Leonard Reiffel

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Leonard Reiffel
Born (1927-09-27) September 27, 1927 (age 89)
Fields Physics
Institutions University of Chicago in Pisa
Illinois Institute of Technology
Alma mater Illinois Institute of Technology
Known for Deputy director of Apollo program
Led Project A119
Notable awards Peabody Award (1968)

Leonard Reiffel (born September 30, 1927) is an American physicist, author and educator. Born in Chicago, Reiffel was an electrical engineering student for a number of years before entering into research fields; he has since collaborated with Enrico Fermi, Carl Sagan and members of Operation Paperclip.

Reiffel has also worked for NASA and the Illinois Institute of Technology, and has won a Peabody Award for his work on the radio program The World Tomorrow. His experience with broadcasting led him to invent the telestrator as a visual aid for his programming; Reiffel currently holds over fifty different patents for his inventions.

Early life[edit]

Leonard Reiffel was born in Chicago on September 30, 1927.[1] His father was Carl Reiffel, a silversmith credited with inventing a slide saxophone. The younger Reiffel attended Theodore Roosevelt High School, before earning a bachelor's and master's degrees, and a doctorate, in electrical engineering at the Illinois Institute of Technology, between 1947 and 1953.[2]


Universities and inventions[edit]

Reiffel began his career at the University of Chicago's Institute for Nuclear Studies, helping Enrico Fermi construct a 450-inch cyclotron.[3] From there, Reiffel returned to the university at which he had studied, the Illinois Institute of Technology. Here, Reiffel was Group Vice President of the IIT Research Institute (formerly known as the Armour Research Foundation). During his tenure at the university, Reiffel created and patented over fifty different inventions, which earned him four separate R&D 100 Awards.[3][4] Reiffel also collaborated with German scientists recruited in America as part of Operation Paperclip, working on an early prototype for a railgun.[2]


Reiffel has been involved in several positions in NASA's Apollo program, moving from being a consultant on the possibility of life on the Moon[5] to become deputy director of the project,[6] a post he held from 1965–1969.[3] During this time, Reiffel was also put in charge of Project A119, a United States Air Force project intending to detonate a nuclear warhead on the Moon. Reiffel worked alongside Carl Sagan and Gerard Kuiper on the project.[7][8] Reiffel also chaired the Interagency Manned Space Flight Experiments Board for several years, a body which worked alongside NASA, the United States Air Force, and the United States Department of Defense.[3]


Reiffel's work on radio and television has included Backyard Safari, Dimensions on Tomorrow's Living and The World Tomorrow.[3] Backyard Safari was nominated for an Emmy Award,[3] whilst Reiffel was honored with a Peabody Award in 1968 for his work on The World Tomorrow.[5] Reiffel's time as a broadcaster led to him developing the telestrator, a device for drawing over still or moving video images; the device is now commonly employed by American football broadcasters while discussing plays.[2]

Other work[edit]

Reiffel has also worked as an artwork authenticator for the Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, investigating the authenticity of work by Édouard Manet in 2002.[2] He has also acted as a consultant to the governments of Belarus and Ukraine following the Chernobyl incident; this experience led him to write an unpublished novel about nuclear terrorism.[2]