Mayer, Maria Goeppert, 1906-1972

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Maria Goeppert Mayer was born on June 28, 1906 in Kattowitz, Germany, to Friedrich and Maria (nee Wolff) Goeppert. In 1910 she moved with her parents to Gottingen where her father taught pediatrics at the University. She enrolled at the University at Gottingen in the spring of 1924 with the expectation of pursuing a career in mathematics, but soon became attracted to physics and the developing field of quantum mechanics. In 1930 Mayer took her doctorate in theoretical physics under the direction of Nobel prize winners Max Born, James Franck, and Adolf Windaus.

While completing her studies at Gottingen she met and married Joseph Edward Mayer, an American post-doctoral fellow working in physical chemistry under James Franck. Together they moved to Baltimore, Maryland where Joseph taught at the Johns Hopkins University. In 1939 they went to Columbia University. There Maria worked under the direction of Harold Urey at the S.A.M. (Strategic Alloy Metals) Laboratory which researched the separation of isotopes of uranium. She co-authored a text entitled STATISTICAL MECHANICS (1940) with her husband. After the war she took a professorship of physics at the Institute for Nuclear Studies, University of Chicago. During this period Mayer began a long correspondence with Edward Teller.

In 1948, Mayer began work on nuclear shell structure and the meaning of the "magic numbers"- those nuclei that have a special number of protons. She postulated these numbers to be the shell numbers of a shell model, a "nuclear counterpart to the closed shells of electrons" at the atomic level. In 1950 she met and began a collaboration with Johannes Hans Daniel Jensen which led to the publication of the book entitled ELEMENTARY THEORY OF NUCLEAR SHELL THEORY (1955). In 1963, Maria Mayer was awarded the Nobel Prize jointly with Hans Jensen for their work on the Shell Model.

Maria Goeppert Mayer came to the University of California, San Diego, in 1960 as a professor of physics. At San Diego she taught while conducting research in nuclear physics under grants administered by Keith Brueckner. During this period Mayer publically encouraged young women to pursue careers in the sciences. She was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Akademie der Wissenschafter in Heidelberg, and the Philosophical Society. After a protracted illness, she died on February 20, 1972.

