Fermilab History and Archives Project

Lederman Becomes Director


Director-Designate L. Lederman (R) with Acting Director P. V. Livdahl

Director-Designate L. Lederman (R) with Acting Director P. V. Livdahl

Appointment of Professor Leon M. Lederman of Columbia University as the next director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory was announced jointly on October 19, 1978 by Norman F. Ramsey, president of Universities Research Association, Inc., and John M. Deutch, Director of Energy Research, U.S. Department of Energy.

URA, a corporation formed by 53 universities in the United States and Canada, operates Fermilab for the U.S. Department of Energy.

Because of previous commitments at Columbia University, Dr. Lederman will not take office full time until June 1, 1979. He will serve as Director Designate and intends to take an active role in all major policy questions in the intervening months.

Dr. Lederman is internationally known in high energy physics. He has been associated with Columbia University as a student and faculty member for more than 25 years. He was the Higgins Professor of Physics at Columbia and was director of Nevis Laboratories in Irvington, New York which is the Columbia physics department center for experimental research in high energy physics. With colleagues and students from Nevis, he led an intensive and wide-ranging series of experiments which have provided major advancement in the understanding of weak interactions.

Dr. Lederman participated in many of the most important discoveries in particle physics, including the first observation of the non-conservation of parity in muon decay and the demonstration of the existence of two different kinds of neutrinos.

In 1977, he led the team of experimenters which discovered the Upsilon particle at Fermilab, indicating the existence of one and possibly two new quarks as constituents of the fundamental structure of matter.

Dr. Lederman, a native of New York City, received a B. A. from City College in 1943. Columbia awarded him his M.A. in 1948 and a Ph.D in 1951. He was appointed full professor in 1958 and was director of the Nevis Laboratories from 1968-1979. He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 1965. He has served in numerous professional organizations and in an advisory capacity to government committees.

Philip V. Livdahl continued to serving as Acting Director until June 1, 1979. He was appointed to that post on July 17, 1978.

Robert R. Wllson who served as Director of Fermilab from the time of its inception, continued to participate actively in Fermilab on a joint appointment with the University of Chicago where he held the Peter B. Ritzma Professorship in the College. He continued to work on the design and construction of the Energy Doubler/Saver (also known as the "Tevatron"), a superconducting device first proposed by Dr. Wilson that saved electrical energy and made possible external target experiments up to 1,000 GeV (I TeV), as well as colliding beam experiments up to 2 TeV. These new devices opened new vistas for research at Fermilab.

Source: FermiNews Vol. 1 No. 25, October 26, 1978



Three Fermilab Leaders (L-R); P. V. Livdahl, R. R. Wilson, L. Lederman
Three Fermilab Leaders (L-R); P. V. Livdahl, R. R. Wilson, L. Lederman
P. V, Livdahl (L) presents gift to R. R. Wilson
P. V, Livdahl (L) presents gift to R. R. Wilson
Director-Designate L. Lederman speaks at Director's Meeting
Director-Designate L. Lederman speaks at Director's Meeting
R. R. Wilson (second from left) views photo album gift
R. R. Wilson (second from left) views photo album gift

Hundreds of Fermilab employees and visitors were the first to hear the announcement that physicist-professor Leon Lederman will be Fermilab's next director.

Acting Director Philip V. Livdahl made the announcement Thursday, October 19. The occasion was the first Director's meeting since he assumed the post July 17. The gathering in the Fermilab auditorium also featured an informal tribute to outgoing director R. R. Wilson.

Livdahl announced that Dr. Wilson, Laboratory director from the facility's creation in 1967 to Feb. 9, 1978, will retain Fermilab ties. It was announced that the former director will work on the Energy Doubler/Saver project while holding the Peter B. Ritzma Professorship at the University of Chicago.

On behalf of Fermilab colleagues, Livdahl presented several items to Dr. Wilson. They included; a Laboratory identification card bearing payroll No. 1; and for Dr. Wilson's Doubler work, a set of knee pads, welding gloves and a yellow plastic hard hat labeled "boss."

He said he will carry his new card "with great honor." About the director-designate and acting director, he said, "I am happy we have a great team. They put together strengths in technology, accelerators and administration.

"Leon Lederman," Wilson said, "is the strongest physicist to make use of our facility. This was demonstrated by his great discovery (the new Upsilon particle announced in 1977).

"I can't think of a stronger team to administer this laboratory than Phil and Leon," he said of the new leadership. "That's a great joy and a delight for me. I am happy and flattered to be succeeded in such a strong manner.

"With this kind of direction, I have not the slightest doubt that this Laboratory will go on to become an even stronger place where magnificent discoveries will be made in the future."

After his remarks. Dr. Wilson received a photo album from the Administrative Division containing pictures taken at a dinner-dance.

Source: FermiNews Vol. 1 No. 25, October 26, 1978


Leon M. Lederman
L. Lederman, Fermilab
speaking Oct. 19, 1978

I can't wait to resign. We know now that every resignation gives us two more million dollars.

Yesterday when Phil set up this meeting, I went to the Batavia Public Library and found a book called 'Speeches for New Lab Directors.'

I leafed through it and found a lot of stories and phrases I want to share with you.

There was one that said: 'I stand before you with deep humility in this great institution, fill in blank!

Or, 'Awed as I am by the magnitude of the task before me,' (fill in task) or, 'I need your support, prayers, willingness to work long hours for meager pay,' (get that meager pay); or, 'This laboratory's great because of you, the blank employees,' you've made it great and together we will make it even greater.'

Or, I can only hope that I can live up to the high standards set by my illustrious predecessor Dr. Blank.

The preceding phrases are pompous: they're platitudes, they border on the ... I have to watch my language, but that doesn't mean they aren't true..... The fellow that wrote the book collected these sentiments going all the way back to George Washington who took over 13 labs back east sometime ago.

But that last statement about 'my illustrious predecessor,' that's too much. And, in order to set the record straight, I'd like to read you something that's worth doing. It's a letter to Bob (Wilson) signed by the Users Executive Committee, the customers of the Laboratory.

Excerpts from the letter include:

"(Dr. Wilson) we learned with regret of your decision to leave the directorship at Fermilab."

"... the experimental physicists... recognize and appreciate fully the profound influence you have had in creating a singular laboratory in which physics can be carried out at the forefront of knowledge."

"Any view of the Laboratory demonstrates your own commitment to science in an atmosphere of creativity. Innovative ideas were forged into research tools which do the job better, more efficiently, and at less cost."

"The quality of the atmosphere in which research is done, the special Fermilab style of choosing problems and attacking them, the electric feeling that permeates the air when important goals are being attacked, and that special satisfaction on successful completion are directly due to your influence."

"For the physical plant, for the important tools of research, and for the unique atmosphere of Fermilab, we thank you. In addition, we presume to thank you for the generations of Fermilab experimenters who will do research there in the future. We wish you pleasure and success in your future endeavors, and especially encourage you to continue your important efforts at the Laboratory in bringing the Tevatron to fruition."

The meeting concluded with a question session. Lederman said a deputy director will be appointed.

Source: FermiNews Vol. 1 No. 25, October 26, 1978

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