Leon Lederman, Nobel-winning physicist who sold his prize to pay for medical expenses, dies at 96


NEW YORK (JTA) — Leon Lederman, a Jewish-American physicist who won a Nobel Prize for his research on subatomic particles — nearly two decades later he sold the prize to pay for medical expenses — has died.

Lederman died Wednesday at a nursing home in Rexburg, Idaho, his wife, Ellen Carr Lederman, told The Associated Press.

In 1966, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded him the National Medal of Science, the highest U.S. government honor for scientific work. Lederman won the 1988 Nobel Prize in Physics with two other Jewish-American scientists, Melvin Schwartz and Jack Steinberger, for discovering the presence of a “ghostlike” particle in the building blocks of matter.

Lederman is credited with coining the nickname the “God particle” for the Higgs Boson subatomic particle, which is believed to give mass to matter.

In 2015, he sold his Nobel Prize for $765,000 in order to pay for medical expenses due to suffering from dementia.

Lederman, a New York native born to Russian Jewish immigrants, served in the U.S. Army for three years during World War II. He then enrolled at Columbia University, where he earned a doctorate and later became a faculty member.

“What he really loved was people, trying to educate them and help them understand what they were doing in science,” his wife told AP.

Recommended from JTA