Philip V. Livdahl’s nephew, William M. Grigg, wrote this “In Memoriam.”
Former acting director of Fermilab Philip V. Livdahl, 88, died on Monday, Aug. 8, following complications from a hip replacement surgery.
Livdahl was an advisor to Robert Wilson during the conception and execution of Fermilab. Eventually, Livdahl became acting director after Wilson’s departure.
During his 20 years at the laboratory, Livdahl was part of the team that created the Tevatron ring. He also led the team that investigated the use of super-conducting magnets as a way of increasing the energy of the accelerator systems to 1,000 billion electron volts. This improvement doubled the accelerator’s speed.
In 1985, Livdahl revived the idea of proton therapy for destroying deep tumors. He wrote a detailed proposal and hosted a week-long workshop with about 100 physicians, physicists and engineers to discuss such a facility.
Livdahl’s efforts led Dr. James M. Slater of the Loma Linda University Medical Center to petition the DOE to build an accelerator capable of proton therapy cancer treatment.
In 1989, Livdahl left Fermilab to oversee the installation and use of the medically dedicated synchrotron. It was around this time that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. Livdahl was the first patient to have all of his radiation treatment at the new facility. It worked, and the cancer never came back.
Livdahl is survived by his wife, Phyllis, three children, Jennifer Livdahl Schum, Judith Wulff and Todd Livdahl and five grandchildren. A memorial service took place on Aug. 13 in Dallas, Texas.