Leon M. Lederman

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Leon M. Lederman
HD.3F.001 (11086394836).jpg
Lederman in 1988
Leon Max Lederman

(1922-07-15)July 15, 1922
DiedOctober 3, 2018(2018-10-03) (aged 96)
Nationality United States
Education City College of New York (B.A.)
Columbia University (Ph.D.)
Known forSeminal contributions to neutrinos, bottom quark
Spouse(s)Florence Gordon (divorced)
Ellen Carr (until his death) [1]
Awards Nobel Prize in Physics (1988)
Wolf Prize in Physics (1982)
National Medal of Science (1965)
Vannevar Bush Award (2012)
William Procter Prize for Scientific Achievement (1991)
Scientific career
Fields Physics
Institutions Columbia University
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
Illinois Institute of Technology

Leon Max Lederman (July 15, 1922 – October 3, 2018) was an American experimental physicist who received the Wolf Prize in Physics in 1982, along with Martin Lewis Perl, for their research on quarks and leptons, and the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1988, along with Melvin Schwartz and Jack Steinberger, for their research on neutrinos. Lederman was Director Emeritus of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, Illinois. He founded the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, in Aurora, Illinois in 1986, and was Resident Scholar Emeritus there from 2012 until his death in 2018. [2] [3]

The Wolf Prize in Physics is awarded once a year by the Wolf Foundation in Israel. It is one of the six Wolf Prizes established by the Foundation and awarded since 1978; the others are in Agriculture, Chemistry, Mathematics, Medicine and Arts.

Martin Lewis Perl American scientist

Martin Lewis Perl was an American chemical engineer and physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1995 for his discovery of the tau lepton.

Quark Elementary particle

A quark is a type of elementary particle and a fundamental constituent of matter. Quarks combine to form composite particles called hadrons, the most stable of which are protons and neutrons, the components of atomic nuclei. Due to a phenomenon known as color confinement, quarks are never directly observed or found in isolation; they can be found only within hadrons, which include baryons and mesons. For this reason, much of what is known about quarks has been drawn from observations of hadrons.


An accomplished scientific writer, he became known for his 1993 book The God Particle establishing the importance of the Higgs boson.

<i>The God Particle</i> (book) book

The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? is a 1993 popular science book by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon M. Lederman and science writer Dick Teresi.

Higgs boson Elementary particle related to the Higgs field giving particles mass

The Higgs boson is an elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics, produced by the quantum excitation of the Higgs field, one of the fields in particle physics theory. It is named after physicist Peter Higgs, who in 1964, along with five other scientists, proposed the mechanism which suggested the existence of such a particle. Its existence was confirmed in 2012 by the ATLAS and CMS collaborations based on collisions in the LHC at CERN.

Early life

Lederman was born in New York City, New York, to Morris and Minna (Rosenberg) Lederman. [4] His parents were Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants from Kiev and Odessa. [5] Lederman graduated from James Monroe High School in the South Bronx, [6] and received his bachelor's degree from the City College of New York in 1943. [7]

Kiev City with special status in Kiev City Municipality, Ukraine

Kiev or Kyiv is the capital and most populous city of Ukraine, located in the north-central part of the country on the Dnieper. The population in July 2015 was 2,887,974, making Kiev the 7th most populous city in Europe.

Odessa Place in Odessa Oblast, Ukraine

Odessa is the third most populous city of Ukraine and a major tourism center, seaport and transport hub located on the northwestern shore of the Black Sea. It is also the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast and a multiethnic cultural center. Odessa is sometimes called the "pearl of the Black Sea", the "South Capital", and "Southern Palmyra". Before the Tsarist establishment of Odessa, an ancient Greek settlement existed at its location as elsewhere along the northwestern Black Sea coast. A more recent Tatar settlement was also founded at the location by Hacı I Giray, the Khan of Crimea in 1440 that was named after him as "Hacıbey". After a period of Lithuanian Grand Duchy control, Hacibey and surroundings became part of the domain of the Ottomans in 1529 and remained there until the empire's defeat in the Russo-Turkish War of 1792.

