Harry Lipkin

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Harry Lipkin, 2009

Harry Jeannot Lipkin (born June 16, 1921 in New York City ; † September 15, 2015 in Rechovot , Israel ) was an Israeli theoretical physicist who mainly dealt with nuclear and elementary particle physics.


Lipkin attended high school in Rochester , New York , and studied electrical engineering at Cornell University , where he also took some physics classes from Hans Bethe and Bruno Rossi . He graduated in 1942 (bachelor's degree). During the Second World War , as an engineer, he developed a radar receiver for anti-submarine defense at the MIT Radiation Laboratory . In 1948 he made his master's degree and in 1950 he received his doctorate from Princeton , where he a. a. studied physics with David Bohm , with an experimental work on the relativistic correction of the scattering formulas for electrons and positrons (the correction has a different sign for both ). In Lipkins' own words, it was the first time that an experiment showed that positrons are described by the Dirac equation .

In 1950 he moved to Israel with his wife Malka to become part of the kibbutz movement. Instead of working in agriculture, however, he was sent by the Israeli government to the Commissariat à l'énergie atomique in Saclay, France, in 1953/54 to train in nuclear technology and to help with early plans for the first Israeli nuclear reactor in Dimona (1956 to 1958 he was an advisor to the IAEC ). From 1954 he was at the Weizmann Institute for Sciences in Rechowot, where he set up the first course in nuclear physics in Israel. Lipkin remained a physics professor at the Weizmann Institute until his retirement . Most recently he was also a regular at the Argonne National Laboratory in the USA. In 1991/92 he was a Sackler Scholar . Even at the age of 85 he was still working at the Weizmann Institute and the Sackler Institute at Tel Aviv University.

Lipkin was best known for applications of group theory in physics, specifically on quark models, in the 1960s. His book “ Lie groups for pedestrians” found wide circulation at the time. In his own words, particle physicists were not familiar with the use of unitary symmetries at the time, but nuclear physicists trained in Racah and Wigner's methods, which enabled them to enter this field. In 1961 they confirmed Gell-Mann's Eightfold Way SU (3) model against Sakata's model (also SU (3), but with proton, neutron and lambda in a triplet) when calculating meson generation from proton-antiproton annihilation. Lipkin also later dealt with predictions from the quark model ( pentaquarks and others) and z. B. with neutrino physics and the basics of quantum mechanics.

In 1959 he developed Spectrum Generating Algebras (algebras of harmonic oscillators) with S. Goshen, which they applied in solid-state and nuclear physics. Simplified models for the investigation of dynamic symmetries and collective excitations, partly motivated by the shell model of atomic nuclei , are named Lipkin (Lipkin model or Lipkin-Meshkov-Glick model).

In 1958/59 he used at the University of Illinois in Urbana (in the group of Hans Frauenfelder ) an extension of the scattering experiment from his dissertation ("Double Scattering" method) to investigate the parity violation that had just been discovered in beta decay . There, too, his work began on the Mössbauer effect , which had just been discovered and which got its name from Lipkin.

Lipkin was also active in promoting a method of teaching children to read (LITAF, developed by educator Nira Altalef in Israel in the 1980s). The problem is particularly acute in Israel as a prototype immigration country with many immigrant languages.

In 1957 he founded the Journal of Irreproducible Results with virus researcher Alexander Kohn (Cohen) , which also played a role in founding the Ig Nobel Prize . The idea of ​​the journal arose when Lipkin organized the first international conference on nuclear physics in Israel in 1957.

In 1973 he received the Kaplun Prize and in 1980 the Rothschild Prize . In 2002 he received the Wigner Medal .

He had been married since 1949 and had two children.


  • Lipkin: Applications of Lieschen Groups in Physics. BI Hochschultaschenbuch, Mannheim 1967 ( Lie groups for pedestrians. North Holland 1965, 2nd edition 1966, Dover 2002)
  • Lipkin: Beta Decay for Pedestrians. North Holland 1962
  • Lipkin: Quantum Mechanics - New Approaches to selected topics. North Holland 1973
  • Lipkin: The Middle East for pedestrians: A collection of letters written before, during and after the Yom Kippur War. 1974
  • Lipkin: Andrei Sakharov. Quarks and the Structure of Matter. In: World Scientific , 2013

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Date of birth according to American Men and Women of Science , Gale Thompson, 2005
  2. ^ Renowned Israeli Physicist, Who Founded Dimona Nuclear Research Facility, Dies at 94 . Haaretz
  3. He tested his extension of the reactor theory of Alvin M. Weinberg (from homogeneous to heterogeneous reactors), which predicted stable operation, at the research reactor ZOÉ in Chantillon.
  4. The addition "for pedestrians" (pupils) was also retained for a number of other essays / books in physics, a name forerunner of a later known book series "for dummies"
  5. Speech on the occasion of the presentation of the Wigner Prize 2002
  6. Levinson, Lipkin, Meshkov, Abdus Salam, Munir: Physics Letters. Volume 1, 1962, p. 44
  7. ^ Annals of Physics. Volume 6, 1959, p. 301, and Les Houches Lectures by Lipkin 1958
  8. ^ Lipkin, Meshkov, Glick: Nuclear Physics. Volume 62, 1965, pp. 188, 199, 211
  9. ^ Lipkin: Annals of Physics. Volume 9, 1960, p. 332
  10. Article. In: Israel21c
  11. Marc Abrahams on the history of the Ig Nobel Prize