In Memoriam: Professor Leon Lidofsky (1924 - 2016)

1924 - 2016
1924 - 2016
1924 - 2016

Following service in the United States Navy during World War II, Leon Lidofsky completed his undergraduate education at Tufts University and then pursued doctoral studies at Columbia, earning a Ph.D. in Physics in 1952. In 1960, he joined the faculty of the School of Engineering and Applied Science where he was a founding member of the Division of Nuclear Science and Engineering as well as one of the nine founding members of the Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics. In addition, he was a founding member of the graduate Program in Medical Physics. 

Professor Lidofsky’s fields of specialization included nuclear physics, radiation transport and shielding, application of computers to nuclear research, and nuclear safety. He later extended the reach of his research to include radiation imaging and other applications of radiation in medicine. Of the thirty doctoral dissertations he sponsored, nine were directly in or related to the field of medical physics.

Professor Lidofsky taught numerous courses, including Radiation Shielding, Computer Techniques in Radiation Shielding, Nuclear Physics, Nuclear Engineering Design, Environmental Aspects of Nuclear Power, and Controlled Fusion Reactor Technology. He established the Gussman Computer Lab, and was the principal investigator of an IBM project to develop a school-wide undergraduate course, Engineering Design with Interactive Computer Graphics. In 1988, he received the Great Teacher Award, an award he valued greatly. The award citation reads in part, "The Columbia community is proud to have you as one of its most insightful and compassionate faculty members."

In addition to his service to the University, Professor Lidofsky served on government committees at the NRC and the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission. He was a consultant for APS Study Groups, Ebasco Services, IBM, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Schlumberger Doll, and The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, among others. He was a fellow of the American Physical Society, a visiting research fellow at the University of Amsterdam, and a member of the American Nuclear Society. He also served as a media expert on questions of nuclear safety.

At Professor Lidofsky’s retirement dinner, held in November 1992, his doctoral thesis advisor, Chien-Shiung Wu, Professor Emeritus of Physics, was the guest speaker; his colleagues praised his distinguished career in nuclear science; his students remembered him as a brilliant and dedicated teacher who was always available to help with any professional or personal matters. As one of his protégés wrote, "All the grad students I knew adored him, in fact everybody did. He was always around, always available to anybody for anything." In 2004, his Columbia “family,” together with his wife Elly, gathered to celebrate his 80th birthday. We all remember him, and we will miss him.

Burlington Free Press Obituary

"Leon Lidofsky died on 12 September 2016 in Shelburne, VT. He was born in Norwich CT on 8 November 1924 to Philip and Anna Lidofsky. Following service in the United States Navy during World War II, he completed his undergraduate education at Tufts University and pursued graduate studies at Columbia University. After receipt of his Ph.D., he joined the Columbia faculty, where he had a long and distinguished career in Nuclear Science. His passion for learning was matched by his patience for those who may not have shared his gifts of brilliance. In recognition of his achievements, he received the Columbia University Great Teacher Award in 1988. He moved in 2011 to Vermont with his wife Eleanor, to whom he was married for 66 years. He is predeceased by his wife Eleanor, and sisters Sarah Beane, Celia Greenberg, and Ida Lacy. He is survived by sons Bart Lidofsky (wife Michele) of New Milford, NJ and Steven Lidofsky (wife Elisabeth Barfod) of South Burlington, VT, and grandchildren Anna Lidofsky and Benjamin Lidofsky, who reside, respectively, in South Burlington, VT and Columbus, OH. In addition to his family, he leaves behind a community of friends in New York City, Woodstock, NY, and at the Residence at Shelburne Bay. He has touched the lives of generations of students, and he will be missed deeply. A memorial gathering is planned for the spring of 2017. Arrangements are by Boucher and Pritchard Funeral Directors."

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