Lev Kofman

June 17, 1957 – November 12, 2009

DSC00517 copy___china_head_cut_LRI heard yesterday from Andrew Jaffe of the death a few days ago of Lev Kofman (left), from cancer. Lev was a wonderfully spontaneous  and generous character as well as a very fine physicist. I hadn’t known that he was ill, which made the news of his death all the more shocking and the sense of loss even deeper. My thoughts and those of my colleagues who were lucky enough to know Lev are with his family and friends at what must be difficult time for them.

I first met Lev about twenty years ago and we bumped into each other fairly frequently over the following years. Then I went on sabbatical to Toronto, where Lev was based, and therefore spent a quite a bit of  time with him talking cosmology, drinking and failing to play football.  It’s hard to believe that now, just a few years later, the wonderful light he cast on those around him has actually gone out. He was such a hive of activity all the time I once joked that I thought the Lev should be a unit of energy (like Gev).

I’m sure there will be very many formal tributes paid to Lev by people who knew him far better than me – there is an item on cosmic variance which is worth reading if you didn’t know much about him. For my part, I’ll just say that I liked and admired him enormously and the field of cosmology will be much poorer for his passing.

An email letter was sent out by Lev’s family and friends, which I hope they will not mind me reproducing here, as I think it perfectly conveys the deep affection which Lev inspired in all who had the opportunity to meet and work with him.

We are deeply saddened  to inform you that the fabulous Lev Kofman, husband of Anna, father of Sergei 13 and Maria 15, brother of Svetlana, and our great friend, died in the early morning of November 12 from cancer. Many of you were able to commune with Lev as the situation deteriorated over the past weeks, by visits, phone calls, and emails read to him. We are deeply grateful for that: and it provided some solace for Lev to know the tremendous impact he has had on the lives of so many of you.

He bravely kept the physics going strong throughout his illness, characteristic of Lev. His scientific outpourings and influence  will transcend this passage. As you know, he made fundamental contributions to Lambda cosmology and dark energy, structure in the cosmic web, inflationary theory, its Gaussian and non-Gaussian aspects, and gravitational waves. He initiated and developed the theory of preheating, showing how all matter could arise from a coherent vacuum energy at the end of inflation, his cosmic baby. And much more besides. He was the quintessential leader, for CITA and CIFAR as a whole, and for the vibrant early universe group he established, providing inspirational guidance to a generation of young researchers.

He felt the physics to his very core. Beyond this, it is the indomitable, fun-loving, deeply philosophical spirit, a gourmand of life in all its manifestations, that we will miss so much.

With our best wishes in these sad times,

Anna Chandarina (Kofman)
Svetlana Kofman
Dick Bond
Andrei Linde
Renata Kallosh

And if you never had the chance to see the man in action you can find some videos of lectures he gave at the Perimeter Institute here.

One Response to “Lev Kofman”

  1. Reminiscence in russian:
    Сожалею, что так поздно узнал о кончине Левы.
    Мы были коллегами в Тарту и все, что я знал о нем,
    вызывало восхищение. Из тартуских астрономов его карьера была самой блестящей, он организовывал футбольные матчи на конференциях, на Ученом Совете отвечал на вопросы, заданные на эстонском, говорил об Овидии (Искусство любви), восхищался пейзажами в Тыравере (“как у Брейгеля”). Бесконечно жаль.

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