South Bronx area of the Bronx borough in New York City

The South Bronx is an area of the New York City borough of the Bronx. As the name implies, the area comprises neighborhoods in the southern part of the Bronx, such as Concourse, Mott Haven, Melrose, and Port Morris. The South Bronx is known for its hip hop culture and graffiti.

He next enlisted in the United States Army [7] during World War II, intending to become a physicist after his service. [8] :17 Following his discharge in 1946, he enrolled at Columbia University's graduate school, receiving his Ph.D. in 1951. [9]

United States Army Land warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Army (USA) is the land warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces. It is one of the seven uniformed services of the United States, and is designated as the Army of the United States in the United States Constitution. As the oldest and most senior branch of the U.S. military in order of precedence, the modern U.S. Army has its roots in the Continental Army, which was formed to fight the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)—before the United States of America was established as a country. After the Revolutionary War, the Congress of the Confederation created the United States Army on 3 June 1784 to replace the disbanded Continental Army. The United States Army considers itself descended from the Continental Army, and dates its institutional inception from the origin of that armed force in 1775.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

Columbia University Private Ivy League research university in New York City

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research university in Upper Manhattan, New York City. Established in 1754, Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in New York and the fifth-oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. It is one of nine colonial colleges founded prior to the Declaration of Independence, seven of which belong to the Ivy League. It has been ranked by numerous major education publications as among the top ten universities in the world.

Academic career

Lederman became a faculty member at Columbia University, and he was promoted to full professor in 1958 as Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics. [8] :796 In 1960, on leave from Columbia, he spent time at CERN in Geneva as a Ford Foundation Fellow. [10] He took an extended leave of absence from Columbia in 1979 to become director of Fermilab. [11] Resigning from Columbia (and retiring from Fermilab) in 1989, he then taught briefly at the University of Chicago. [12] He then moved to the physics department of the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he served as the Pritzker Professor of Science. [12] In 1992, Lederman served as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. [13] [14]

Eugene Higgins was the rich heir to a carpet-making business who was a bon viveur, sportsman and philanthropist. He was a bachelor and when he died in 1948, his estate went to establish the Higgins Trust which was, at that time, the eleventh largest of its kind in the USA. The funds from this trust endowed chairs at Columbia, Harvard, Princeton, and Yale universities.

CERN International organization which operates the worlds largest particle physics laboratory

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, is a European research organization that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world. Established in 1954, the organization is based in a northwest suburb of Geneva on the Franco–Swiss border and has 23 member states. Israel is the only non-European country granted full membership. CERN is an official United Nations Observer.

Ford Foundation private foundation based in New York City

The Ford Foundation is an American private foundation with the mission of advancing human welfare. Created in 1936 by Edsel Ford and Henry Ford, it was originally funded by a US$25,000 gift from Edsel Ford. By 1947, after the death of the two founders, the foundation owned 90% of the non-voting shares of the Ford Motor Company. Between 1955 and 1974, the foundation sold its Ford Motor Company holdings and now plays no role in the automobile company. Ahead of the foundation selling its Ford Motor Company holdings, in 1949 Henry Ford II created the Ford Motor Company Fund, a separate corporate foundation which to this day serves as the philanthropic arm of the Ford Motor Company and is not associated with the foundation. For years it was the largest, and one of the most influential foundations in the world, with global reach and special interests in economic empowerment, education, human rights, democracy, the creative arts, and Third World development.

Lederman served as President of the Board of Sponsors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and at the time of his death was Chair Emeritus. [15] He also served on the board of trustees for Science Service, now known as Society for Science & the Public, from 1989 to 1992, and was a member of the JASON defense advisory group. [16] Lederman was also one of the main proponents of the "Physics First" movement. [17] Also known as "Right-side Up Science" and "Biology Last," this movement seeks to rearrange the current high school science curriculum so that physics precedes chemistry and biology. [17]

<i>Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists</i> academic journal

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is a nonprofit organization concerning science and global security issues resulting from accelerating technological advances that have negative consequences for humanity. The Bulletin publishes content at both a free-access website and a bi-monthly, nontechnical academic journal. The organization has been publishing continuously since 1945, when it was founded by former Manhattan Project scientists as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists of Chicago immediately following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The organization is also the keeper of the internationally recognized Doomsday Clock, the time of which is announced each January.

