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Archives, History & Records Office

Archives, History & Records Office | SLAC Research Library |

Last Updated: 08/26/2020

Hours: By appointment Monday-Friday during regular work hours.


Archives E-mail: slacarc[@]
RM E-mail: recordsmgt[@]
Phone: (650)926-3091
Post: SLAC Archives and History Office, M/S 82, 2575 Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, CA 94025.

Office Location: Bldg.50, Rm.122

Dick Taylor Story

Hommage À Richard Taylor

I admired Dick in many ways. His passing away represents a great loss to me.

I am a retired physicist who belonged to the Laboratoire de l'Accélérateur Linéaire (LAL) at Orsay most of my professional life, but I was a graduate student at Stanford from 1958 to 1960 when Richard Taylor came to LAL and participated in the setting up of the first sections of the LAL electron Linac and helped young PhD students (Didier Isabelle and François Lacoste) to finalize their detectors and collect their first data for their theses. Therefore, it was some years later that I met Dick for the first time but since then we had many opportunities to get together. Such occasions were provided by his frequent visits to LAL, for instance while he was a member of the H1 Collaboration.

On my side, I went a number of times to SLAC. I worked several months there when I participated in the SPEAR commissioning and again later, when I participated in the SLC commissioning. I saw Dick regularly during these long stays. The more so since Dick was very keen to help French visitors of SLAC feel comfortable at Stanford. So, while I never worked directly with him, I interacted with him on many occasions. I always felt very fortunate for having a friendly relationship with Dick which soon developed into a friendly relationship between Rita and Dick on the one hand and my wife Yvette and myself on the other. The fact that Yvette is American certainly contributed to making such ties. This friendly relationship culminated in 2006 when Yvette and I spent several days in their home in Blairmore, Canada.

As anyone who ran across him knows, Dick's personality was a strong one behind which was a great gentleness and generosity. He could state his convictions in an abrupt manner, but he was also open to different opinions if they were well backed up. I remember him telling me a number of times: "Think Big", and that was what he did. He was a concerned person, worrying about political issues on national and world scales, and a concerned physicist who kept thinking about the future of our respective labs in particular.

Dick's charisma impressed all of us at LAL. As I mentioned above, Dick always gave a special attention to the French physicists he was in contact with, the young ones in particular, and I know that, conversely, these French researchers are very grateful to him for what he did for them and for his advice. Quite naturally, Jean Perez Y Jorba, then Director of our Laboratory, proposed that the Docteur Honoris Causa of the University of Paris-Sud distinction (Paris-Sud University is the second largest scientific university in France) be conferred to Richard Taylor. The ceremony took place in 1980.

Dick and Pierre Lehmann were good friends (Pierre Lehmann was a leading high energy physicist in France ; for a long period of time, he was the Director of IN2P3, the French Institution in charge of managing all of the French academic labs in nuclear and in particle physics). When P. Lehmann passed away in 1992, I was very thankful to Dick when he accepted to contribute a video as a tribute to Pierre. His testimony was highly appreciated by the many people who knew Pierre Lehmann.

I often benefitted from Dick's advice. Especially in 1995, when I was in charge of 'DAPNIA', a Department of the Commissariat à l'Énergie Atomique (CEA) at Saclay, staffed with about 900 people doing research in astrophysics, nuclear physics and particle physics. Robert Aymar who was then head of the "Direction des sciences de la matière" of CEA, a future Directeur Général of CERN, asked Dick to chair a Committee comprising a number of high level foreign scientists to evaluate DAPNIA's organization, its scientific production and its scientific policy. The Committee members spent three days at Saclay investigating all aspects of the Department's functioning. Then Dick had to urge the very busy committee members to send him their contributions which he then synthesized into a ten page report that provided Robert Aymar and myself a detailed, in depth, well balanced evaluation of DAPNIA's operations and scientific propects. I used this report as a precious guideline for the last part of my DAPNIA management mandate. I still have it in my computer.

Quite unfortunately, I could not see Rita and Dick again when I went to San Francisco in 2015. I was the one sick then and had to shorten my stay. I feel terribly sad today for having missed this last opportunity to spend some time with him.

Dick Taylor color portrait    Dick Taylor partial profile with wineglass   Dick Taylor on site at LAL Orsay   Dick Taylor gesturing in discussion
(Photo credits: LAL Orsay)

Jacques Haïssinski