The Institut Laue Langevin officially came into being on 19 January 1967, and it is probably safe to say that the pace of change in the intervening 50 years has been historically unprecedented.
The main driving force behind this change has been, and still is, science. By penetrating deep into the microcosm, science has revealed the fundamental forces of nature, allowing us to understand and manipulate living and non-living matter at the sub-atomic level. Science has thus created the basis for the technological explosion that has revolutionised every aspect of our daily lives, from medical care and communications to the very way our societies are organised. This revolution is not only transforming every aspect of the world we live in. It is also forcing us to reconsider how we respond to the ethical issues that go hand in hand with our ever increasing power to shape our world.
As one of the world’s leading research institutions, the ILL has played a key part in the scientific adventure over the last 50 years. It was certainly born under a lucky star. Right from the start, all the stakeholders, both political and scientific, were absolutely determined to make the ILL a success. The project was forged and promoted by some of the most brilliant minds of the time. It received enthusiastic support, not only because of its huge scientific potential but also because of its powerful political significance, coming just 20 years after the end of one of the most traumatic conflicts in the history of mankind. The idea of collaborating on the construction of the ILL to achieve world-leading excellence in the field of neutron science proved to be both highly stimulating and contagious. The adoption, right from the start, of the innovative status of a service institute, effectively linking the ILL to the entire European academic network, was the finishing touch. The fact that, 50 years down the road, the ILL is still the world’s number one neutron source is a resounding testament to the extraordinary talent and dedication of all those who have played a part in its inception and subsequent operation. It is in the spirit of these pioneers that the ILL continues to forge ahead today with an ambitious programme of instrument and infrastructure upgrades that will guarantee its position at the forefront of neutron science and technology for many years to come.
Born as a result of the endeavours of first two and then three nations, the ILL has emulated European integration through the introduction of scientific membership agreements. Today some 10 European countries are Scientific Members of the ILL, their user communities helping to reinforce its scientific excellence. At the ILL, European cooperation for the benefit of all is a palpable everyday reality. "L’ILL, c’est l’Europe qui marche!’’
Helmut Schober, ILL Director