Leonard Liebermann, professor emeritus of physics at the University of California, San Diego, died at his home on January 8. He was 100.
Liebermann first joined the UC faculty after the end of World War II when the university’s Marine Physical Laboratory was established at Point Loma and soon after folded into Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
Liebermann, an expert in sound propagation in the ocean, had aided the war effort from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution where his work on underwater sound made a significant contribution to submarine detection and led to a life-long interest in sound propagation in sea water.
"One of the important unanswered Navy operational questions from World War II was the origin of the unanticipated high attenuation of sound in the ocean that limited SONAR performance. Professor Leonard Liebermann was one of the first scientists recruited to the Marine Physical Laboratory,” said William Kuperman, director of the Marine Physical Laboratory and distinguished professor at Scripps Oceanography. “His pioneering research identified the chemical physics of ocean acoustic attenuation and was the very foundation of decades of research that resulted in a thorough understanding of this phenomenon."
When UC San Diego was established in the 1960s, Liebermann moved up to the main campus to join the new physics faculty where he continued to study sound propagation in solids and liquids and investigated ferromagnetism to find unusual phenomena associated with thin films and surfaces.
Liebermann was born in 1915 in Ironwood, a mining town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He completed undergraduate and graduate programs at the University of Chicago, where he received a PhD in physics in 1940.
In addition to his academic duties at UC San Diego, he was an organizer of the JASON workshops, summer meetings that began in the 1960s and gave the Defense Department a venue for consulting with distinguished physicists on issues of national security.
Around 1974, Liebermann retired from the university to work on a series of inventions for practical instruments such as a leak detector for refrigerant gases, a design that has helped to protect the ozone layer and reduce global warming.
Liebermann is survived by two daughters, Kathryn Levin and Debora Presser, and a son, Elliot Gerard, as well as five grandchildren and six great grandchildren.
Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, is one of the oldest, largest, and most important centers for global science research and education in the world. Now in its second century of discovery, the scientific scope of the institution has grown to include biological, physical, chemical, geological, geophysical, and atmospheric studies of the earth as a system. Hundreds of research programs covering a wide range of scientific areas are under way today on every continent and in every ocean. The institution has a staff of more than 1,400 and annual expenditures of approximately $195 million from federal, state, and private sources. Scripps operates oceanographic research vessels recognized worldwide for their outstanding capabilities. Equipped with innovative instruments for ocean exploration, these ships constitute mobile laboratories and observatories that serve students and researchers from institutions throughout the world. Birch Aquarium at Scripps serves as the interpretive center of the institution and showcases Scripps research and a diverse array of marine life through exhibits and programming for more than 430,000 visitors each year. Learn more at scripps.ucsd.edu and follow us at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
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