Physicist, Nobel Laureate And Idaho Resident Leon Lederman Dies

Oct 4, 2018

Nobel laureate Leon Lederman gives a talk in 2008. The famed physicist discovered one of just three types of neutrinos known to exist and led Fermilab, the particle accelerator and laboratory near Chicago, from 1978 to 1989.
Credit Sigma Pi Sigma National Office / Flickr

A famous experimental physicist who lived in eastern Idaho has died. Leon Lederman was awarded the Nobel Prize for his work on subatomic particles.

Lederman directed the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago for over a decade. Near the end of his time at the helm, he was a part of the team to be awarded the Nobel Prize for physics in 1988. They won for discovering muon neutrinos.

“All beams of neutrinos in the world right now are made by accelerators are muon neutrinos,” according to Nigel Lockyer, director of Fermilab. “They’re our workhorse of our research in neutrino physics.”

He describes Lederman as a respected scientist and beloved presence at the lab who always had a joke or good story.

Lockyer says Lederman also had a passion for physics education and took a keen interest in mentoring up-and-coming researchers.

“He just loved interacting with young people,” remembers Lockyer. “I was a young scientist at the time; when I say young I’m in my early 30s at that point. You know, all the people at my level were saying it’s so great that Leon supports us.”

After getting the Nobel Prize in 1988, he used some of the prize money to buy a cabin near Driggs as a vacation retreat. He and his wife moved there fulltime in 2011.

He’s survived by three kids and his wife of almost four decades, Ellen. Leon Lederman was 96-years-old.

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