Stevens Institute of Technology

Interviewed by
David Zierler
Interview date

Interview with Joel L. Lebowitz, the George William Hill professor of mathematics and physics at Rutgers University and Director of the Center for Mathematical Sciences Research at Rutgers. The interview begins with a brief discussion of how Lebowitz defines mathematical physics, his current interest in statistical mechanics, and his involvement in the Committee of Concerned Scientists. Lebowitz then looks back at his childhood in former Czechoslovakia, now Ukraine, where Yiddish was his first language. He recounts his memories of state-imposed anti-Semitism and his deportation to Auschwitz. Upon being liberated from the camp, Lebowitz describes his journey to the US where he studied math and theoretical physics at Brooklyn College. He talks about his graduate studies at Syracuse University with Peter Bergmann, as well as his post-doctoral position at Yale University with Lars Onsager. Lebowitz recalls his work on topics such as Coulomb forces, the thermodynamic limit, Ising spins, stochastic dynamics and more. He discusses his affiliation with the New York Academy of Sciences, of which he eventually became President, as well as his involvement in human rights issues related to the Refusenik scientists. The interview concludes with Lebowitz’s reflections on the connections between science and morality.