“If it isn’t a Rochester, it isn’t a conference”: The Rochester Conferences on High Energy Physics, 1950-1957

“If it isn’t a Rochester, it isn’t a conference”: The Rochester Conferences on High Energy Physics, 1950-1957

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October 1, 2018 9:00am to May 31, 2019 5:00pm

In 1950, new Physics Department chair Robert “Bob” Marshak organized a one-day conference to discuss recent developments in high energy physics. Unlike the earlier Shelter Island Conferences (1947-49), Marshak’s Rochester Conference sought to bring together balanced numbers of experimental and theoretical physicists.

 

Supported by local industry, the first conference, held on Dec. 16, was attended by more than 50 individuals, including experimental physicists and 13 of the nation’s leading theoretical physicists.

 

By the mid-1950s, the conference had become increasingly international in character as physicists from around the globe, including developing nations and the USSR, excitedly accepted invitations to attend. Furthering its international growth, in 1958 the conference was held outside of Rochester for the first time—in Geneva, Switzerland, headquarters of CERN, whose 600 MeV Synchrocyclotron had recently gone online. The following year, the conference headed to Kiev in the Soviet Union and in 1960, returned home one final time to Rochester where Nobel laureate Werner Heisenberg was the keynote speaker.  

 

Over the decade that the Rochester Conferences were truly Rochester conferences, the University hosted the leading lights of the physics world, including Homi J. Bhabha, Freeman Dyson, Enrico Fermi, Richard Feynman, Hans Bethe, Murray Gell-Mann, T.D. Lee, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Frank Yang, and Hideki Yukawa. As attendee John Polkinghorne states, “The high-energy physics community is a sort of worldwide intellectual village and the Rochester Conferences [became] its town meetings.” In those meetings, the participants laid the foundation for what would become the Standard Model. 

Today, Bob Marshak’s Rochester Conference lives on as the International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP), which is held every two years at various locations around the globe.




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