Leon M. Lederman
Leon Max Lederman
July 15, 1922
New York City, New York, U.S.
|Died||October 3, 2018 (aged 96)|
Rexburg, Idaho, U.S.
|Known for||Seminal contributions to neutrinos, bottom quark|
|Spouse(s)||Florence Gordon (divorced)|
|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)
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
Illinois Institute of Technology
|Doctoral advisor||Eugene T. Booth|
Leon Max Lederman (July 15, 1922 – October 3, 2018) was an American experimental physicist who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1988, along with Melvin Schwartz and Jack Steinberger, for research on neutrinos. He also received the Wolf Prize in Physics in 1982, along with Martin Lewis Perl, for research on quarks and leptons. 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, where he was Resident Scholar Emeritus from 2012 until his death in 2018.
An accomplished scientific writer, he became known for his 1993 book The God Particle establishing the popularity of the term for the Higgs boson.
Lederman was born in New York City, New York, to Morris and Minna (Rosenberg) Lederman. His parents were Ukrainian-Jewish immigrants from Kyiv and Odessa. Lederman graduated from James Monroe High School in the South Bronx, and received his bachelor's degree from the City College of New York in 1943.
He enlisted in the United States Army during World War II, intending to become a physicist after his service.: 17 Following his discharge in 1946, he enrolled at Columbia University's graduate school, receiving his Ph.D. in 1951.
Lederman became a faculty member at Columbia University, and he was promoted to full professor in 1958 as Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics.: 796 In 1960, on leave from Columbia, he spent time at CERN in Geneva as a Ford Foundation Fellow. He took an extended leave of absence from Columbia in 1979 to become director of Fermilab. Resigning from Columbia (and retiring from Fermilab) in 1989, he then taught briefly at the University of Chicago. He then moved to the physics department of the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he served as the Pritzker Professor of Science. In 1992, Lederman served as President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Lederman, rare for a Nobel Prize winning professor, took it upon himself to teach physics to non-physics majors at The University of Chicago.
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. 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. Lederman was also one of the main proponents of the "Physics First" movement. 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.
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. 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. Lederman was also a member of the USA Science and Engineering Festival's advisory board.
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. 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. These helped establish his reputation as among the top particle physicists.
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. 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.
As the director of Fermilab, Lederman was a prominent supporter of the Superconducting Super Collider project, which was endorsed around 1983, and was a major proponent and advocate throughout its lifetime. Also at Fermilab, he oversaw the construction of the Tevatron, for decades the world's highest-energy particle collider. 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. The increasingly moribund project was finally shelved that same year after some $2 billion of expenditures. 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.: 87 
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". 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). In 1995, he received the Chicago History Museum "Making History Award" for Distinction in Science Medicine and Technology.
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". He was known for his sense of humor in the physics community.: 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. He answered questions such as "What is the strong force?" and "What happened before the Big Bang?".
Lederman was an atheist. 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.
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. He died of complications from dementia on October 3, 2018, at a care facility in Rexburg, Idaho at the age of 96.
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
Lederman also planned what he saw as Fermilab's next machine, the Superconducting SuperCollider (SSC)
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.
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 
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
"Physics isn't a religion. If it were, we'd have a much easier time raising money." - Leon Lederman
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!