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Norman Ronald Lebovitz

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution announces with great sorrow the death of former WHOI Geophysical Fluid Dynamics (GFD) participant Norman Ronald Lebovitz on December 28, 2022, at his home in Buffalo, MI.

Norman was born in New York to Joseph John Lebovitz and Grace (Klein) Lebovitz in 1935 and grew up in Los Angeles, CA.

Norman earned his BA from UCLA in 1956 and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1961, both in Physics. His doctoral advisor was S. Chandrasekhar, and he conducted much of his graduate research at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, WI. He was the Moore Instructor of Mathematics at MIT from 1961 to 1963, before returning to the University of Chicago in 1963 to join the faculty as a founding member of the Applied Mathematics Program, which he chaired for many years. He became emeritus in 2002.

Norman’s scientific interests primarily concerned the fields of Geophysical and Astrophysical Fluid Dynamics.

Norman was a fellow of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation from 1967-69 and the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation from 1977-78. From 1983-1988 he was the managing editor of SIAM Journal on Applied Mathematics. Starting in 1996, he was deeply involved in the Summer GFD Program at WHOI until 2019, where he enjoyed spending summers with his friends and colleagues.

Norman published over 70 scientific papers and edited two books during his career. He also published a free online textbook on ordinary differential equations. In 2012, he was elected as a fellow of the American Physical Society for “fundamental work on the fluid mechanics of rotating stars and self-gravitating masses, and for the development and use of mathematical methods applied to problems of geophysical and astrophysical fluid dynamics.”

In addition to his academic pursuits, he was a great lover of tennis, mystery novels, Roman History, and Humphry Bogart movies.

Norman was a kind, soft-spoken man who was extremely precise, articulate, and wise. He gently commanded the respect of his peers and was admired by all who knew him.

He lived the last 20 years of his life in New Buffalo with his wife Ruth, who survives him. He is also survived by sons David (wife Chongting) and Michael (wife Anna) and grandchildren Isaac, Cyrus, Esther, and Katherine.

In keeping with his wishes, there is no memorial planned. Those wishing to leave an online condolence may do so at

Information for this obituary is from the website