I was very sad to learn of the death of David Fiander. David was a gifted engineer who worked at CERN on kicker magnets, the ‘points’ that operate between the various beam lines where very high energy fundamental atomic particles are pumped up to enormous energies. The culmination of these machines is the well-known Large Hadron Collider (LHC) that discovered the Higgs Boson two or three years ago.
I used to visit CERN regularly to administer a contract to supply the high power thyratron switches that energized these fast pulsed magnets. When I first met David in 1980, he was already a world authority on the design of kicker magnet systems.
It is quite difficult adequately to describe what an overwhelming stimulating experience visiting CERN was at the time. The establishment straddles the border between France and Switzerland, and it is necessary to cross the international border when visiting different groups. CERN drew its engineers primarily from the participating European states, and as I recall the dominant nationalities in the kicker magnet groups were British, German and Dutch with some French. English was the lingua franca among the engineering staff.
My principal task was commercial, although with a physics background and technical knowledge of the products I was able to advise CERN engineers what devices we had available to meet their needs. I should say that until the last few years I acted as bag-man to Hugh Menown, the divisional manager at EEV and the man responsible for developing the state-of-the-art thyratrons in use at CERN. Hugh and David would frequently strike sparks off each other, David convinced that Hugh was charging scandalous prices for his products, while Hugh insisted that the prices were fair. In fact what David did not realize, is that Hugh was able to develop new switches to meet his exacting requirements, ‘on the hoof’, precisely because he was charging prices that were able to underwrite the development costs.
These sessions became quite acrimonious at times, with David quoting costs from competing suppliers (whose products didn’t work otherwise he would have bought them), and Hugh threatening to leave and ‘let them get on with it’. That said, as soon as the meeting was over, we would assemble, CERN wives as well, for dinner at what was usually a French restaurant. All strife was forgotten, and we would be able to enjoy the delightful international company of the elite of the CERN engineering staff.
David was a special friend. He and Brenda put me up at their house and I always felt a genuine welcome. His ability in high-power electronic circuitry was unsurpassed and a chat with him always stretched the boundaries of my knowledge. They were wonderful times and I feel privileged to have been part of it all, even if it was in a very minor capacity. David will be sorely missed.
Welcome to the Mirli Books blog written by Peter Maggs