The ILL was founded 50 years ago, on 19 January 1967, with the signing of an agreement between the governments of the French Republic and the Federal Republic of Germany. In recognition of this dual nationality, it was named after two distinguished physicists: the German, Max von Laue, and the Frenchman, Paul Langevin. The aim of this ambitious project was to create an intense, continuous source of neutrons devoted exclusively to civil fundamental research. The ILL was one of the first research facilities in the world to be given the innovative status of “service institute”, a model which has since been copied by countless laboratories around the globe. In 1971, the first neutron beams were produced and 2 years later the UK joined the partnership as the Institute’s third Associate member country. Since then, the ILL has taken on a truly international dimension with the signing of Scientific Membership agreements with many other countries, starting with Spain in 1987. What began under the impetus of Franco-German reconciliation is now a shining example of international cooperation, an Institute which both reflects and drives European integration.
The ILL owes much of its long-lasting success to its ability to adapt quickly in an ever-changing research environment. By constantly upgrading and developing its facilities, the ILL has ensured that its instrumentation defines the state-of-the-art. Consequently, the demand for beam time at the ILL is as high as ever, as is the quality of the science performed at the Institute. As a neutron source, the ILL is in a league of its own thanks to the outstanding reliability and safety record of its High-Flux Reactor. Despite the increasing complexity of operating a nuclear facility and the ever more stringent demands of the safety authorities, the ILL continues to set the standards for other neutron sources.