Cover photo for Richard "Dick" Leon Lander's Obituary
Richard "Dick" Leon Lander Profile Photo
1928 Richard "Dick" Leon Lander 2024

Richard "Dick" Leon Lander

April 23, 1928 — April 19, 2024

Richard (“Dick”) Lander, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, was born at home on Outlook Avenue in Oakland to Mabel (Morton) and Erik Lander, the third of 5 children.  He passed away at his home west of Davis (4 days shy of his 96th birthday) from complications of dementia and a recent hospitalization.  Dick was fascinated by the physical world even as a boy when he wondered why a ball thrown in the air behaved in a certain way.  He grew up in Alameda where he and his brothers would try to sneak out of the house to go to beach before his mom could give them chores.  They built a boat in the living room which his mother made them remove to their bedroom. Their father had to dismantle a window to get it out.  Dick’s father had emigrated from Sweden and Dick was very proud of his Swedish heritage.  He kept in contact with his Swedish cousins and visited the family farm (which has been in the family since the 1700s) several times, the last one being in 2019.
Dick attended Alameda High where he was tied for valedictorian.  He was a member of ROTC and was in the reserves, but never called up because of his field of study. He earned an BS in physics at UC Berkeley.  Money was tight and Dick worked many odd jobs learning lifelong skills as diverse as window washing, wood working and surveying. He remembered having only a dime and having to choose between a candy bar and a trolley ride home.  A year at the Ohio State earned a Master’s degree in physics and the awe of his classmates as the crazy guy from California would walk across campus in the winter in his shirt sleeves.  He returned to Berkeley for his PhD and was awarded a postdoctoral Research Physicist appointment at Lawrence Berkeley Radiation Laboratory.  He met and married his first wife, Doris Jahnke, and they had two sons, Erik and Keith.  The family briefly moved to Seattle where Dick was a Senior Research Scientist at Boeing and where daughter Laurie was born.  They returned to California where Dick was an Assistant and, later, Associate Physicist at the newly established University of California, San Diego.  Dick was recruited to UC Davis in 1967 as an Associate Professor to start an experimental high energy particle physics group.  Dick and Doris parted ways and Dick met his future wife and life partner, Linda Lowenstine, in 1975.  Although they had no children as a couple, they were heavily invested in the upbringing of their beloved grandson, Laurie’s son John-Mark.
Dick became a pioneer and leader in what was then a relatively new field of physics, experimental high energy particle physics. His forte was detector design and development, the hardware of experimental physics.  In his words “the basic goal is to identify the directions, momenta and identity of all the (sub-atomic) particles emanating from a collision”; in other words, the discovery of the ultimate nature of the universe.  He loved working with his team to design and build equipment and spending time monitoring data acquisition at the accelerators (atom smashers).  His research took him all over the world to where ever there were accelerators:  SLAC at Stanford University, Brookhaven on Long Island, Fermi Lab outside of Chicago, DESY in Germany, CERN in Switzerland, KEK in Japan.  The program he built at UCD was highly successful in obtaining continuous funding and is still in existence.  Dick made seminal contributions to the CMS detector, one of the two large experiments which discovered the Higgs boson in 2012. Dick remained at UC Davis until his retirement, and even after retirement went into the department to work with students and continue his work on developing new detector technology.
Although it was research that he loved, he was also a good teacher.  He had an ability to explain difficult concepts to both children and college students.  He mentored undergraduate physics majors, graduate students, post-docs and younger faculty.
When Dick was finally convinced to travel for pleasure, he and Linda visited Egypt, Jordan, Greece and Turkey (with John-Mark), Alaska, Antarctica, Australia, Botswana, Belize, Baja California, Panama and Hawaii. There were also many trips to the UK and Europe that combined research or scientific meetings with visits to family and friends, and road trips along the West Coast and to the Red Rock Country of the Southwest.
Dick was a genuinely kind human being and a man of integrity.  Although he could have been described as a “workaholic”, he enjoyed sailing, hiking, good food, wine, an occasion single malt Scotch, dinners on the back deck with good friends, long drives through the California hills and mountains and along the coast, and gazing at the view of the ag fields and Blue Ridge and Vaca Mountains from his home west of Davis.  He was a great dancer and had a lovely singing voice (though he did not always stick to the tune). He was a skilled draftsman and his pencil sketches of inanimate objects were stunning in their accuracy.  He had a silly side and drew wonderful stick-figure cartoons and made up stories to entertain his children when they were young,
Dick is survived by his partner and wife of 48 years, Linda Lowenstine, sons Erik and Keith Lander, daughter Laurie Hopkins, grandson John Mark Hopkins III, his nieces and nephew and his Swedish cousins.  Predeceased were his parents, brothers Robert, Don and Earl Lander and sister June (Belan) and several Swedish cousins.  A private green burial was held at the Davis Cemetery.
The family wishes to thank his caregivers from Comfort Keepers, the staff at Sutter Davis Hospital, Sutter Cardiopulmonary Rehab, Sutter Care at Home, Sutter Home Hospice, the physicians at both Sutter and UCSF, and, especially, our primary care physicians, Drs Carl Eilers and Jennifer P. Clary, who contributed greatly to his longevity.  A celebration of Dick’s life will be held at a later date.  If you wish to honor his life, please send contributions to the Physics Quest Program at the American Physical Society or to a charity of your choice.
Memories of Dick can be shared on or a guest book can be signed on line at


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