A Biography of Bruno Touschek

 

 
 

Bruno Touschek had a brilliant mind and an amusing personality. He was born in Vienna on February 3, 1921, son of Franz Xaver and  Camilla Weltman. He  attended school in his hometown but in 1937, not having been allowed to finish high school since his mother was Jewish, he had to leave his school and pass the final year exam in another one as an external student. He began  to attend University courses in physics and mathematics in  Vienna, but again he  had to quit because of racial reasons.         Thanks to some friends, Touschek  could keep on  studying in Hamburg, where nobody knew about his origins. In order to make a living, the young Austrian had to do several jobs at the same time. For a long period he worked in the Studiengesellschaft fŁr Elektronengeršte, a company affiliated to the Dutch firm  Philips, where "drift tubes", forerunners of the klystron, were being developed. In 1943 he was invited by Rolf WideroŽ to cooperate with him in building a betatron. When Touschek was  arrested by Gestapo in 1945, WideroŽ went to see him in prison and during these visits they kept on talking about the betatron and, still in prison, he conceived the idea and developed the theory of "radiation damping" for electrons circulating in a betatron. After having been arrested by Gestapo  and  having  escaped by chance  the  concentration camp, in 1946 he graduated at the University of GŲttingen and began to work at the Max Planck Institut. In February 1947 Touschek moved to Glasgow on a fellowship of the Department of  Scientific  and Industrial Research. Afterwards, he was appointed Official Lecturer in Natural Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, position that he kept until he left for Rome in 1952. Once there, he decided to stay  permanently in  that town, and he got the  position  of  researcher in the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare.

Touschek in Catania (1964)

Three  years later he  went  back to  Glasgow to  marry  Elspeth  Yonge, daugther of a  well-known professor of Zoology at the University of Glasgow, who gave him two children. 
        On March 7, 1960 Touschek held a seminar at the Laboratori Nazionali di Frascati, demonstrating for the first time the importance of a  systematic study of electron-positron  collisions (e+ e- ) and how this could   be achieved   by   constructing  a  single magnetic  ring in  which bunches of electrons and positrons circulate at the same energy E, but in opposite directions. After this, along with Carlo Bernardini, Gianfranco Corazza and Giorgio Ghigo, he began to work on a project for the first e+ e- storage ring, essentially designed as a prototype for checking the feasibility of accelerators  based on the  ideas set forth during the seminar. This first machine for the study of collision between a particle and an antiparticle is known as AdA (Anello di Accumulazione e+ e- ). It wasn't a coincidence that this was the name of his dear aunt Ada, who had been very close to Touschek  when he first settled in Rome. He would visit her quite often in her villa in Albano, and she would give him a number of advice and attentions,which he didn't always seem to appreciate. After the operation  of  AdA at  Orsay,  Touschek's  "experimental period" had  come to an  end, but it wasn't so for his interest and   participation in   the   development of the   e+ e-   rings. He   followed with great enthusiasm the phases of the design and construction of ADONE (1965-67) led by Fernando Amman.

        Along with his scientific genius "Bruno possessed an unusual skill in caricaturing his sorroundings and local costums, which he would draw with a pen on the first piece of paper which came to hand, during the degree examination of Faculty sessions, or during the various meetings of the commissions or working groups dealing with the activities of the Institute or of the Laboratori Nazionali di Frascati" (E. Amaldi). 

  

 
  Touschek's drawings

 
 Since 1953 Touschek had been teaching at  the University  in Rome  and later also in Pisa; but because of the  strict Italian law, Touschek's career in the University was slow, and he became "professore ordinario" only at the beginning of 1978.
        Shortly after, on May 25 1978, in the University Hospital of Innsbruck, Bruno Touschek died, after a long-time illness.

        "He was the initiator, but also the element of continuity during the ten golden years of the Laboratories (of Frascati) , the  person  that had a great idea and  allowed it to  be materialized  by others; his scientific and human qualities, I believe, were decisive in maintaining the  connections which have been essential in achieving success" (by F. Amman). So Bruno Touschek will always be remembered as a man who "led an intense and vigorous life and one who, by his example and friendliness, helped others to  achieve  greater happiness  and  awareness in their own lives" (by P.I. Dee) .