UNESCO Director-General expresses sorrow at the death of French scientist and Nobel laureate Georges Charpak
The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, expressed her profound sorrow at the death of French scientist Georges Charpak, winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize for Physics, who was also known as the creator of “La Main à la Pate”, an association to introduce hands-on science education in primary schools in France. Mr Charpak died in Paris on 29 September at age 86.
“With the death of Georges Charpak, UNESCO has lost a visionary whose contribution to international scientific cooperation still impacts powerfully on many areas of the Organization’s work,” said Ms Bokova. “I and everyone else at UNESCO with whom he worked down through the years feel profound sorrow. He was not only a great scientist but a staunch supporter of the Organization’s values and ideals. He was an inspiring presence as a frequent distinguished guest at UNESCO’s scientific conferences, most recently at the launch of the 2005 International Year of Physics*, for which UNESCO was the lead United Nations agency. UNESCO’s science sector and network of Associated Schools also worked with his association, which has had international impact on science education. Mr Charpak will be greatly missed.”
Born March 8, 1924 in a Jewish ghetto in eastern Poland, Georges Charpak was naturalized French in 1946. A former resistance fighter, he developed his career first in the field of nuclear physics, then in the physics of high energy particles. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1992 for his inventions, the proportional chambers used in particle physics.
In 1996, Georges Charpak, Pierre Léna and Yves Quéré created “La Main à la Pate”, after making a surprising discovery: barely 3% of French primary schools give their pupils an introduction to science. With the support of the French Education Ministry and the French Academy of Science, the three academics launched their scheme. They began by experimenting with 400 primary school teachers who volunteered. Today, this approach, supported by teachers and scientists, has spawned imitations in Mexico, Brazil, Chile, China, Malaysia, Senegal, Morocco, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Colombia, Slovakia and Serbia.
* See video