Science Education for the 21st Century

NJIT Technology and Society Forum Series

Leon M. Lederman
Director Emeritus of Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
Founder and Resident Scholar at the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

Wed, April 20, 2005


The United States has a problem educating its graduates for life in the 21st century. Dr. Lederman will make the case that our 19th century schools, huddled protectively around their 100-year-old curricula, produce science illiterates who populate our law schools, legislatures, executive branches, and newspapers. This is a prescription for disaster. Dr. Lederman will propose some solutions to this problem.


Leon Lederman, who received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1988, studied chemistry at City College and then went to Columbia Univ. Graduate School where he studied under I.I. Rabi. While at Columbia he joined the NEVIS project doing research with their new 385 MeV Synchrocyclotron. He became Director of the Nevis Labs in 1961 and held this position until 1978. He has been a guest scientist at many labs but did the bulk of his research at Nevis, Brookhaven, CERN and Fermilab. During his academic career at Columbia (1951 - 1979) he had 50 Ph.D. students, 14 of whom are professors of physics, one is a university president and the rest with few exceptions, are physicists at national labs, in government or in industry (he claims that none are in jail). In 1979, he became Director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory where he supervised the construction and utilization of the first superconducting synchrotron, now the highest energy accelerator in the world. In 1989 he was appointed Science Adviser to the Governor of Illinois. He helped to organize a Teachers' Academy for Mathematics and Science, designed to retrain 20,000 teachers in the Chicago Public Schools in the art of teaching science and mathematics. In 1991 he became President of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Dr. Lederman received many honors and awards, beside the Nobel Prize, including fellowships from the Ford, Guggenheim, Ernest Kepton Adams and National Science Foundations, the National Medal of Science (1965), the Wolf Prize for Physics (1982) and other awards. He is a founding member of the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel (to AEC, DOE) and the International Committee on Future Accelerators.

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