heart of Europe, its tradition of hosting international organizations and its stability.”

Their famous Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is the largest and most powerful particle accelerator in the world, lies just 100 meters below the facility.

The LHC took a decade to build and cost around $4.75 billion.

Who are the members of CERN?

At the time of writing, CERN has 23 Member States, including the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy.

Israel is the only non-European country to achieve full member status after being enthroned in 1999.

A full list of member states includes:

  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Bulgaria
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • Romania
  • Serbia
  • Slovak Republic
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Swiss
  • UK

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