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Comments on the Death of My Father – Prof. Leo P. Kadanoff

Photo Credit: Thomas A. Witten

I was honored to give a very short talk at my father’s funeral. My father was the MacArthur Chair of Physics at the University of Chicago. He died at 78 due to complications after cardiac surgery.

Several of his colleagues asked for copies of my remarks at his graveside service which were very brief.


“I want to talk today about my dad – Leo’s – legacy.

I think until the time he was 35, 40, maybe even 50 he thought his legacy was in the papers he published, the work he did, the medals and prizes he won or famously — in at least one case — did not win.

But as he aged, Dad went through a bit of a sea change as he came to realize that his legacy was and is quite different than that. Yes publish or perish is all too real in the rarified atmosphere of academia where so many of you live and work. At the same time, Leo’s legacy is in the people who loved him and whom he loved, the grad students, post docs, colleagues he advised and worked with, and the work he energized and inspired which in turn inspired him. So I thank you for being here with us on this sad, sad day. Leo would have found it very gratifying to see so many of his colleagues, students, and collaborators turn out in the rain.”

One Response

  • Robert Fisher
    Nov 1, 2015

    Thank you for sharing this. Our thoughts are with you and your family and we are very sorry for your loss.

    I was very saddened to learn of your father’s passing — I consider the time I spent working with him while a research scientist at Chicago some one of the most memorable of my career. I think you perfectly express the unbroken chain between advisor and mentee which is the true legacy we all leave behind.

    Robert Fisher Nov 1, 2015