We use cookies to ensure that our site works correctly and provides you with the best experience. If you continue using our site without changing your browser settings, we'll assume that you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use and how to manage them by reading our cookies policy. Hide

Current Issue

19th February 2020
Selected Chemistry & Industry magazine issue

Select an Issue


C&I e-books

C&I e-books

C&I apps

iOS App
Android App

Science and World Heritage

Posted 26/02/2013 by cgodfrey

Stonehenge, Egypt’s Pyramids, the Great Barrier Reef and Canterbury Cathedral are some of the names that are usually brought to mind at the mention of World Heritage Sites. But the European Commission’s chief scientific adviser Anne Glover would also like to see another entry on the list of UNESCO designated sites, she told reporters at a breakfast meeting at the AAAS meeting last week in Boston, US.

CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, based near Geneva in Switzerland, is a clear contender to make the UNESCO grade and already has all of the facilities required to make this a top-class World Heritage Site, in Glover’s view. Not only is this the place where researchers have begun to unearth the fundamental nature of matter, but Glover contends that it is also a place of real aesthetic beauty. ‘CERN defines what it is to be human, to do work collaboratively, across borders and deliver fundamental knowledge,’ she said, referring to last year’s discovery using CERN’s Large Hadron Collider of the so-called God particle the Higg’s boson.

Fundamental science is not just interesting but may also be extremely useful, Glover continued, pointing out that while matter is 99.999% made of nothing it still generally requires a lot of effort to move, say, a table, and nor does a hand placed on top pass right through it. Understanding such phenomena better could potentially lead to lower energy ways of moving objects around, she said.

Visitors to CERN are already welcomed and can view two permanent exhibitions, Microcosm and Universe of Particles, which claim to give a taste of the ‘CERN adventure’ as well as an introduction to the ‘world of particles’, while other shows, lectures and temporary exhibits are timetabled throughout the year.

So could it ever become a World Heritage Site? There are 962 properties and places around the world deemed to be of ‘outstanding universal value’ by UNESCO. I managed to find to find just two in the UK with links to science and industry: Ironbridge Gorge in Shropshire and Saltaire in West Yorkshire. Who knows, maybe in another 100 years or so, maybe it wouldn’t be too surprising to see Switzerland’s CERN on the list too.

Cath O’Driscoll, Deputy editor

Add your comment