Electron accelerators, originally developed for nuclear and high energy physics research, have become by far the most intense infrared, ultraviolet and X-ray sources in the world. The increase in availability of these sources (there are now about 60 in operation around the world) has had a revolutionary effect on many branches of basic and applied research resulting in a major impact on science and society in developing countries as well as in technologically well-developed countries. Synchrotron radiation facilities in developing countries have produced hundreds of PhD students who did not have to leave their country, and they have attracted dozens of mid-career scientists to return to their country of origin, where they can continue to perform frontier research. In addition, scientists in these developing countries are able to use intense synchrotron radiation to address local environmental and biomedical issues and concerns. This paper presents: 1) a brief historical account of the development of synchrotron radiation sources from the first to the fourth generation; 2) a summary of the properties of synchrotron radiation; 3) an overview of synchrotron radiation facilities in developing countries; 4) a description of the UNESCO-sponsored Synchrotron-light for Experimental Science and Applications in the Middle East (SESAME) project which is constructing a regional, international third-generation synchrotron radiation research centre in the Middle East in close analogy to CERN.
Keywords: nuclear accelerator technology, intense X-rays, synchrotron radiation, SESAME project, electron accelerators