Hugh Edward O'Hanlon

a boy from Bootle who changed the world of physics

1938 - 2020

Hugh Edward O’Hanlon, born in Liverpool, United Kingdom, on 18 August 1938, died in Geneva, Switzerland, on 15 March 2020.

Hugh was born in Bootle, the second of seven children (1 girl and 6 boys), who all lived and shared a 3 bedroom house on Downing Road. He and his older sister were evacuated to Blackpool during the raids on Liverpool in 1941, which eventually destroyed or damaged 74% of the houses.

He attended Bootle Grammar where he demonstrated an aptitude for scientific curiosity. He was an active member of the scouts and played in the 6th North Liverpool Silver Prize Band as leading drummer. He went to Bootle Tech at the age of 13 and studied engineering.

At 15, he did an apprenticeship with Campbell and Isherwood, progressing to work for AVRO on a guided missile system research project. He studied math while doing engineering research for Pilkington Glass, then moved to Liverpool University on a Cyclotron project. He then obtained an MSc in Engineering at Aston University. He then got recruited to Switzerland in 1967 to work at CERN due to his excellence ( do your homework kids!).

At CERN, he was instrumental in the development of the Intersecting Storage Rings (ISR), which was the world’s first hadron collider. He was also involved in the Proton Synchrotron (PS), Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS), and towards the end of his career, the Large Electron-Positron Collider (LEP), the predecessor to the Large Hardron Collider (LHC). These discoveries helped the world understand the beginnings of our universe, and led to the discovery of the Higgs boson particle.

In the meantime, on the family front, he married Vera Webster in 1962, a woman he had courted since he was 15. They went on to create a family with three kids. Vera and the boys all still live in Geneva, Switzerland.

Passionate about inspiring young people to follow a career in physics, The Hugh O’Hanlon Award was made in honour of his life and work to King’s Leadership Academy Hawthornes, a school in Bootle, to revitalise its science facilities.

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