At CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, physicists and engineers are probing the fundamental structure of the universe. They use the world's largest and most complex scientific instruments to study the basic constituents of matter – the fundamental particles. The particles are made to collide together at close to the speed of light. The process gives the physicists clues about how the particles interact, and provides insights into the fundamental laws of nature.
The instruments used at CERN are purpose-built particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before the beams are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.
Founded in 1954, the CERN laboratory sits astride the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe's first joint ventures and now has 21 member states.
The name CERN
The name CERN is derived from the acronym for the French "Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire", or European Council for Nuclear Research, a provisional body founded in 1952 with the mandate of establishing a world-class fundamental physics research organization in Europe. At that time, pure physics research concentrated on understanding the inside of the atom, hence the word "nuclear".
Today, our understanding of matter goes much deeper than the nucleus, and CERN's main area of research is particle physics – the study of the fundamental constituents of matter and the forces acting between them. Because of this, the laboratory operated by CERN is often referred to as the European Laboratory for Particle Physics.
The birth of the web
Tim Berners-Lee, a British scientist at CERN, invented the World Wide Web (WWW) in 1989. The web was originally conceived and developed to meet the demand for automatic information-sharing between scientists in universities and institutes around the world.
The first website at CERN - and in the world - was dedicated to the World Wide Web project itself and was hosted on Berners-Lee's NeXT computer. The website described the basic features of the web; how to access other people's documents and how to set up your own server. The NeXT machine - the original web server - is still at CERN. As part of the project to restore the first website, in 2013 CERN reinstated the world's first website to its original address.
On 30 April 1993 CERN put the World Wide Web software in the public domain. CERN made the next release available with an open licence, as a more sure way to maximise its dissemination. Through these actions, making the software required to run a web server freely available, along with a basic browser and a library of code, the web was allowed to flourish.