"I went into physics to hang around with the bright kids. I wasn't doing anything else and I didn't want to look dumb, so I thought I'd pretend to be a physicist, just like the others. It was five or ten years after my Ph.D. before I realized I was pretty good."
Leon Lederman's modesty belies the scale of his achievements. Today he is recognized as the world's foremost experimental physicist, one of the very small group who revolutionized our understanding of the subatomic world.
In the late 1950s and early '60s, he participated in the discovery of the K-meson particle and the non-conservation of parity during muon decay. In 1962, with Melvin Schwartz and Jack Steinberger, he designed and performed an experiment that proved the existence of the muon neutrino, an effort that eventually earned the three scientists the Nobel Prize in Physics. He led the efforts which found the first anti-matter particle in 1965 and the bottom quark in 1977. As Director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois he laid the groundwork for discovery of the mysterious top quark. Since stepping down as director, he has continued to write and teach, and has campaigned vigorously to improve science education in the United States.