© 2015

Particle Accelerators: From Big Bang Physics to Hadron Therapy

  • Presents the history of particle accelerators and of their inventors and promoters

  • Contains personal recollections of fifty years spent in a growing international laboratory, CERN

  • Illustrates the paths leading from X ray discovery to the Higgs boson

  • Presents self-explaining images of the life of the Universe from one millionth of a millionth of a second to 400 000 years after the Big Bang

  • Description by a protagonist of the accelerators application to diagnosis and therapy of cancer


Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvii
  2. Ugo Amaldi
    Pages 1-33
  3. Ugo Amaldi
    Pages 35-62
  4. Ugo Amaldi
    Pages 63-87
  5. Ugo Amaldi
    Pages 89-119
  6. Ugo Amaldi
    Pages 121-149
  7. Ugo Amaldi
    Pages 151-181
  8. Ugo Amaldi
    Pages 213-245
  9. Back Matter
    Pages 247-284

About this book


Rather than focusing on the contributions of theoretical physicists to the understanding of the subatomic world and of the beginning of the universe - as most popular science books on particle physics do - this book is different in that, firstly, the main focus is on machine inventors and builders and, secondly, particle accelerators are not only described as discovery tools but also for their contributions to tumour diagnosis and therapy. The characters of well-known (e.g. Ernest Lawrence) and mostly unknown actors (e.g. Nicholas Christofilos) are outlined, including many colourful quotations. The overall picture supports the author’s motto: “Physics is beautiful and useful”.


Advance appraisal:

“Accelerators go all the way from the unique and gargantuan Large Hadron Collider to thousands of smaller versions in hospitals and industry. Ugo Amaldi has experience across the range. He has worked at CERN and has for many years been driving the application of accelerators in medicine. This is a must-read introduction to this frontier of modern technology, written beautifully by a world expert.”

Frank Close, Professor of Physics at Oxford University
author of "The Infinity Puzzle"

“This book should be read by school teachers and all those interested in the exploration of the microcosm and its relation to cosmology, and in the use of accelerators for medical applications. With a light hand and without formulae the

author easily explains complicated matters, spicing up the text with amusing historical anecdotes. His reputation as an outstanding scientist in all the fields treated guarantees high standards.”

Herwig Schopper, former CERN Director General 
author of "LEP - The Lord of the Collider Rings at CERN"

This book tells the story of modern physics with an unusual emphasis on the machine-builders who made it all possible, and their machines.  Learning to accelerate  particles has enabled physicists to probe the subatomic world and gain a deeper understanding of the cosmos.  It has also brought numerous benefits to medicine, from the primitive X-ray machines of over a century ago to today's developments in hadron therapy for cancer.  Amaldi tells this story in a most fascinating way.

Edward Witten, Professor of  Mathematical Physics at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton; Fields Medal (1990)


CERN Conseil Européen Pour la Recherche Cancer Diagnostic and Therapy Cosmogenesis Healing Cancer with Particle Accelerators History of Particle Accelerators Large Hadron Collider LHC Nucléaire Particle Accelerators Explained Particle Physics Explained Particle Therapy Radiotherapy Search for the Higgs Boson Simulation of the Big Bang Diagnostic Radiology

Authors and affiliations

  1. 1.CERNEurop. Organization for Nuclear ResearchGenève 23Switzerland

About the authors

Ugo Amaldi has worked at CERN for thirty-five years, participating in and leading numerous experiments in particle physics and giving, in particular, significant contributions to the study of weak interactions and the unification of the fundamental forces. For thirteen years he has been spokesperson of DELPHI - one of CERN's international collaborations at the accelerator LEP, predecessor of LHC. Already in the 1950s he developed an interest in medical physics; in 1992 he came back to this subject with the creation of the TERA Foundation, which promotes research in oncological hadron therapy. In 2011, as a result of Amaldi's initiative, the Italian National Hadrontherapy Center for Cancer Treatment CNAO was opened in Pavia. In the last thirty years more than one third of the Italian high-school pupils have studied physics on his textbooks.

Bibliographic information


“Particle Accelerators: From Big Bang Physics to Hadron Therapy takes us on a fascinating odyssey of accelerator history and Applications. … the book contains many recollections of CERN; it would definitely warm the heart of anyone who worked and lived in that wonderful scientific mecca. Particle Accelerators, which is aimed at the general public, is filled with intriguing analogies, metaphors, and humor.” (Andrei Seryi, Physics Today, October, 2015)

 “Ugo Amaldi must have the history of particle physics in his bones, and he writes with feeling about the development of particle accelerators, introducing each chapter with personal touches … . this is a book for everyone, and in particular, I believe, for young people. Books like this inspired my studies, and I would like to think that Amaldi will inspire others with his passion for physics.” (Christine Sutton, CERN Courier, August, 2015)

“This book will enthuse all who are interested in the exploration of the microcosm and its relation to cosmology, and, above all, in the wide use of particle accelerators. … This is a highly recommended introduction to this frontier of modern technology, written beautifully by a world expert.” (Frank Close, Contemporary Physics, August, 2015)

“This book covers the field of elementary particles. The focus is experimental methods used to discover elementary particles in the last seven or eight decades and their medical applications, as the title suggests. … The descriptions are accessible and will be interesting to anyone with a basic knowledge of physics. … The book includes many historical pictures and good diagrams that help explain the theories. … Summing Up: Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above.” (N. Sadanand, Choice, Vol. 52 (11), July, 2015)