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History of Paris-Sud University

After World War 2, the rapid growth of nuclear physics and chemistry meant that research needed more and more powerful accelerators, which required large spaces. The Université de Paris, the Ecole Normale Supérieure and the Collège de France were all searching for space near Orsay, to the south of Paris.

October 1954

The Parc de Launay in Orsay (160 hectares) was bought by the State.


Construction began on the Institut de Physique Nucléaire (Nuclear Physics Institute) and the Laboratoire de l'Accélérateur Linéaire (Linear Accelerator Laboratory) by the architect Seassal, under the scientific direction of Joseph Pérès, Irène and Frédéric Juliot-Curie and Hans von Halban.


The Collège de France's cyclotron, built in 1937, was moved to Orsay.


The first beams of the new French accelerators began functioning (the 157 MeV synchro-cyclotron and Linear Accelerator).


The Faculty of Sciences in Paris transferred some of its teaching activity to Orsay. The rapid increase in students led to the Orsay Centre becoming independent on March 1st, 1965.

December 1970

The University of Paris-Sud 11 was founded when the centres at Orsay, Châtenay-Malabry, Sceaux, Cachan and Kremlin-Bicêtre were merged.

Since 1970

The Orsay campus began to expand on the Moulon plateau and new laboratories were built. Almost all of these were part of Paris-Sud University, although a few were more specifically linked to CNRS or even the University of Paris VI.

Because of the proximity of Paris-Sud University to the Atomic Energy Institute (CEA) and the CNRS laboratories in Gif sur Yvette, many institutes and laboratories, as well as academic schools like Polytechnique, HEC, IHES, ENSTA and others also came to this area. As a result, the Vallée de Chevreuse has become one of the most important and well-known areas in Europe for scientific research.