Archives of Theory Division (TH) and Theory Group-Copenhagen (THC)

Identity Statement [Top]

Reference code(s)

CERN-ARCH-THC-01-001 to 05-006

CERN-ARCH-TH-001 to 176


Archives of Theory Division (TH) and Theory Group-Copenhagen (THC)


1951 to 1991

Level of description


Extent of the unit of description

45 items, 19 boxes, 2 linear meters (THC)

175 items, 161 boxes, 6 linear meters (TH)

Context [Top]

Name of creator

Theory Group (Copenhagen) (THC)

Theory Division (TH)

Administrative history

Three scientific Study Groups were set up during the life of the ‘provisional CERN’ (i.e. before CERN was officially created in 1954), two accelerator groups and a theory group. The nucleus of the Theory Group was a four-man team comprising N. Bohr, C. Moller, J. Jacobsen, and S. Rozental. It was founded in May 1952, and was initially located in the Theoretical Physics Institute at the University of Copenhagen. Bohr was the nominal director until September 1954, when he handed over to Møller; Rozental was responsible for much of the administrative work. The Theory Group differed from the other Study Groups in that its key staff were already centralised around an existing institute of international repute, which incorporated the CERN-related activities into its ongoing programme.

The decision to locate the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva inevitably provoked questions about the future of the Group. It was decided that the Theory function should be gradually moved to Geneva over a few years, and the work of the Theory Group in Copenhagen was brought to an end on 1 October 1957. The first theorists came to Geneva in 1954 (CERN was officially created on 29 September 1954) and the CERN Theoretical Study Division was set up; they were based first at the University of Geneva, then in barracks at the airport, before moving to the main site in Meyrin. The Group expanded when the remaining members moved from Copenhagen in 1957, and by 1959 it had almost 40 members. The work of the Group included:

  • Scientific research on fundamental problems of nuclear physics, including theoretical problems related to the focusing of ion beams in high energy accelerators.
  • Training of young theoretical physicists.
  • Development of active co-operation with the laboratories of Liverpool and Uppsala, whose machines and equipment had been placed at the disposal of CERN.

In 1960 as the PS research experimental programme began, CERN had to adapt its internal structure to its changing tasks. The original six divisions were reorganized into twelve divisions. The role of Theoretical Studies (TH) Division was: theoretical physics research, and co-operation in the preparation of experimental programme and in the interpretation of the experimental results.

In 1966 new departments, which remained until 1976 were formed by regrouping the existing divisions. The Theoretical Studies Division was integrated into the Theoretical Physics Department.

In 1971 following approval for the construction of a second Laboratory adjoining the existing site, CERN was divided between two administrative units, Laboratory I and Laboratory II. TH Department was part of Laboratory I.

In 1976 the two Laboratories were united. The departmental structure ceased and Theoretical Physics Department was renamed Theoretical Physics Division (TH).

In 1986 the Scientific Information Service (SIS: Library and Archive), formely part of DOC Department, was added to the TH Division.

In 1990 the SIS Group moved in the new Administrative Support Division (AS).

In 2004 TH Division and Experimental Physics Division (EP) merged to form Physics Department (PH).

* More information on: Theory Division
* Source: Annual reports, History of CERN

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

  • Niels Bohr Institute (Archives) (THC)
  • Jacques Prentki, Maurice Jacob, John Ellis (TH)

Content & Structure [Top]

Scope and content

The THC collection contains documents on the creation of CERN, and about the organisation and activities of the Theory Group in Copenhagen. It includes correspondence, reports and memoranda.

The TH collection contains the files of Jacques Prentki, Jacob Maurice and John Ellis on the Theory Division.

  • Jacques Prentki: joined Bernard d'Espagnat, the first CERN theorist in January 1955. He came from Leprince-Ringuet's Laboratory at the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris. He was nominated leader of Theory Division from 1966 to 1969 and from 1976 to 1981. His field of interest was QCD (Qunatum Chromodynamics), and grand unified theories.
  • Maurice Jacob: was head of TH division from 1982 to 1988. A tireless research compaigner, he has also served as President of the French Physical Society in 1985 and as President of the European Physical Society from 1991 to 1993. Maurice also left his mark on scientific publishing, where he worked with leading North Holland/Elsevier journals from 1968 to 1985. His field of interest was particle physics, space physics, physics and society.
  • John Ellis: joined CERN in 1973. He was the leader of the TH Division from 1989 to 1993. John Ellis published over 700 scientific articles in particle physics and related areas of cosmology and astrophysics. His research interests included the possible experimental consequences and tests of new theoretical ideas such as gauge theories of strong and electroweak interactions, grand unified theories, supersymmetry, and string theory. He was awarded the Maxwell Medal of the Institute of Physics in 1983 and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1985. Honorary Doctorate, University of Southampton, 1994.

It includes administrative, personnel, technical subjects (correspondance, notes, reports, documents on rules and regulations, staff recommandations, fellows and visitors, PS improvement programme...)

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling information

  • For the THC collection, 0.4 lm of Finance Committee reports and 0.2 lm of CERN Yellow Reports (duplicates of material held elsewhere in the archives) were destroyed.
  • For the TH collection, nothing was destroyed.


Further accruals are expected.

System of arrangement

For the THC collection, the following arrangement was applied:

CERN-ARCH-THC-01-001 to 010 Creation and organization of CERN
CERN-ARCH-THC-02-001 to 014 Administration and management
CERN-ARCH-THC-03-001 to 009 Financial
CERN-ARCH-THC-04-001 to 007 Personnel management
CERN-ARCH-THC-05-001 to 006 Library and information service

For the TH collection, the original order has been preserved.

Conditions of access and use [Top]

Conditions governing access

See file level description and the CERN operational circular No 3: rules applicable to archival material and archiving at CERN. In general, records on any subject that are over 30 years old, and all records of a purely scientific nature, may be consulted.

Conditions governing reproduction

Copyright is retained by CERN, no reproduction without permission.

Language / scripts of material

Most of the material is written in English, with some in German, French and Danish.

Finding aids

Listed to file level in the CERN Archives Database.

Fulltexts of TH reports are available here.

Description control [Top]

Archivist's note

Description prepared by Description prepared by Florent Perret.

Date(s) of description

Geneva, the 1st May 2004. Revised 2007 and 2011 (by Margot Georges)