There is a place at CERN where arguably most discoveries are made, new ideas flourish, old techniques are refined and groundbreaking experiments are designed. This place is not some huge underground hall or experimental installation; it is the cafeteria, where people from around the world gather for informal meetings over coffee.
The diversity seen here, and the ease with which people collaborate towards a common scientific goal, is one of CERN’s greatest achievements and a testimony to the universal language of science.
It is a tribute to the foresight of CERN’s founding Member States that instead of pursuing twelve national agendas they chose a common path for fundamental physics. Today, CERN’s membership has grown to 21, and scientists from more than 60 countries come here to pursue their shared goals.
Over the years, CERN has always been open to the scientific communities of all nations, overcoming political barriers. CERN scientists worked with their Soviet and US counterparts throughout the cold war. It is no accident that many Eastern European countries joined CERN soon after the fall of the Berlin wall. And today, scientists from all regions of the world rub shoulders at the Laboratory.
CERN was the prototype for scientific collaboration in Europe, and has given rise to organizations with remits ranging from astronomy to biology. The latest organisation to follow in CERN’s footsteps is SESAME, a laboratory for the Middle East under construction in Jordan. That Israel and the Palestinian Authority should be among the founder members of SESAME may seem surprising, but perhaps no more so than the countries of Europe coming together in the wake of the Second World War to found CERN.