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Niels Bohr Library. The Emilio Segrè visual archives, K-O, [ca. 1870]-9999. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Niels Bohr Library. History of physics manuscript biography collection M-R, 1901-1989, [ca. ca. 1960]-1989 (bulk) Campbell University, Wiggins Memorial Library
referencedIn Bigeleisen, J. (Jacob), 1919-2010. Correspondence and manuscripts documenting his dispute with Karen Johnson's interpretation of Maria Göppert Mayer's war work on isotope separation and gaseous separation. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Suess, Hans Eduard, 1909-. Papers, 1875-1989. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Mayer, Maria Goeppert, 1906-1972. Papers, 1925-1973. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
referencedIn Fong, Peter. A tribute to Maria Goeppert Mayer, by Peter Fond, for the Phi Chapter of Sigma Delta Epsilon, ca. 1972. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Mayer, Joseph Edward, 1904-. Oral history interview with Joseph Edward Mayer, 1975 January 24. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Maria Goeppert Mayer Papers, 1925-1973 University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
referencedIn Wheeler, John Archibald, 1911-2008. Oral history interview with John Archibald Wheeler, 1967 April 5. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Teller, Edward, 1908-2003. Oral history interview with Edward Teller, 1983 September 9. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Stein, Maria. Oral history interview with Maria Stein, 1974 May 28. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Serber, R. (Robert). Oral history interview with Robert Serber, 1967 February 10. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Mayer, Maria Goeppert, 1906-1972. Autobiography for Les Prix Nobel, ca. 1964. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Sage Colleges Archives. Honorary degree recipient for 1960, Maria Goeppert Mayer. The Sage Colleges Libraries
referencedIn Joseph Mayer Papers, 1920 - 1983 University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
creatorOf Mayer, Maria Goeppert, 1906-1972. Oral history interview with Maria Goeppert Mayer, 1962 February 20. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Löwdin, Per-Olov, 1916-2000. Oral history interview with Per Olov Löwdin, 1975 January 27. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Archive for the History of Quantum Physics, 1898-1950 (bulk), 1898-1950 American Philosophical Society
referencedIn Bohr, Niels, 1885-1962. Invitational letter to Maria Göppert Mayer to attend conference on problems of quantum physics in Copenhagen, 1951. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Franck, James, 1882-1964. Oral history joint interview with James Franck and Hertha Sponer-Franck, 1962 July 9 to 14. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Lauritsen, Thomas, 1915-1973. Oral history interview with Thomas Lauritsen, 1967 February 16. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn UCSD [University of California at San Diego]: UCSD Information United States. National Archives and Records Administration
referencedIn Herzfeld, Karl F. (Karl Ferdinand),. Papers, 1914-1977. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Mayer, Maria Goeppert, 1906-1972. Papers, 1925-1973. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
creatorOf Mayer, Maria Goeppert, 1906-1972. Reminiscences of María Goeppert Mayer : oral history, 1964. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn American Physical Society. Annual Meeting (1973 : New York, N.Y.). Maria Mayer Memorial Session [sound recording] / 1973 January 31. American Institute of Physics, Niels Bohr Library
referencedIn Chicago [Binder] [1] United States. National Archives and Records Administration
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Abraham, Max, 1875-1922 person
associatedWith Amaldi, Edoardo, 1908-1989 person
associatedWith American Philosophical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith American Physical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith American Physical Society and American Philosophical Society. corporateBody
associatedWith American Physical Society. Annual Meeting (1973 : New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Andrade, E. N. da C., (Edward Neville da Costa), 1887-1971 person
associatedWith Back, Ernst, 1881-1959 person
associatedWith Bauer, Edmond, 1880-1963 person
associatedWith Becquerel, Jean, 1878-1953 person
associatedWith Benedicks, Carl Axel Fredrik, 1875-1953 person
associatedWith Berliner, Arnold, 1862-1942 person
associatedWith Bigeleisen, J. (Jacob), 1919-2010. person
associatedWith Birge, Raymond T., (Raymond Thayer), 1887-1980 person
associatedWith Bohr, Niels, 1885-1962. person
associatedWith Born, Max, 1882-1970, person
associatedWith Breit, Gregory, 1899-1981 person
associatedWith Broglie, Louis de, 1892-1987 person
associatedWith Cockcroft, John, Sir, 1897-1967 person
associatedWith Columbia University corporateBody
