The 29 Best Retro Photos From CERN’s Vaults

In recent weeks the European science lab CERN has been uploading gobs of photos from their archives onto their publicly accessible document server. It’s part of their 60th anniversary celebration and is a fascinating window into how fundamental science was done during the groovy ’60s and funkadelic ’70s.

There are literally tens of thousands of photos, with dozens more uploaded each day. The shutterbugs in Geneva took pictures of everything, from scientists working to construction projects and experimental equipment. The archivists at CERN are having a hard time identifying everybody and everything in the photos and have started calling on the public to write in with the names of any as yet unidentified people, equipment and experiments.

I’ve spent the last few days sorting through the huge collection of photos to pick out the best, weirdest and most retro ones uploaded so far.

The top photo was the cover photo of the CERN Courier in April of 1973. It was taken during radiation testing of the COS-B satellite at the Proton Synchrotron. [March 1973]

Scientists operate the Super Proton Synchrotron from its control console. [December 1973]

A technician works on the two-meter hydrogen bubble chamber used to detect particle trails. [December 1964]

Two workers in safety suits show off their spiffy new hand-held radiation detectors. [September 1965]

Working at the then state of the art Control Data Corporation 3100 computer. [March 1967]

I have no idea what this is. [1963]

A robotic arm holds a small argon ionization chamber used to measure particle losses from the nearby synchrotron. It’s a lot safer to measure radiation from the machine with robots than people, a fact I’m sure the technician refilling the argon appreciates. [July 1969]

A scientist adjusts the kaon beam that would shoot neutrinos into its heavy liquid bubble chamber at the end of the hall. The machine had been knocked out by a fire in the tunnel a few months earlier but was at this point on the mend. [January 1970]

Not much is recorded about this photo, but a scientist with a fantastic shirt works on what looks like a hexapole magnet, used to guide charged particle beams. [June 1973]

Five quadrupole magnets await installation at the G-2 Experiment. [August 1969]

A scientist feeds film from bubble chambers into a machine to help look for particle trails. [March 1967]

Workers dig out the tunnels for the Super Proton Synchrotron, a 300 GeV particle accelerator that is now an injector into the bigger Large Hadron Collider. [February 1974]

“Octopuses” like the one this technician is working on, were used to calibrate the pressure gauges on the Intersecting Storage Rings machine. It was a particle collider that proved the effectiveness of smashing particles like protons and neutrons together and laid the groundwork for LHC. [April 1973]

The caption for this simply reads “Beautifully polished Cerenkov mirrors are a speciality at CERN.” There’s not much I can really add to that. [June 1966]

Two workers position a scintillating light guide. [February 1965]

A scientist monitors an experiment at the Synchrocyclotron. [November 1964]

Two researchers enter data into the then brand-new Control Data Corporation 6600 computer. [December 1965]

Workers working on the coils for the Big European Bubble Chamber or BEBC. [January 1971]

A proud looking worker surveys the radiation shielding at the Intersecting Storage Ring experiment near the Swiss border. [August 1973]

Theorists John S. Bell and Martinus J. G. Veltman working at the CERN neutrino experiment throw ideas around at the office. [April 1973]

Though it looks like something out of a Stanley Kubrick directed episode of Star Trek, this sleek looking control room actually controlled the electricity to a gas distribution substation. [February 1970]

A bevy of scientists work on experiment S91 which measured the scattering of kaons and antiprotons on protons. [May 1970]

A chess set made out of spare diodes, transistors and other electronic parts. [November 1963]

Famed physicist Richard Feynman gives a lecture at CERN. [January 1970]

Scientists gather around a Control Data Corporation 6600 computer shortly before it was removed and upgraded. [September 1973]

A scientist with great hair and a nifty wristwatch works on the alignment of some kind of beam. [January 1974]

Two scientists make adjustments to the beam line of the Proton Synchrotron. [July 1965]

Vacuum pipes and vacuum pumps that could probably also pass for modern art. [November 1966]

The control room for the Online Mass Spectrometer isn’t really much of a room. [May 1967]

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