The ESRF began to operate almost exactly 100 years after W.C. Röntgen discovered X-rays. In the intervening century, the enormous potential that X-rays provide for understanding the structure of matter has been exploited for materials from the simplest metal to complex proteins. Now, at the start of the third millennium, and after several years of operation, the flagship of European X-ray research has all of its experimental stations fully operational. More than 3500 users per year take advantage of the unique experimental conditions and the beamlines are, on average, over-subscribed by a factor greater than two. New records have also been set by the machine group: with 96.4% reliability and an achieved brilliance of 4 x 1020 photons/mm2/mrad2/0.1%bw at 10 keV, they have again demonstrated an outstanding capability for the successful operation, maintenance and development of the storage ring.

Planning for the next stage of development of the ESRF started in 2000. This process will continue during the year 2001 with significant participation from the user community. Among other developments, we propose to combine very large magnetic fields with X-ray scattering, to establish high-resolution photoelectron spectroscopy in the 10 keV range, to create a basic support facility for applied materials research and to expand the activities in the field of macromolecular crystallography, specifically for structural genomics.

When Yves Petroff initiated the Highlights in 1995, he summarised the first results from 11 public and 4 CRG beamlines. Today there are about 40 beamlines in operation, each of them producing exciting results over a very wide spectrum of scientific areas. This is the last Highlights to which Yves Petroff will contribute as Director General. We congratulate him for his extremely successful period at the ESRF and thank him for always stressing the importance of the quality of its scientific output.

In this edition, we have tried to cover the calendar year as closely as possible. The results presented give only a partial view of the research that has been done, with many more experiments still awaiting further evaluation before publication. To enable rapid publication after the closing date for submission of the contributions, several scientists were required to work on individual chapters, sometimes at very short notice. We gratefully acknowledge the help of: R. Barrett, N. Brookes, J. Doucet, A. Fitch, G. Grübel, Å. Kvick, C. Riekel, F. Sette, J. Susini and J. Zegenhagen. Special thanks go to G. Admans who, as the Editor of the Highlights, brought together the many different contributions.

W.E.A. Davies, J-M. Filhol, C. Kunz, P.F. Lindley, W.G. Stirling (February 2001) 

Bill Stirling and Yves Petroff
Bill Stirling (left) and Yves Petroff (right)

New Director General

Bill Stirling was educated at Edinburgh University and, after a period as a postdoc in Julich, joined the ILL in 1973. He was appointed as Professor of Physics at Keele University in 1987, where he subsequently became Dean and Head of Department. He moved to Liverpool University as Professor of Condensed Matter Physics in 1995 and was Head of Department from 1999. As well as neutron scattering studies of magnetic materials and quantum fluids, his recent research has concentrated on synchrotron magnetic scattering (4f and 5f materials) at the ESRF, NSLS, Daresbury and Hasylab. In collaboration with Malcolm Cooper, Bill Stirling directed the construction of the UK's XMaS CRG beamline. He has been the Director General of the ESRF since January 2001.