Leo James Rainwater ( born December 9, 1917 in Council, Idaho; † 30 May 1986 as New York) was an American physicist. The most important of his scientific work to develop theories about the behavior and the structure of atomic nuclei.
Leo James Rainwater was born in 1917 in a small town in Idaho, where his parents ran a small grocery store. Just one year later, his father died during a flu epidemic. Together with his mother and grandmother, he moved then to Hanford in California. Even at school showed its strengths in science subjects of physics, chemistry and mathematics. Rainwater began his studies in physics at the California Institute of Technology, where he graduated in 1939 as Bachelor. After moving to Columbia University in New York, where he among other things, in the early years studied with the physicists Rabi and Fermi, Rainwater how many American physicists that time was involved in the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. In 1946 he received his doctorate at Columbia University, where he went through the other stages of his scientific career: the post of lecturer in 1947, an honorary professorship in 1949 and was appointed full professor in 1952.
From 1949 Rainwater developed a theory that atomic nuclei may differ from the previously adopted a spherical shape due to collective Nukleonenanregungen. The starting point was the experimental results in terms of measured quadrupole moments of atomic nuclei, the Charles H. Townes presented during a colloquium. Extremely fertile it was the collaboration with the Danish physicist Niels Aage Bohr, who spent a period abroad at Columbia University.
Leo James Rainwater was married to Emma Louis Smith since 1942. They had three sons and a daughter who died young but already.
1963 Rainwater was awarded the Prize for Physics of the Atomic Energy Commission of the Ernest Orlando Lawrence. In 1975, he received together with Aage Niels Bohr and Ben Mottelson the Nobel Prize in Physics "for the discovery of the connection between collective motion and particle in atomic nuclei and the development of the theory of the structure of atomic nuclei based on this connection ".