Leo Kadanoff

Last updated
Leo Kadanoff
Leo Kadanoff.jpg
Leo P. Kadanoff
Born(1937-01-14)January 14, 1937
New York City, New York
DiedOctober 26, 2015(2015-10-26) (aged 78)
Alma mater Harvard University
Known for Renormalization group theory of phase transitions
Application of operator algebras in statistical mechanics
Baym–Kadanoff functional
Awards Wolf Prize in Physics (1980)
Elliott Cresson Medal (1986)
Lars Onsager Prize (1998)
Lorentz Medal (2006)
Isaac Newton Medal (2011) [1]
Scientific career
Fields Theoretical physics
Institutions University of Chicago
Doctoral advisor Paul Martin
Doctoral students

Leo Philip Kadanoff (January 14, 1937 – October 26, 2015) was an American physicist. [2] He was a professor of physics (emeritus from 2004) [3] at the University of Chicago and a former President of the American Physical Society (APS). [4] He contributed to the fields of statistical physics, chaos theory, and theoretical condensed matter physics.



Kadanoff was raised in New York City. He received his undergraduate degree and doctorate [5] in physics from Harvard University. After a post-doctorate at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, he joined the physics faculty at the University of Illinois in 1965.

Kadanoff's early research focused upon superconductivity. In the late 1960s, he studied the organization of matter in phase transitions. Kadanoff demonstrated that sudden changes in material properties (such as the magnetization of a magnet or the boiling of a fluid) could be understood in terms of scaling and universality. With his collaborators, he showed how all the experimental data then available for the changes, called second-order phase transitions, could be understood in terms of these two ideas. These same ideas have now been extended to apply to a broad range of scientific and engineering problems, and have found numerous and important applications in urban planning, computer science, hydrodynamics, biology, applied mathematics and geophysics. In recognition of these achievements, he won the Buckley Prize of the American Physical Society (1977), the Wolf Prize in Physics (1980), the 1989 Boltzmann Medal of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, and the 2006 Lorentz Medal.

In 1969 he moved to Brown University. He exploited mathematical analogies between solid state physics and urban growth to shed insights into the latter field, so much so that he contributed substantially to the statewide planning program in Rhode Island. In 1978 he moved to the University of Chicago, where he became the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Distinguished Service Professor of Physics and Mathematics. Much of his work in the second half of his career involved contributions to chaos theory, in both mechanical and fluid systems. He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1982. [6]

He was one of the recipients of the 1999 National Medal of Science, awarded by President Clinton. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and of the American Philosophical Society as well as being a Fellow of the American Physical Society and of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. During the last decade, he has received the Quantrell Award (for excellence in teaching) from the University of Chicago, the Centennial Medal of Harvard University, the Lars Onsager Prize of the American Physical Society, and the Grande Medaille d'Or of the Académie des sciences de l'Institut de France.

His textbook with Gordon Baym, Quantum Statistical Mechanics ( ISBN   020141046X), is a prominent text in the field and has been widely translated.

With Leo Irakliotis, Kadanoff established the Center for Presentation of Science at the University of Chicago.

In June 2013, it was stated that anonymous donors had provided a $3.5 million gift to establish the Leo Kadanoff Center for Theoretical Physics at the University of Chicago. [7] He died after complications from an illness on October 26, 2015. [8]

Publications (selection)

Related Research Articles

Renormalization Process of assuring meaningful mathematical results in quantum field theory and related disciplines

Renormalization is a collection of techniques in quantum field theory, the statistical mechanics of fields, and the theory of self-similar geometric structures, that are used to treat infinities arising in calculated quantities by altering values of quantities to compensate for effects of their self-interactions. But even if it were the case that no infinities arose in loop diagrams in quantum field theory, it could be shown that renormalization of mass and fields appearing in the original Lagrangian is necessary.

In theoretical physics, the renormalization group (RG) refers to a mathematical apparatus that allows systematic investigation of the changes of a physical system as viewed at different scales. In particle physics, it reflects the changes in the underlying force laws as the energy scale at which physical processes occur varies, energy/momentum and resolution distance scales being effectively conjugate under the uncertainty principle.

Kenneth G. Wilson Nobel prize winning US physicist

Kenneth Geddes "Ken" Wilson was an American theoretical physicist and a pioneer in leveraging computers for studying particle physics. He was awarded the 1982 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on phase transitions—illuminating the subtle essence of phenomena like melting ice and emerging magnetism. It was embodied in his fundamental work on the renormalization group.

