SESAME pays homage to Gustav-Adolf Voss


Participants in the SESAME Council meeting after the close of the special session in homage of Gus Voss (Hilmar Schmundt (CC BY-SA 4.0)).
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In a special session on 25 November 2013 during its 23rd meeting held on the shores of the Dead Sea in Jordan, the SESAME Council paid homage to Gustav-Adolf (alias Gus) Voss who passed away on 5 October 2013.

Gus was a fervent proponent of SESAME and one of the meeting rooms on the Centre’s premises is to be named after him in recognition of his very important contribution to SESAME in the early years of the project.

The special session consisted of two presentations preceded and followed by comments and recollections from the floor by those who knew Gus.

The first, ‘A Life for Accelerators’, was given by Wilhelm Bialowons of DESY (Deutsches Elktronen Synchrotron, Hamburg, Germany), who first met Gus in 1981. Wilhelm led participants from the day of Gus’s birth on 20 June 1929 and his studies at the Technical University in Berlin through to his work on the Cambridge Electron Synchrotron bypass and the commissioning of DORIS, his work on PETRA (his masterpiece) and HERA, and finally his work on the design of a 500 GeV linear collider and a wake field transformer experiment.

The second, ‘Remembering Gus Voss 1929-2013, His Critical Role in the Early Days of SESAME’, was prepared by Herman Winick of SLAC (Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, Stanford University, USA), and retraced the very many important steps starting as early as 1997 that Gus had taken to help make SESAME a reality. Herman’s presentation ended by Gus’s brilliant statement ‘If you can keep a cool head in these times perhaps you just don’t understand the situation’, to which he provided a rare counter example as a rare person who understood but kept his cool.

It was Gus and Herman who first had the idea of basing an international synchrotron light source in the Middle East on the components of the BESSY I (Berlin Electron Storage Ring Company for Synchrotron Radiation) machine, during a BESSY meeting in Berlin in September 1997 at which the decommissioning of the BESSY I facility in West Berlin was announced (following the re-unification of Germany it was decided to build a larger machine in East Berlin). Gus and Herman felt that the components of BESSY I could be used for another machine elsewhere. During his participation in the Turin MESC (CERN-based Middle East Scientific Cooperation group) seminar in November 1997, Gus introduced in a panel debate the possibility of moving BESSY I to the Middle East. At the request of Sergio Fubini and Herwig Schopper, and following an independent letter written by Gus, the German Government agreed to donate the BESSY I components to SESAME, provided the dismantling was taken care of by the latter

In the words of one of the participants in the special session, Gus was the epitome of integrity and a man who would never be swayed by personal preferences. He was an idealist through and through and a world citizen in the true sense of the word. He is the sort of person needed for SESAME. He was so modest, so sincere and so human a person.

Gus’s family asked that in place of flowers and wreaths, contributions in honour of Gus be made to a SESAME fund for the next generation of men and women wishing to enter physics. SESAME is very grateful for this generous gesture.