associatedWith Compton, Arthur Holly, 1892-1962 person
associatedWith Coster, Dirk, 1889-1950 person
associatedWith Darwin, Charles Galton, Sir, 1887-1962 person
associatedWith Debye, Peter J. W., (Peter Josef William), 1884-1966 person
associatedWith Dieke, Gerhard Heinrich, 1901-1965 person
associatedWith Dirac, P. A. M., (Paul Adrien Maurice), 1902-1984 person
associatedWith Eddington, Arthur Stanley, Sir, 1882-1944 person
associatedWith Ehrenfest, Paul, 1880-1933. person
associatedWith Einstein, Albert, 1879-1955 person
associatedWith Fermi, Enrico, 1901-1954. person
associatedWith Fermi, Laura. person
associatedWith Fokker, A. D., (Adriaan Daniel), 1887-1972 person
associatedWith Fong, Peter. person
associatedWith Fowler, A., (Alfred), 1868-1940 person
associatedWith Franck, James, 1882-1964. person
associatedWith Gerlach, Walther, 1889-1979 person
associatedWith Goudsmit, Samuel A. (Samuel Abraham), 1902-1978. person
associatedWith Haber, Fritz, 1868-1934 person
associatedWith Heisenberg, Werner, 1901-1976. person
associatedWith Herzfeld, Karl F. (Karl Ferdinand), person
associatedWith Hilbert, David, 1862-1943. person
associatedWith Jensen, Johannes, 1934- person
associatedWith Joliot-Curie, Frédéric person
associatedWith Jordan, Pascual, 1902-1980 person
associatedWith Kamerlingh Onnes, Heike, 1853-1926 person
associatedWith Kapitsa, P. L., (Petr Leonidovich), 1894-1984 person
associatedWith Kayser, H., (Heinrich), 1853-1940 person
associatedWith Kemble, Edwin C., (Edwin Crawford), 1889-1984 person
associatedWith Klein, Oskar, 1894-1977 person
associatedWith Kramers, Hendrik Anthony, 1894-1952 person
associatedWith Kuhn, Thomas S. person
associatedWith Ladenburg, Rudolf Walter, 1882-1952 person
associatedWith Langevin, Paul, 1872-1946 person
associatedWith Laue, Max von, 1879-1960 person
associatedWith Lauritsen, Thomas, 1915-1973. person
associatedWith London, Fritz, 1900-1954 person
associatedWith Löwdin, Per-Olov, 1916-2000. person
associatedWith Mayer, Joseph Edward, 1904- person
associatedWith McLennan, J. C., (John Cunningham), 1867-1935 person
associatedWith Meitner, Lise, 1878-1968 person
associatedWith Mie, Gustav, 1868-1957 person
associatedWith Millikan, Robert Andrews, 1868-1953 person
associatedWith Mulliken, Robert Sanderson, 1896-1986 person
associatedWith Niels Bohr Library. corporateBody
associatedWith Nishina, Yoshio, 1890-1951 person
associatedWith Oppenheimer, J. Robert, 1904-1967 person
associatedWith Paschen, F., (Friedrich), 1865-1947 person
associatedWith Pauling, Linus, 1901-1994 person
associatedWith Pauli, Wolfgang, 1900-1958 person
associatedWith Planck, Max, 1858-1947 person
associatedWith Pohl, Robert Wichard, 1884-1976. person
associatedWith Revelle, Roger, 1909-1991, person
associatedWith Rosenfeld, L., (Leon), 1904-1974 person
associatedWith Rosseland, Svein, 1894-1985 person
associatedWith Rubens, Heinrich, 1865-1922 person
associatedWith Runge, Carl, 1856-1927 person
associatedWith Rutherford, Ernest, 1871-1937 person
associatedWith Scheel, Karl, 1866-1936 person
associatedWith Schrödinger, Erwin, 1887-1961 person
associatedWith Serber, R. (Robert) person
associatedWith Sommerfeld, Arnold, 1868-1951 person
associatedWith Stark, Johannes, 1874-1957 person
associatedWith Stein, Maria. person
associatedWith Suess, Hans Eduard, 1909- person
correspondedWith Teller, Edward, 1908- person
associatedWith Teller, Edward, 1908-2003. person
associatedWith Thomson, J. J., Sir, (Joseph John), 1856-1940 person
associatedWith Uhlenbeck, George Eugène, 1900-1988 person
associatedWith Universität Göttingen corporateBody
associatedWith Universität Göttingen. corporateBody
associatedWith University of California, San Diego corporateBody
associatedWith University of California, San Diego. Dept. of Physics corporateBody
associatedWith University of Cambridge. corporateBody
associatedWith University of Chicago corporateBody
associatedWith Van Vleck, J. H., (John Hasbrouck), 1899-1980 person
associatedWith Voigt, Woldemar, 1850-1919 person
associatedWith Von Neumann, John, 1903-1957 person
associatedWith Warburg, Emil Gabriel, 1846-1931 person
associatedWith Weisskopf, Victor Frederick, 1908-2002. person
associatedWith Wheeler, John Archibald, 1911-2008. person
associatedWith Zeeman, Pieter, 1865-1943 person
associatedWith Zuckerman, Harriet A., person
Place Name Admin Code Country
California--San Diego
Subject
Women scientists
Women scientists--Family relationships
Superconductivity
Quantum theory
Physicists--Biography
Women in science
Physics teachers
Awards
Nobel prizes
Nuclear physics
Physics
Atomic theory
Solid state physics
Nuclear physics--Study and teaching
Thermodynamics
Manuscripts--German
Physics--Study and teaching
Physics--Awards
Science--History
Physicists--Interviews
Nuclear shell theory
Women physicists--Interviews
Manuscripts, German--California--San Diego
Physicists--Influence
Mentoring in science
Occupation
Women physicists
Physicists--Interviews
Function

Person

Birth 1906-06-28

Death 1972-02-20

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Ark ID: w60p11z2

SNAC ID: 11046941