Since Leon Lederman won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1988, the medal he was awarded has sat, mostly unnoticed, on a shelf.
It first sat on a little ledge at his home in Batavia for more than two decades before Lederman, 92, moved to the tiny community of Driggs, Idaho, where it again unceremoniously took up residence on a shelf.
But the medal will soon have a new home. It’s up for auction.
“We had never thought of selling it until the auction house contacted us,” Lederman’s wife, Ellen, said Tuesday. “It was just sitting here, minding its own business all this time. But maybe someone would really love having it and take care of it. What good does it do anybody sitting on a shelf in Driggs, Idaho?”
Lederman — who is also known for co-authoring the popular science book “The God Particle: If the Universe is the Answer, What is the Question?” — received the Nobel Prize for his research on neutrinos. His resume includes stints as a physics professor at the University of Chicago, director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and founder of the Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy.
“We could have used the medal as a coaster,” Ellen Lederman joked. “It’s beautiful and it’s extremely important, but you either put it on the shelf or in a safe deposit box. We put it on a shelf and it has never really been on our minds or something we worried about.”
The medal is made of 18-karat gold and is plated in 24-karat gold, as are all Nobel Prize medals awarded after 1980, according to Nate D. Sanders Auction, which is selling the medal.
Bidding ends Thursday. The starting bid is $325,000.
Ellen Lederman said her husband, who enjoys sitting on the porch in Idaho and watching nature, has always been very proud of the role he played in helping to create the particle accelerator at Fermilab.
“The thing that was wonderful for Leon about the prize was that he was able to have a better soap box to get the attention of people who didn’t understand the things about science and help get funding,” she said.