Source: unic.org

The head of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) expressed her profound sorrow at the death of French scientist Georges Charpak, winner of the 1992 Nobel Prize for Physics.

Mr. Charpak, who died yesterday in Paris at the age of 86, was also the creator of the association La Main á la Pate, aiming to introduce hands-on science education in French primary schools.

“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 the agency's Director-General, Irina Bokova.

“He was not only a great scientist but a staunch supporter of the Organization's values and ideals,” she said, adding that he was an “inspiring presence” at UNESCO's scientific conferences, most recently at the launch of the 2005 International Year of Physics.

Born in 1924 in a Jewish ghetto in eastern Poland, Mr. Charpak was naturalized as a French citizen in 1946. A former resistance fighter, he started his career in the field of nuclear physics and then in the physics of high energy particles.

He was bestowed the Nobel Prize in 1992 for inventing the proportional chambers used in particle physics.

After making the surprising discovery that just 3 per cent of French primary schools introduce their students to science, Mr. Charpak, together with fellow scientists Pierre Léna and Yves Quéré, set up La Main á la Pate, with the support of the French Education Ministry and the French Academy of Science.

Some 400 primary school teachers volunteered at the start, and the approach has spread to Mexico, Brazil, Chile, China, Malaysia, Senegal, Morocco, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Colombia, Slovakia and Serbia.