National Space Grant Distinguished Service Award

Leon Lederman

Dr. Leon Lederman | 2009

Dr. Leon Lederman was honored as the recipient of the 2009 National Space Grant Distinguished Service Award for for his inspiring, lifelong commitment to space exploration. 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 1979 to 1989. He is a founder and Chairman Emeritus of the Teachers Academy for Mathematics and Science, which was active in the professional development of primary school teachers in Chicago from 1990 to 2003.

For more than thirty years Dr. Lederman was 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 1972–79 and served as Director of Nevis Laboratories in Irvington, Columbia's center for experimental research in high-energy physics, from 1962–79. 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.

He has served as President and Chairman 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 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), the Enrico Fermi Prize given by President Clinton in 1993, the Abelson Prize of the AAAS (2000), the AIP Compton Medal for leadership in physics (2005), and the University of Chicago William Benton Medal for Distinguished Public Service (2008). Lederman 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, as well as a Commissioner for the White House Fellows. He has more recently co-chaired the National Science Board’s Commission on 21st Century STEM Education.

Lederman currently serves on over a dozen boards, including those of Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry, the Union of Concerned Scientists, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Council of American Science Writers, and Universities Research Association, Inc. He is a life member of the University of Chicago Physical Sciences Visiting Committee. Dr. Lederman has received honorary degrees, academic appointments and memberships in over 60 institutions, including those in England, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Italy, Israel, Finland, Russia, India and China.