John Adams (physicist)

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Sir John Adams
John Adams, CERN
John Adams in his office at CERN
Born (1920-05-24)24 May 1920
Kingston, United Kingdom
Died 3 March 1984(1984-03-03) (aged 63)
Geneva, Switzerland
Other names Sir John Bertram Adams
Occupation British physicist and former CERN Director-General

Sir John Bertram Adams KBE FRS[1] (24 May 1920 – 3 March 1984)[2] was a British accelerator physicist and administrator.

During World War II, Adams worked in the Radar laboratories of the British Ministry of Aircraft Production where he learned physics and engineering on the job. After the war he moved to Harwell and the Atomic Energy Research Establishment. He had no qualifications but became expert in the design and construction of the advanced machines and instruments used in physics research, designing the Harwell Synchrocyclotron. In 1953 he joined CERN as director of the Proton Synchrotron division. After the tragic death of Prof. C. J. Bakker, CERN Director-General, in April 1960, the Council of CERN appointed Mr Adams to the post of acting Director-General. [3] He held this post until August 1961[4] when he returned to the UK as director of the Culham Fusion Laboratory, and then from 1966 to 1971 he was a member of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority.

Returning to CERN in 1971 as Director-General of Laboratory II, he led the design of the Super Proton Synchrotron. He split the duties of CERN Director General with Willibald Jentschke and then Léon van Hove during the 1970s. With the reorganisation of CERN in 1976, he became the executive Director-General, working on obtaining funding for the LEP collider. [5][6][7]

The John Adams Institute for Accelerator Science, an accelerator physics research institute comprising researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London and the University of Oxford is named in his honour.


  1. ^ Stafford, G. H. (1986). "John Bertram Adams. 24 May 1920 – 3 March 1984". Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society. 32: 2–0. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1986.0001. JSTOR 770106. 
  2. ^ "Obituary : Sir John Bertram Adams, 63; led European atomic center". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 24 May 2015. Retrieved 2 September 2015. 
  3. ^ "J. B. Adams : acting Director-General". CERN Courier. CERN. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  4. ^ "Decisions of the 18th Council". CERN Courier. CERN. Retrieved 1 September 2015. 
  5. ^ "Homage to Sir John". CERN Courier. 24 (6): 232–236. July 1984. 
  6. ^ "Sir John Adams 1920-1984". CERN Courier. 24 (3): 91. April 1984. 
  7. ^ "John Adams: Project Director". CERN Courier. 8 (12): 310. December 1968. 

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Preceded by
Cornelis Bakker
Acting CERN Director General
03/05/1960 – 31/07/1961
Succeeded by
Victor Weisskopf
Preceded by
Bernard Gregory
CERN Director General
1971 – 1975 with Willibald Jentschke

1976 – 1980 with Léon van Hove

Succeeded by
Herwig Schopper