Society for Science & the Public (SSP), formerly known as Science Service, is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of science, through its science education programs and publications, including the bi-weekly Science News magazine and the free-accessible online Science News for Students.

JASON is an independent group of elite scientists which advises the United States government on matters of science and technology, mostly of a sensitive nature. The group was first created as a way to get a younger generation of scientists—that is, not the older Los Alamos and MIT Radiation Laboratory alumni—involved in advising the government. It was established in 1960 and has somewhere between 30 and 60 members. Its work first gained public notoriety as the source of the Vietnam War's McNamara Line electronic barrier. Although most of its research is military-focused, JASON also produced early work on the science of global warming and acid rain. Current unclassified research interests include health informatics, cyberwarfare, and renewable energy.

Lederman was an early supporter of Science Debate 2008, an initiative to get the then-candidates for president, Barack Obama and John McCain, to debate the nation's top science policy challenges. [18] In October 2010, Lederman participated in the USA Science and Engineering Festival's Lunch with a Laureate program where middle and high school students engaged in an informal conversation with a Nobel Prize-winning scientist over a brown-bag lunch. [19] Lederman was also a member of the USA Science and Engineering Festival's Advisory Board. [20]

Academic work

In 1956, Lederman worked on parity violation in weak interactions. R. L. Garwin, Leon Lederman, and R. Weinrich modified an existing cyclotron experiment, and they immediately verified the parity violation. [21] They delayed publication of their results until after Wu's group was ready, and the two papers appeared back to back in the same physics journal. Among his achievements are the discovery of the muon neutrino in 1962 and the bottom quark in 1977. [22] These helped establish his reputation as among the top particle physicists. [22]

In 1977, a group of physicists, the E288 experiment team, led by Lederman announced that a particle with a mass of about 6.0 GeV was being produced by the Fermilab particle accelerator. [22] After taking further data, the group discovered that this particle did not actually exist, and the "discovery" was named "Oops-Leon" as a pun on the original name and Lederman's first name. [23]

As the director of Fermilab, Lederman was a prominent supporter [24] [25] of the Superconducting Super Collider project, which was endorsed around 1983, and was a major proponent and advocate throughout its lifetime. [26] [27] Lederman later wrote his 1993 popular science book The God Particle: If the Universe Is the Answer, What Is the Question? – which sought to promote awareness of the significance of such a project – in the context of the project's last years and the changing political climate of the 1990s. [28] The increasingly moribund project was finally shelved that same year after some $2 billion of expenditures. [24] In The God Particle he wrote, "The history of atomism is one of reductionism – the effort to reduce all the operations of nature to a small number of laws governing a small number of primordial objects" while stressing the importance of the Higgs boson. [8] :87 [29]

In 1988, Lederman received the Nobel Prize for Physics along with Melvin Schwartz and Jack Steinberger "for the neutrino beam method and the demonstration of the doublet structure of the leptons through the discovery of the muon neutrino". [2] Lederman also received the National Medal of Science (1965), the Elliott Cresson Medal for Physics (1976), the Wolf Prize for Physics (1982) and the Enrico Fermi Award (1992). [22] In 1995, he received the Chicago History Museum "Making History Award" for Distinction in Science Medicine and Technology. [30]

Personal life

Lederman in May 2007 Leon M. Lederman.jpg
Lederman in May 2007

Lederman's best friend during his college years, Martin J. Klein, convinced him of "the splendors of physics during a long evening over many beers". [31] He was known for his sense of humor in the physics community. [8] :17 On August 26, 2008 Lederman was video-recorded by a science focused organization called ScienCentral, on the street in a major U.S. city, answering questions from passersby. [32] He answered questions such as "What is the strong force?" and "What happened before the Big Bang?". [32]

Despite his Jewish background, Lederman was an atheist. [33] [34] He had three children with his first wife, Florence Gordon, and toward the end of his life lived with his second wife, Ellen (Carr), in Driggs, Idaho. [6] [35]

Lederman began to suffer from memory loss in 2011 and, after struggling with medical bills, he had to sell his Nobel medal for $765,000 to cover the costs in 2015. [36] He died of complications from dementia on October 3, 2018, at a care facility in Rexburg, Idaho at the age of 96. [37] [22]

