Nobel Prize winner Leon Lederman, who was the first particle physicist to use the term “God particle,” died this week in his Idaho home at the age of 96.
“[Lederman] made extraordinary contributions to our understanding of the basic forces and particles of nature,” University of Chicago professor Michael Turner said in a statement. “But he was also a leader far ahead of his time in science education, in serving as an ambassador for science around the world, and transferring benefits of basic research to the national good.”
As the Associated Press reported, Lederman won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1988, along with fellow scientists Melvin Schwartz and Jack Steingerger, for discovering the muon neutrino — proving that more than one neutrino exists. Lederman’s 1993 book, The God Particle, explored the possibility of a particle that could explain the origins of the universe. At the time, Lederman was the director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in the Chicago, Illinois area.
Such a particle — the Higgs boson — was discovered in 2013. Peter Higgs and François Englert discovered the Higgs boson particle through the use of the large hadron collider at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN), earning them the Nobel Prize in physics that year. In an article on Higgs and Englert’s Nobel Prize, the Forbes Leadership Forum wrote that “a small plague ought to go to Lederman” for his work in 1988, which they argue paved the way for the discovery of the Higgs boson.
Following his Nobel Prize win, Lederman bought a vacation home in Idaho, according to the AP. His wife, Ellen told the outlet that he started developing memory problems, leading to expensive medical bills. He was forced to auction off his Nobel Prize medal in 2015 for $765,002 in order to pay down his medical debt.
“I’m shocked it sold at all, Ellen Lederman said after the auction. “We would let little kids play with it and have their picture taken.”
Healthcare in the United States remains the most expensive in the world, with Americans spending thousands more dollars per person on healthcare than any other developed country. A 2015 CNN report calculated that the average retiree couple can expect to pay upwards of $266,000 on Medicare premiums alone.
Jake Shepherd is a freelance writer from Cleveland, Ohio. He enjoys poring through financial disclosure statements, spirited debate, and good scotch. He remains eternally optimistic about the Browns. Email him at jake.d.shepherd.21 (at) hotmail (dot) com.