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Remembering Hubert Leifer, the “Grandfather” Scientist Who Wove Popular Science Comics to Share His Wonder of the Universe

  Judging from the photos, astrophysicist Hubert Leifer looks like the kind of scientist in fairy tales: a big brain, white beard, and a shy and loving smile. In 2020, three children’s popular science books “Science Comics for Children” written by him were published in China, talking about oceans, forests, and biodiversity. His own image of a white-bearded grandfather also appeared on the cover: One under the sea Among the submarines, one is on a big tree and the other is on a green planet surrounded by birds, animals, insects and fish.
  Hubert Leifer has been doing science popularization for many years, and he is good at translating complex scientific issues into simple language. After his death, Le Monde, France’s second-largest daily newspaper, called him the grandfather of great stories and the wizard who weaved the universe into narrative. “He told us that our mortal bodies are all stardust. Now that the astrophysicist’s time on earth is over, he has returned to the dust of the universe.”
  Hubert Reifer was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1932 After graduating from the Department of Science of the University of Montreal, he obtained master’s and doctoral degrees from McGill University and Cornell University in the United States respectively. From 1960 to 1964, he taught at the University of Montreal and served as a scientific advisor to NASA. After 1965, he lived in France and engaged in scientific research at the French Academy of Sciences.
  It was from then on that Hubert began to try to explain the universe in his own way – he wrote a popular astronomy book called “Patience in the Blue”, which was translated 30 years later. It has been published in more than 30 languages ​​and has sold more than one million copies. Hubert became a best-selling author and a celebrity in the media. He was dubbed the Poet of the Stars and his mailbox was flooded with invitations to lectures. “Fame is intoxicating and therefore dangerous. You can easily get hot-headed and do risky things.” In order to resist the temptation, Hubert implemented strict work standards, but too strict self-discipline brought new problems, and he suffered from depression. disease and ended his first marriage.
  After 2000, Hubert became an environmentalist. He moved to northern France with his second wife and began to live a more primitive and natural life. He planted some trees in the forest: cedar of Lebanon, redwood, linden and ginkgo. “Astronomy tells us through the universe where we come from and how we got here, while ecology tells us how to stay here.”
  Hubert became a messenger between space and the earth. He was awarded the “Einstein Award” by the American Physical Society. Award”, he has an asteroid named after himself, and there is also an award named after him in Quebec, Canada. However, in his later years, the only thing he worked tirelessly for was the popularization of science. He does not have the stubbornness of an old scientist and admits that times are changing: “Children today read less and less. Compared with traditional text books, comic books have great advantages. Compared with an article, they will be forgotten soon after reading it. Articles and comics with pictures and texts will be easier to understand.”
  On October 13, 2023, Hubert Leifer passed away. His son broke the news on social media, and a newspaper in Quebec, where he was born and raised, published an obituary. The article concluded: “Faced with his own death, one of Hubert Leifer’s deepest regrets was that he could no longer engage in fascinating exploration of the universe. His last wish was to exit gracefully, like a ballet dancer. Just like leaving the stage gently.”