Leon Lederman, Ph.D., moved to Batavia, Illinois 27 years ago in 1979 to become Director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. In 1988 he shared the Nobel Prize for Physics with Melvin Schwartz and Jack Steinberger for his research into the structure and behavior of the smallest of sub-atomic particles. On January 19, 2005, he was given the Outstanding Illinoisan Award by the Illinois State Society of Washington, DC at the Inaugural Gala.
Lederman was born in New York in 1922 and attended City College of New York. He completed his doctoral studies at Columbia University and served as a second lieutenant with the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. He had already made his mark in a challenging career as Director for the NEVIS Lab of the Office of Naval Research at Columbia from 1961 to 1978. In Illinois, he took over directing the research of one of America's most prestigious national laboratories.
The Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory or Fermilab in Batavia is named for Enrico Fermi, who defected from fascist Italy after he took his family in 1938 to Stockholm, Sweden to accept the Nobel Prize for Physics. Only four years later, Fermi was working for the Manhattan Project inside a cement squash court building under the football stands at Stagg Field at the University of Chicago. The atomic age was born in Illinois on December 2, 1942 when Enrico Fermi threw a switch to start the first controlled nuclear chain reaction and then shut it down later.
After he retired from FermiLab in 1989, Dr. Leon Lederman went to the University of Chicago to teach and then a year or so later to the Illinois Institute of Technology where he still teaches. Dr. Lederman was the principal driving force behind the founding of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) in Aurora, Illinois. IMSA is a three-year residential magnet school for gifted students in math and science from all parts of Illinois. Dr. Lederman convinced Gov. Jim Thompson to get behind the creation of the school in 1982. The school was formally created by the Illinois General Assembly in 1985 and opened in 1986 on land that had been part of the north campus of West Aurora High School. The first IMSA class graduated in 1989. Dr. Lederman was the first commencement speaker and remained on the Board of Trustees for several years. He is the author of several hundred books and publications. In January 2005, Dr. Lederman was named an "Outstanding Illinoisan" by the Illinois State Society of Washington, DC.
To learn more about FermiLab in Batavia, click here. To learn more about the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy (IMSA) in Aurora click here. To learn more about the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago click here.