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Forty Years of Beam!

17 December 2014

 On Friday Dec 12th 2014, some 40 members from the TRIUMF Alumni and Retirees Association (TARA) came back to TRIUMF for their annual general meeting to connect and learn of the present status of the lab but also to share memories of times past. With a few days’ anticipation, it was 40 years ago that the laboratory celebrated extraction of first beam from the 500 MeV cyclotron, the same cyclotron driving science at the lab today.

“The cyclotron has matured over the years but is not an old car that one polishes regularly and showcases from time to time but more like a Stradivarius violin which is handed to the best artists and is used to perform at top venues,” said Jean-Michel Poutissou, TRIUMF Emeritus.

Captured in these photographs are the moments that presage 40 years of science from the state of the art accelerator.  On December 15th, 1974, many TRIUMF staff had gathered in the Main Control Room to be present for the extraction of first beam and a photograph captured the euphoric moment (bottom left). Remarkably, 32 alumni who were present in 1974 gathered again to reproduce the original photograph (top left). What is perhaps more revealing about the TRIUMF ‘esprit de corps’ is that the group photograph included nine current employees who have devoted their careers to TRIUMF for over forty years.

“It speaks about the vitality of the TRIUMF community and the pride of many of having been and being associated with this family,” said Jean-Michel.

The TARA meeting included a special seminar session, introduced by Director Jonathan Bagger and included talks by Michael Craddock, UBC emeritus professor and former beam dynamics leader for the cyclotron, and Ewart Blackmore, head of the commissioning effort in the mid-70s. The talks illustrated the tribulations and successes that led to the foundation of the laboratory, the construction of the 500 MeV cyclotron and to the intense (and tense) moments leading to celebration of first beam – namely, a spot on the beam monitor indicating that a few protons had travelled down the first segment of Beam Line 4V.  

Jonathan said, “It was wonderful to hear first hand from the pioneers who built TRIUMF and its remarkable cyclotron.  What started as an ambitious, audacious project – to build the world’s largest cyclotron – has over the years developed into a centrepiece of Canadian science.  And because of advances in technology, the cyclotron today is even more powerful than when it was first built.”

Before the seminar ended, Lia Merminga, Head of Accelerator Division, reassured the pioneers that her present team is nurturing and upgrading the cyclotron to ensure that it can sustain the diverse scientific programs of TRIUMF for another 40 years!

All alumni then joined the current TRIUMF employees at a celebration of this year‘s accomplishments with many family members present.

“It was a great pleasure and honor to meet with old TRIUMF squadron and present them the nowadays lab. It was a wonderful memorable event,” said Yuri Bylinkski, Head of Accelerator Systems.

It was an opportunity for the current staff to meet with the pioneers who built the cyclotron and also for alumni to see the incredible advances in technology and witness the new ARIEL e-linac. All were pleased to see that the TRIUMF spirit remains and that the laboratory is in good hands.

To download or view larger images, visit our Flickr site.

–prepared by Melissa Baluk with insight from a few helpful pioneers