Mel Leon died on Dec. 28, 2012. He was born to William Leon and Sara Levine in 1936. The family lived in Brownville, Brooklyn, which in the late 1930s and '40s was home to the Jewish Italian syndicate Murder Inc., and to the ruling elite of organized crime: Albert Anastasia, Lucky Luciano, Meyer Lansky, Dutch Shultz, and Bugsy Siegel, among others. Mel's father traveled to find whatever work he could during the Depression and later worked as a chef. Mel found his own way. When his parents sent him to study with the rabbi after school, he went to the playground. He took refuge in the local branch of the public library where a love of science fiction led to an interest in physics.
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He received a bachelor's in physics from the University of Maryland, and a doctorate from Cornell University, working under the world renown theoretical physicist Hans Bethe in the field of particle physics. He then went to Birmingham University in England as a post doc where he worked with Rudolf Peierls. There he met his future wife Allison. The two married in 1963 and returned to the USA together. Mel spent three years as a post doc at Carnegie Institute of Technology where he continued working in particle physics with Richard Cutkosky. He spent the next six years in the physics department at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute before coming to Los Alamos in 1972.
Mel joined the Lab in the Medium-Energy Physics Division and worked there until his retirement in 1993. His principal research interest at Los Alamos involved various aspects of muon physics, including muonic atoms, muon-molecule formation, muon catalyzed fusion, and muon spin rotation in solid-state materials. In each of these programs, Mel made significant contributions in both theory and experiment. In addition to well over a hundred journal publications, Mel authored the book "Particle Physics: An Introduction" (Academic Press, 1973).
Mel and Allison had two children and were married for 49 years. In the evenings Mel sat in a brown arm chair by the window reading, listening to Kay Richardson's classical music program on KRSN. He and Allison enjoyed attending the Santa Fe Opera. He loved down hill skiing and joined many of the ski club work parties on Pajarito Mountain. The family took many hiking, camping, and backpacking trips over the years.
Mel is survived by his daughter Jennifer Leon of Los Alamos and son David Leon of Laramie, Wyo. His wife Allison passed away in October, 2012. In lieu of flowers the family suggests donations be made to the Espanola Valley Animal Shelter.
Published in Los Alamos Monitor from Feb. 1 to Feb. 6, 2013