Les Houches School of Physics celebrated its 70th anniversary

The university in general, Research, Education
On the  May 31, 2022
L’École de Physique des Houches a fêté ses 70 ans
L’École de Physique des Houches a fêté ses 70 ans
Les Houches School of Physics celebrated its 70th anniversary on May 23rd and 24th. This internationally renowned institution, founded by the French physicist Cécile DeWitt-Morette, has existed since the summer of 1951. On this occasion, renowned scientists, including Nobel Prize winners and CNRS medallists, celebrated together the creation of the School, which continues to train young generations of physicists and ensure the enrichment of this scientific discipline.
Les Houches School of Physics was created in 1951 thanks to Cécile DeWitt-Morette, a visionary French physicist who sought to revitalize research in Physics and accelerate international exchanges in post-war Europe.

Originally very rustic and close to the B&B in the Chamonix area, the buildings belonging to Université Grenoble Alpes (UGA) have been modernized and expanded over the years. In order to improve the comfort of users and to meet the challenges of social and environmental responsibility, UGA has undertaken this year the extension and upgrading of the restaurant area and will soon proceed with the installation of 2 wood boilers. This €615,000 energy renovation project has received funding under the stimulus plan.

A place of meetings, scientific exchanges and training in Physics of a very high level, thousands of physicists have passed through the benches of Les Houches School of Physics, among them many Nobel Prize winners such as Pierre-Gilles de Gennes in 1953, Claude Cohen Tannoudji in 1964, Michel Mayor and Serge Haroche in 1990.

UGA and CNRS, co-tutelles since 1998 of Les Houches School of Physics, decided to strengthen its national and international scientific influence by creating in 2017 a joint unit of service (UMS) "Les Houches School of Physics" which now brings together UGA, Grenoble INP - UGA, CNRS, CEA and the Ecole nationale supérieure de Lyon. The structure will become a Research Support Unit with the same supervisors.

On Monday, May 23, 2021, all the partners were present to officially open the two-day anniversary in the presence of the daughter of the school's founder, Chris DeWitt. On this occasion, a tree was planted, followed by scientific sessions in the afternoon and the next day, with speeches from leading physicists. Serge Haroche, Nobel Prize in Physics 2012, professor and former administrator of the Collège de France, member of the French Academy of Sciences, Michel Mayor, Nobel Prize in Physics 2019, professor at the University of Geneva, member of the American Academy of Sciences and also Françoise Combes, CNRS Gold Medal 2020, astrophysicist and director of research CNRS.

Les Houches School of Physics, yesterday and today

The first course was given in 1951 by Léon van Hove and was dedicated to quantum mechanics. The school quickly attracted the greatest names in Physics, such as Enrico Fermi, Wolfgang Pauli, Murray Gell-Mann or John Bardeen, to name but a few. Cécile DeWitt-Morette also promoted young unknowns: in 1951, Walter Kohn (Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1998) gave a course in solid state physics at the age of 28. Philippe Nozières was entrusted with the organization of a session on the "N-body problem" in 1958; he was 26 years old. Among the students were, for example, Pierre-Gilles de Gennes, Georges Charpak, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, or Serge Haroche, future Nobel Prize winners in Physics, or a little later the mathematicians Ed Witten and Alain Connes (Fields Medal). All of them had the opportunity to express their great gratitude to the school.

Over the years, the École has evolved, while maintaining certain traditions and continuing to attract the greatest names. The two "summer schools" (one-month long training courses on innovative themes, in July and August) are the highlights of the year and constitute a sort of "graduate school", the "trademark" of Les Houches. Within the framework of the "Centre de Physique", different training courses and conferences, shorter and more specialized, are organized throughout the year. Some of them are intended for all researchers (beginners as well as experienced ones), others are designed for PhD students (doctoral courses). Beyond the training aspects, these meetings also allow for scientific collaborations. Real networks of professional and friendly relationships are often created at Les Houches School.

The School has adapted to the evolution of science, opening up to peripheral domains such as Mathematics, Earth Sciences, Chemistry or Biology. Moreover, the interactions between these disciplines are very frequently at the heart of the problems tackled today at Les Houches.

Some fifty Nobel prizes in Physics and 3 Field medals have contributed to the reputation of excellence of Les Houches School of Physics.

Review of the celebration day in pictures

L’École de Physique des HouchesL’École de Physique des Houches en 2022
Ouverture de la journée par Bérengère Dubrulle, directrice de l'écoleMichel Mayor, prix Nobel de Physique 2019
Françoise Combes, astrophysicienne, médaille d’or du CNRS 2020 Serge Haroche, physicien, prix Nobel de Physique 2012
La directrice Bérengère Dubrulle plante un arbre à l'occasion des 70 ans de l'écoleL’École de Physique des Houches
Photo captions:
Les Houches School of Physics at the time of its creation
Les Houches School of Physics today
Opening of the day by Bérengère Dubrulle, director of the school
Michel Mayor, astrophysicist, Nobel Prize in Physics 2019
Françoise Combes, astrophysicist, CNRS gold medal 2020
Serge Haroche, physicist, Nobel Prize in Physics 2012
Director Bérengère Dubrulle plants a tree to celebrate the school's 70th anniversary
Les Houches School of Physics
Published on  May 31, 2022
Updated on May 31, 2022