45 years young

Fermilab Director
Pier Oddone

This year marks the 45th anniversary of Fermilab, established by the Atomic Energy Commission in November 1967. In the four-and-a-half decades since its founding, Fermilab has been on a remarkable trajectory of major discoveries and technological advances. From the very beginning and throughout its history, Fermilab devoted itself to scientific discovery in an atmosphere of equality and opportunity for our staff and users while being a responsible steward of our extraordinary natural environment. The sense of the frontier has permeated not only our expanding science program, through which we constantly open new territory, but also our surroundings, with the magnificent restored prairie and our American bison herd. In recent years the bison have come to symbolize for me not only the frontier, but also how tough we are as a laboratory. Just watching the hardy beasts in the middle of some inclement storm gives you a great sense of strength, patience and continuity: They seem to say, We will tough this out whatever comes and will stand here until spring arrives.

This year also marks the 35th anniversary of our funding agency, the Department of Energy, established in 1977. It would appear from this date that the egg, us, preceded the chicken, DOE, but it is not quite so simple. DOE has a much longer lineage going back to the founding of the Atomic Energy Commission in 1946 when nuclear weapons were transferred from military to civilian control. In 1974, the AEC was broken up into its stewardship role for nuclear energy, nuclear weapons and energy research, the Energy Research and Development Administration, and its regulatory function, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Three years later, President Carter’s administration created the Department of Energy as a cabinet-level department through the consolidation of ERDA with the Federal Power Commission and the Federal Energy Administration. Fermilab came to DOE through ERDA, as did all the other national laboratories. Today the DOE operates a formidable system of institutions that encompasses 17 national laboratories.

Several of our sister laboratories started essentially as particle and nuclear physics laboratories during the AEC times. They have now evolved into multi-program laboratories with a diversified set of skills in material science, chemistry, biology, energy, environment and computation. As other laboratories evolved and the facilities for particle physics grew in scale, the major accelerators for particle physics were consolidated at Fermilab. While future accelerators for particle physics will be built here, we continue to partner with our sister laboratories because they bring not only expertise in particle physics to our programs, but also a vast array of capabilities and technologies stemming from their other fields of research. These partnerships were evident and very much appreciated in the presentations that these laboratories made at last week’s Community Planning Meeting in Ramsey Auditorium.