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Perimeter Institute Mourns the Passing of Leo Kadanoff


Physics has lost a true pioneer as well as a friend and inspiration to many in Leo Kadanoff, whose insights helped shape our modern understanding of nature. 

Perimeter Institute extends its sincerest condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of physicist Leo Kadanoff, who died this week at 78. 
 
A professor emeritus of physics at the University of Chicago and a Distinguished Visiting Research Chair at Perimeter Institute since 2009, Kadanoff was regarded as a founder of modern statistical physics and theoretical condensed matter physics. 
 
“Leo was one of the greats of 20th century physics,” said Perimeter Institute Director Neil Turok. “He was a polymath, a pioneer, yet as down-to-Earth as one could possibly be. In spite of all the great work he had done, he had such humility and such love of sharing: a fresh mind, always working on something original. He will be sorely missed by us all.”
 
Over his long and distinguished career, Kadanoff earned the Buckley Prize of the American Physical Society (1977), the Wolf Prize in Physics (1980), and the Boltzmann Medal of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (1989). 
 
Kadanoff was a lecturer for the first three years of Perimeter Scholars International (PSI), beginning with the 2009 launch of the graduate program, and he thrived on mentoring curious young physicists. He was also among the first group of Perimeter’s Distinguished Visiting Research Chairs, enabling him to spend a number of weeks or months at the Institute each year to focus on research and collaboration. 
 
Kadanoff made foundational contributions to quantum field theory, particularly our modern understanding of renormalization, and he co-authored a prominent textbook on quantum statistical mechanics. He was a beloved teacher – he earned the University of Chicago’s Quantrell Award for excellence in teaching – and a past president of the American Physical Society. 
 
“Leo was really a central figure in condensed matter physics – his work has been immensely influential,” said Perimeter Faculty member Laurent Freidel. “What is quite remarkable is that he was still so passionate, curious, and enthusiastic. He represented what we aspire to be.”
 
 

About Perimeter Institute

Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement. 
 

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“He was a polymath, a pioneer, yet as down-to-Earth as one could possibly be.”

 

– Perimeter Institute Director Neil Turok