DESY mourns for Prof. Dr. Bjørn H. Wiik

It was with the greatest sadness that DESY received the news of the tragic death of its director, Prof. Dr. Bjørn H. Wiik (62). He died on Friday as a result of an accident at home. The Norwegian physicist was a professor for experimental physics at Hamburg University, he had been Head of the DESY Directorate since 1993. "With Bjorn Wiik, we are not just losing a distinguished scientist of worldwide standing and an outstanding leader of our research center but, most of all, we are losing a person with exceptional human qualities", said Dr. Helmut Krech, Assistant Head of the Directorate. "Our heartfelt sympathies go from each one of us to his family, especially his wife and three children."

Bjorn Wiik, who had been honored with numerous scientific awards and prizes, was born in 1937 in Bruvik (Norway), where he lived until he started his physics studies at the Technical University in Darmstadt, Germany. He graduated in 1965 and, two years later, went to SLAC, the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center near San Francisco (USA), where he specialized in particle physics. It was at this time that he developed the idea to build a new type of accelerator for the investigation of the smallest building blocks of matter, a "super electron microscope" allowing highly energetic electrons to collide head-on with protons, the 2,000 times heavier hydrogen nuclei, accelerated to highest energies as well.

Wiik came to DESY, Hamburg, in 1972 with this idea in mind. He carried out research work in experimental particle physics, and was appointed a Leading Scientist four years later. He was one the team of four physicists that found the first experimental proof of the existence of the gluon at DESY's PETRA accelerator (Positron-Electron Tandem Ring Accelerator) in 1979. The gluon is one of those few elementary particles, which are responsible for the structure and coherence of all matter. In 1995, the four scientists were awarded a prize by the European Physical Society (EPS) in honor of this discovery - a credit ranking among experts as a most outstanding distinction.

In 1980, Prof. Wiik's idea to build a new type of electron-proton accelerator took on concrete forms with the planning of the Hadron-Electron Ring Accelerator HERA. This is the first and the only facility of this type in the world. In 1984 the construction began. HERA is installed in a circular, 6.3-km-long underground tunnel. It allows the heavy protons to be studied with a precision (a "resolution") ten times higher than the one offered by the best machines available so far. The 1400 million DM facility - Germany's biggest research instrument - went into operation in 1992. Today, more than 1,200 scientists from 25 countries are working together at HERA on four experiments. As one of HERA's project leaders, Bjorn Wiik was responsible for the proton accelerator complex.

In its two fields of research - particle physics at HERA and investigations in science and technology using synchrotron radiation at DORIS/HASYLAB - DESY is equipped with excellent instruments for at least the next ten years. Nevertheless, in order to assure that first-class research will still be possible at DESY in the future, the planning of the next research facility has to begin today. This was the profound conviction, as well as the line of action, of Prof. Bjorn H. Wiik when he took up his office as Head of the DESY Directorate in 1993. The future project is the 33-km-long linear accelerator for electron-positron collisions TESLA, into which new radiation sources, so-called X-ray lasers, will be integrated. TESLA (TeV-Energy Superconducting Linear Accelerator) not only comprises numerous new techniques which first had to be developed (for instance the superconducting accelerating units of highest performance), the planned international financing model and the planned international organization structure will offer big challenges as well.

When asked how one could even think of initiating such an ambitious project in such financially difficult times, Bjorn H. Wiik liked to answer with a citation from the German scientist and philosopher Lichtenberg: "In order to see something new, you must make something new."

Prizes and honors: Norsk Data - Physics Prize (1984); Fellow - American Physical Society (1990); Member of the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (1991); Member of the Norwegian Academy of Technical Science (1992); Member of the Royal Norwegian Science Society (1992); American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1993); High Energy Physics Prize of the European Physical Society (EPS) (1995); Doctor Honoris Causa of the University of Oslo (1997); Foreign Member of the Polish Academy of Science (1997); Honory Professor of the Henryk Niewodniczanski Institute of Nuclear Physics (Crakow, Poland) (1999).