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Edmund 'Ted' Wilson (1938 – 2016)

Edmund 'Ted' Wilson, a particle physicist and visiting professor at Oxford University and former head of CERN Accelerator School died on 3 November

Edmund 'Ted' Wilson (1938 – 2016)

Ted Wilson in the SPS control room in 1977. (Image: CERN)

Edmund 'Ted' Wilson, a particle physicist and visiting professor at Oxford University and former head of CERN Accelerator School died after a short illness on 3 November.

Ted Wilson was born on 18 March 1938 in Liverpool, the son of school teacher John Wesley Wilson and nurse Anna Wilson. His passion for mathematics and physics was quickly recognized by his teachers at the Liverpool Institute High School for Boys, leading him to be accepted at Oxford University, where he graduated in Physics in 1959. Ted first worked in experimental particle dynamics at the Rutherford Laboratory but soon became interested in the theory of particle accelerators.

He moved to Switzerland in 1967 to become right-hand man to Sir John Adams - the "father" of the giant particle accelerators - preparing the design of the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS), seven kilometers in circumference and stretching across the border between Switzerland and France. During SPS construction, he spent a sabbatical at Fermilab near Chicago, where he brought his experience to bear in coaxing Fermilab's new 500 GeV synchrotron into life. Ted returned to CERN to lead the commissioning of the SPS before joining CERN's ground breaking Antiproton Accumulator team which converted the SPS into a proton–antiproton collider.

It was while working in this ground that Ted established a strong friendship with Fang Shouxian - the director of China's Institute of High Energy Physics, who had been seconded by the Chinese government to work with the physicists at CERN on the Antiproton Accumulator project. That friendship led Ted to travel to China on a number of occasions in the early 1980s as a guest of the government in a period when there were few links of any kind between China and the West. It is difficult to appreciate today just how unusual such collaboration was at that time. Ted achieved this in part through force of personality, a great sense of humour and natural diplomacy but also his underlying belief, gained through his work at CERN, in the value of international scientific collaboration.

Throughout his career he worked with laboratories across the globe, including Germany, Russia, the US and Japan. He was also a true internationalist. In his private life, he met his German wife Monika, while working in Switzerland and took Swiss nationality after 50 years of residence. In the later stages of his career and in retirement Ted turned his attention to inspiring international groups of young mathematicians and physicists in the design and use of particle accelerators in a variety of applications including medical science. He spent twelve years as head of the CERN Accelerator School and then rekindled his connection with Oxford University, becoming Visiting Professor in Oxford's John Adams Institute for Accelerator Science where he taught post-graduate students.

Ted believed the language of mathematics to be deeply intertwined with the language of music and this showed in his lifelong passion for classical music and opera. He was a keen and talented amateur pianist and singer and never happier than on his frequent visits to the opera.  He was the author of two works on accelerators: Engines of Discovery and An Introduction to Particle Accelerators.

Ted is survived by his wife Monika; three sons, Martin, Alexander and Nicholas and five grandchildren.


His family