Robert B. Leighton (September 10, 1919 – March 9, 1997) was a prominent American experimental physicist who spent his professional career at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech). His work over the years spanned solid state physics, cosmic ray physics, the beginnings of modern particle physics, solar physics, the planets, infrared astronomy, and millimeter- and submillimeter-wave astronomy. In the latter four fields, his pioneering work opened up entirely new areas of research that subsequently developed into vigorous scientific communities.
Leighton was a renowned teacher at Caltech. His Principles of Modern Physics, published in 1959, was a standard and influential textbook. After Richard Feynman's Lectures in Physics course, in the early 1960s, Leighton spent over two years reworking the tape-recorded text into publishable form: The Feynman Lectures on Physics, which were published in 1964 and 1966, and which have enjoyed perennial success ever since.
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- The way I solved the theoretical problem was to go into the shop and build something concrete.
- finding out that he was not a theoretical but an experimental physicist, as quoted in his biographical memoir. Jesse L. Greenstein (1998). Robert B. Leighton, 1919—1996, Biographical Memoirs v.75. National Academy of Sciences. p. 164. ISBN 0-309-06295-0.