History of quantum field theory Wikimedia history article

In particle physics, the history of quantum field theory starts with its creation by Paul Dirac, when he attempted to quantize the electromagnetic field in the late 1920s. Major advances in the theory were made in the 1940s and 1950s, and led to the introduction of renormalized quantum electrodynamics (QED) developed by Richard Feynman. QED was so successful and accurately predictive that efforts were made to apply the same basic concepts for the other forces of nature. By the late 1970s, these efforts successfully utilized gauge theory in the strong nuclear force and weak nuclear force, producing the modern standard model of particle physics.

Jeffrey Goldstone is a British theoretical physicist and an emeritus physics faculty member at the MIT Center for Theoretical Physics.

Daniel Harry Friedan is an American theoretical physicist and one of three children of the feminist author and activist Betty Friedan. He is a professor at Rutgers University currently.

Emil John Martinec is an American string theorist, a physics professor at the Enrico Fermi Institute at the University of Chicago, and director of the Kadanoff Center for Theoretical Physics. He was part of a group at Princeton University that developed heterotic string theory in 1985.

Curtis Callan American physicist

Curtis Gove Callan Jr. is a theoretical physicist and a professor at Princeton University. He has conducted research in gauge theory, string theory, instantons, black holes, strong interactions, and many other topics. He was awarded the Sakurai Prize in 2000 and the Dirac Medal in 2004.

Michael Ellis Fisher is an English physicist, as well as chemist and mathematician, known for his many seminal contributions to statistical physics, including but not restricted to the theory of phase transitions and critical phenomena.

Robert Wald American gravitational physicist

Robert M. Wald is an American theoretical physicist who studies gravitation. His research interests include general relativity, black holes, and quantum gravity. He is also a science communicator and textbook author.

Louise Ann Dolan is an American mathematical physicist and professor of physics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She does research in theoretical particle physics, gauge theories, gravity, and string theory, and is generally considered to be one of the foremost experts worldwide in this field. Her work is at the forefront of particle physics today.

Hirosi Ooguri japanese physicist

Hirosi Ooguri is a theoretical physicist working on quantum field theory, quantum gravity, superstring theory, and their interfaces with mathematics. He is Fred Kavli Professor of Theoretical Physics and Mathematics and the Founding Director of the Walter Burke Institute for Theoretical Physics at California Institute of Technology. He is also the Director of the Kavli Institute for the Physics and Mathematics at the University of Tokyo and was the President of the Aspen Center for Physics in Colorado.

Keith Allen Brueckner was an American theoretical physicist who made important contributions in several areas of physics, including many-body theory in condensed matter physics, and laser fusion.

Ramamurti Shankar is the Josiah Willard Gibbs Professor of Physics at Yale University, in New Haven, Connecticut.

John Lawrence CardyFRS is a British-American theoretical physicist at the University of California, Berkeley. He is best known for his work in theoretical condensed matter physics and statistical mechanics, and in particular for research on critical phenomena and two-dimensional conformal field theory.

Franz Joachim Wegner is emeritus professor for theoretical physics at the University of Heidelberg.

Pier Gerard "Peter" Bouwknegt is Professor of Theoretical Physics and Mathematics at the Australian National University (ANU), and Deputy Director of their Mathematical Sciences Institute. He is an adjunct professor at University of Adelaide.

Ian Keith Affleck is a Canadian physicist specializing in condensed matter physics. He is Killam University Professor, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of British Columbia.

Alexander Arkadyevich Migdal scientist

Alexander Arkadyevich Migdal is a Russian-American physicist and entrepreneur, formerly at Landau Institute for Theoretical Physics, Space Research Institute, Princeton University, ViewPoint Corp, Magic Works LLC, and now at Migdal Research LLC.

G. Peter Lepage is a Canadian American theoretical physicist and an academic administrator. He was the Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell University from 2003 to 2013.


  1. "Honors by Faculty". uchicago.edu. Archived from the original on 2011-06-13.
  2. Brenner, Michael P.; Nagel, Sidney R. (April 2016). "Obituary. Leo Philip Kadanoff". Physics Today. 69 (4): 69–70. Bibcode:2016PhT....69d..69B. doi:10.1063/pt.3.3146.
  3. "Faculty Directory". uchicago.edu. Archived from the original on 2011-06-13.
  4. "History of the APS Presidential Line" . Retrieved 23 June 2011.
  5. "Theoretical Condensed Matter Physics". uchicago.edu. Archived from the original on 2011-06-18.
  6. "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter K" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved June 21, 2011.
  7. "Anonymous gift of $3.5 million to support Leo Kadanoff Center for Theoretical Physics". June 11, 2013.
  8. "Leo Kadanoff Obituary - Skokie, IL - ChicagoTribune.com". ChicagoTribune.com.