Meetings That Changed The World

From Nature:

Creative ideas are not always solo strokes of genius, argues Ed Catmull, the computer-scientist president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, in the current issue of the Harvard Business Review. Frequently, he says, the best ideas emerge when talented people from different disciplines work together.

This week, Nature begins a series of six Essays that illustrate Catmull’s case. Each recalls a conference in which a creative outcome emerged from scientists pooling ideas, expertise and time with others — especially policy-makers, non-governmental organizations and the media. Each is written by someone who was there, usually an organizer or the meeting chair. Because the conferences were chosen for their societal consequences, we’ve called our series ‘Meetings that Changed the World’.

This week, François de Rose relives the drama of the December 1951 conference at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris that led to the creation of CERN, the European particle-physics laboratory based near Geneva.

More here.  And this is the first essay of the series:

Screenhunter_01_sep_12_0954As a young French diplomat taking my first steps in international affairs, I had the privilege of representing my country for several years at a United Nations commission in the late 1940s. The United States, under the leadership of the financier and presidential adviser Bernard Baruch and the physicist Robert Oppenheimer, wanted the United Nations to be given oversight of all the world’s nuclear weapons and nuclear power — the so-called Baruch plan. The plan failed, but as France was a keen supporter, it gave me the opportunity to work with Oppenheimer. We met frequently to discuss tactics and strategy and soon became friends.

One day, Oppenheimer told me of a problem that was very much on his mind. Most of America’s best physicists, he said, had like him been trained, or had worked, in Europe’s pre-war laboratories. He believed that Europe’s shaken nations did not have the resources to rebuild their basic physics infrastructure. He felt they would no longer be able to remain scientific leaders unless they pooled their money and talent. Oppenheimer also believed that it would be “basically unhealthy” if Europe’s physicists had to go to the United States or the Soviet Union to conduct their research.

The solution, Oppenheimer felt, was to find a way to enable Europe’s physicists to collaborate.

More here.  [Thanks to Laura Claridge Oppenheimer.]