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Leon Max Lederman was an American experimental physicist who received the Wolf Prize in Physics in 1982 and the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1988.
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.
An accomplished scientific writer, he became known for his 1993 book The God Particle establishing the importance of the Higgs boson.
In 2012, he was awarded the Vannevar Bush Award for his extraordinary contributions to understanding the basic forces and particles of nature.
Lederman was born in New York City, New York, the son of Russian Jewish immigrants Minna (née Rosenberg) and Morris Lederman, a laundryman. He graduated from the James Monroe High School in the South Bronx, and received his bachelor's degree from the City College of New York in 1943.
When he joined the United States Army with a B.S. in Chemistry, he was determined to become a physicist following his service. After three years in the U.S. Army as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Signal Corps during World War II, he enrolled at Columbia University and received a Ph.D. from Columbia University in 1951.
After receiving his Ph.D and then becoming a faculty member at Columbia University he was promoted to full professor in 1958 as Eugene Higgins Professor of Physics. In 1960, on leave from Columbia, he spent some 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 to teach 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 1991, Lederman became President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
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 May 2015 his Nobel Prize gold medal was sold for US$765,000. According to his wife Ellen, they faced the uncertainty of medical bills related to his dementia diagnosis.
Dr. Lederman was an atheist. His first wife, Florence Gordon Lederman, died in 1990. He married Ellen Carr in 1981, and toward the end of his life they lived in Driggs, Idaho. In addition to her, he is survived by three children from his first marriage: two daughters, Rena Lederman, a professor of anthropology at Princeton, and Rachel Lederman, a civil rights lawyer; and a son, Jess, a writer and the creator of a website devoted to the works of the Scottish novelist, poet and minister George MacDonald, as well as five grandchildren.
Lederman died of complications from dementia on October 3, 2018 at a care facility in Rexburg, Idaho, at the age of 96.
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