Anselm Citron, 1923-2014

A pioneer of accelerator technologies who was among the first scientists to work at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (Cern) has died

January 15, 2015

Anselm Citron was born in Stettin, Germany (now Szczecin in Poland), on March 1923. The family moved to Leipzig and later Freiburg, but after Kristallnacht in 1938 his parents sent him on a Kindertransport to the Netherlands. When the convoy was stopped at the border by the Dutch authorities, the children were sent to a home, and then to a large refugee camp in Rotterdam.

The war years proved equally dramatic for Professor Citron. After staying in a Mennonite home near Steenwijk, he was moved to Dieren before lodging with a family in Zutphen, where he was able to complete his secondary schooling. Since he was not allowed to attend university, he studied physics at the MTS technical college in Dordrecht.

By 1944, conditions were chaotic in the Netherlands, so Professor Citron had to abandon his studies and live in Borne, before being rounded up to dig an anti-tank ditch and sent by the Luftwaffe to Silesia to help distribute food. It was only in 1945 that he managed to return home and continue his studies at the University of Freiburg. Two semesters in Basel, Switzerland, were followed by a degree and then a PhD based on research in high-energy radiation at the Fraunhofer Institute in Freiburg.

A grant from the German National Academic Foundation gave Professor Citron the opportunity to work at the Cavendish Laboratory at the University of Cambridge (1952-53), where he began his work on accelerator physics. He then became one of 10 initial staff members at Cern, remaining there from 1953 to 1965, including a secondment to the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island. He finished his career as a professor of physics at the University of Karlsruhe (now the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology), where he also served as director of the Kernforschungszentrum (centre for nuclear research). He retired from this post in 1988 and became an emeritus professor in 1991.

A man of great vision and determination who began his working day at 7am, Professor Citron hoped to build the world’s first superconducting high-energy accelerator at Karlsruhe. Although he never managed to achieve this aim, the technologies developed there proved crucial in the increased use of superconductivity in accelerator design, most notably Cern’s Large Hadron Collider.

Professor Citron died of heart failure on 8 December 2014 and is survived by his wife Renate, five daughters and five grandchildren.

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