Honors and awards


See also

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  1. Charles W. Carey (14 May 2014). American Scientists. Infobase Publishing. p. 223. ISBN   978-1-4381-0807-0.
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  3. "Fermilab History and Archives Project–Golden Books – An Eclectic Reader on Leon M. Lederman". history.fnal.gov. Fermilab. 2012. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
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  8. 1 2 3 4 Lederman, Leon; Teresi, Dick (1993). The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN   9780618711680.
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  21. Garwin, R. L.; Lederman, L. M.; Weinrich, M. (1957). "Observations of the Failure of Conservation of Parity and Charge Conjugation in Meson Decays: The Magnetic Moment of the Free Muon". Physical Review . 105 (4): 1415–1417. Bibcode:1957PhRv..105.1415G. doi:10.1103/PhysRev.105.1415.
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 Johnson, George (2018-10-03). "Leon Lederman, 96, Explorer (and Explainer) of the Subatomic World, Dies". The New York Times.
  23. J. Yoh (1998). "The Discovery of the b Quark at Fermilab in 1977: The Experiment Coordinator's Story" (PDF). AIP Conference Proceedings . 424: 29–42.
  24. 1 2 ASCHENBACH, JOY (1993-12-05). "No Resurrection in Sight for Moribund Super Collider : Science: Global financial partnerships could be the only way to salvage such a project. But some feel that Congress delivered a fatal blow". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved 16 January 2013. Disappointed American physicists are anxiously searching for a way to salvage some science from the ill-fated superconducting super collider ... "We have to keep the momentum and optimism and start thinking about international collaboration," said Leon M. Lederman, the Nobel Prize-winning physicist who was the architect of the super collider plan
  25. Lillian Hoddeson; Adrienne Kolb (2011). "Vision to reality: From Robert R. Wilson's frontier to Leon M. Lederman's Fermilab". Physics in Perspective. 5 (1): 67–86. arXiv: 1110.0486 . Bibcode:2003PhP.....5...67H. doi:10.1007/s000160300003. Lederman also planned what he saw as Fermilab's next machine, the Superconducting SuperCollider (SSC)
  26. Abbott, Charles (20 June 1987). "Super competition for superconducting super collider". Illinois Issues. p. 18. Retrieved 1 Oct 2016. Lederman, who considers himself an unofficial propagandist for the super collider, said the SSC could reverse the physics brain drain in which bright young physicists have left America to work in Europe and elsewhere.
  27. Kevles, Dan. "Good-bye to the SSC" (PDF). California Institute of Technology "Engineering & Science". 58 no. 2 (Winter 1995): 16–25. Retrieved 16 January 2013. Lederman, one of the principal spokesmen for the SSC, was an accomplished high-energy experimentalist who had made Nobel Prize-winning contributions to the development of the Standard Model during the 1960s (although the prize itself did not come until 1988). He was a fixture at congressional hearings on the collider, an unbridled advocate of its merits []
  28. Calder, Nigel (2005). Magic Universe:A Grand Tour of Modern Science. pp. 369–370. ISBN   9780191622359. The possibility that the next big machine would create the Higgs became a carrot to dangle in front of funding agencies and politicians. A prominent American physicist, Leon lederman, advertised the Higgs as The God Particle in the title of a book published in 1993 ...Lederman was involved in a campaign to persuade the US government to continue funding the Superconducting Super Collider... the ink was not dry on Lederman's book before the US Congress decided to write off the billions of dollars already spent
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  33. Dan Falk (2005). "What About God?". Universe on a T-Shirt: The Quest for the Theory of Everything. Arcade Publishing. p. 195. ISBN   9781559707336. "Physics isn't a religion. If it were, we'd have a much easier time raising money." - Leon Lederman
  34. Gogineni, Babu (July 10, 2012). "It's the Atheist Particle, actually". Rationalist Humans. Postnoon News. Retrieved 2 October 2016. Leon Lederman is himself an atheist and he regrets the term, and Peter Higgs who is an atheist too, has expressed his displeasure, but the damage has been done!
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  44. Lederman, Leon M.; Hill, Christopher T. (October 2013). Beyond the God Particle. Prometheus Books. ISBN   9781616148010 . Retrieved 2019-02-26.