Leon M. Lederman

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Biography written in 1996
Leon M. Lederman, internationally renowned high-energy physicist, is Director Emeritus of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois and holds an appointment as Pritzker Professor of Science at Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago. Dr. Lederman served as Chairman of the State of Illinois Governor's Science Advisory Committee. He is a founder and the inaugural Resident Scholar at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy, a 3-year residential public high school for the gifted. Dr. Lederman was the Director of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory from June 1, 1979 to June 30, 1989. He is a founder and Chairman of the Teachers Academy for Mathematics and Science, active in the professional development of primary school teachers in Chicago.

For more than thirty years Dr. Lederman has been associated with Columbia University in New York City, having been a student and a faculty member there. Professor Lederman was the Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics at Columbia from 1972­79 and served as Director of Nevis Laboratories in Irvington, Columbia's center for experimental research in high-energy physics, from 1962­79. With colleagues and students from Nevis he led an extensive and wide-ranging series of experiments that provided major advances in the understanding of particles and interactions, thus contributing significantly to what is known as the "standard model."

Major experiments included the observation of parity violation in decay of pi and mu mesons, the discovery of the long-lived neutral kaon, the discovery of two kinds of neutrinos and the discovery of the upsilon particle, the first evidence for the bottom quark. His research was based upon experiments principally using the particle accelerators at Nevis Labs, Brookhaven and Fermilab, although he has carried out research at CERN (Geneva), Berkeley, Cornell and Rutherford (England). His publications exceed 300 papers and he has sponsored the research of 52 graduate students.

In 1990 he was elected President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest scientific organization in the U.S. He is a member of the National Academy of Science; and he has received numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science (1965), the Elliot Cresson Medal of the Franklin Institute (1976), the Wolf Prize in Physics (1982), the Nobel Prize in Physics (1988) and the Enrico Fermi Prize given by President Clinton in 1993. He served as a founding member of the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel of the United States Department of Energy and the International Committee for Future Accelerators.

In addition to those mentioned above, Lederman serves on the Board of the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry, the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, the Council of American Science Writers, the Weizmann Institute in Israel and the University Research Association Board. Lederman has received honorary degrees and memberships in over 30 institutions, including those in England, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Italy, Israel, Finland and Russia.

Introductory Comments: Elementary Particles

The world we live in is exceedingly complicated. A scientist, trying to understand how the world works, notes the almost infinite variety of things: air, water, earth, rock, hard metals, mist, clouds and so on.

The earliest scientists proposed a strategy for understanding everything. In 480 B.C. the Greek philosopher Democritus proposed that all things were made of "atoms." These "atoms" were too small to see but in their ceaseless motions they could collide and accumulate. Democritus' ideas were, of course, primitive but essentially correct.

Today, we know that all matter is made of atoms, and that atoms are complex structures made of smaller and more elementary objects. To understand the most fundamental particles and the forces that cause them to cluster and interact to build up the things we can see and touch is, then, the "first science." All other sciences - materials science, chemistry, biology - ultimately must rest on the basic laws of nature that govern the behavior of the elementary particles.