Jacobson was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States on 7 March 1921. He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1942. He served in the United States Army Air Forces from 1942–45 during World War II. In 1947, he gained a Master of Architecture degree, also at the University of Pennsylvania.
In 1953, Jacobson started working with I.M. Pei, joining him at I. M. Pei & Partners, founded in 1955. He was a Partner in I. M. Pei & Partners (which became Pei Cobb Freed & Partners in 1989) from 1980–92. Jacobson was central to the following building projects in the US, mainly involving museums:
- East Building of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. (1978)
- West Wing of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts (1981)
- Portland Museum of Art, Portland, Maine (1982)
- Wiesner building, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts (1985)
At the end of his career in the 1980s and early 1990s, Jacobson was heavily involved with the modernization of the Louvre in Paris, France. Jacobson was a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects. In 1989, he was made an Officier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.
- "Leonard Jacobson, Museum Architect". Sun Sentinel. January 1, 1993. Retrieved October 17, 2011.
- Muschamp, Herbert (December 31, 1992). "Leonard Jacobson, Architect Affiliated With Pei, Dies at 71". New York Times. Retrieved October 17, 2011.
- "Leonard Jacobson FAIA: Partner, 1980–1992". Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. Retrieved October 17, 2011.
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