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IAEA celebrates 50 years of magnetic confinement fusion research

-Sabina Griffith

The opening session of the 1958 conference in Geneva. (Click to view larger version...)
The opening session of the 1958 conference in Geneva.
In 1958, the United Nations Conference on the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, which later became known as the second "Atoms for Peace Conference", performed the "unwrapping" of controlled nuclear fusion. The Geneva conference was a "Monster Conference" as the Time Magazine wrote, with 5000 scientists from 67 countries participating, plus 900 (!) accredited correspondents from all over the world, and 3651 observers from the industry and an even larger number of interested members of the public. The huge interest in the fusion conference was an ever bigger challenge to Geneva's hotels and guest houses that could only offer 6500 beds at that time.

To prepare the fusion exhibits in the exhibition hall next to the Palais des Nations that was built specifically for that purpose, many scientists lived in Geneva for several months, some even accompanied by their families. " It was probably one of the largest scientific conferences that has ever been held", writes Gunther Mank, Section Head, Physics Section, Division of Physical and Chemical Sciences within the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in the extremely interesting brochure that he has put together on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the "Monster" conference and that gives a picturesque impression of the enthusiasm and atmosphere of those days in September 1958.

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