MARIA GOEPPERT MAYER A SHORT BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH
Maria Goeppert was born in Silesia in 1906. Her father was an academic and moved to Goettingen. There she got her education. The 1920's were an extremely exciting time for Theoretical Physics, and Goettingen was, perhaps, the most active place in developing the ideas of modern quantum mechanics and applying them to atoms. Maria wrote her Ph.D thesis on the decay of excited states by the simultaneous emission of two quanta. It was in Goettingen that Maria met Joe Mayer, a theoretical chemist from the United States on a fellowship. They were married shortly, and came to the United States. For a time, they worked at Johns Hopkins University at Baltimore, and wrote a textbook on Statistical Mechanics, which became widely used. During World War II, she worked on the Manhattan Project. After the war she joined Joe at the University of Chicago. It was there that she made her famous discoveries concerning the Nuclear Shell Model. Her contribution to the Nuclear Shell Model can be roughly divided into three parts: 1. Discovery of the Magic Numbers For more on the discovery of magic numbers in nuclei 2. Explanation of the Magic Numbers (Independently done by Jensen). This is what Mayer and Jensen shared the Nobel prize for, in 1963. For more on explanation of the magic numbers 3. Pairing For more on nuclear pairing She won the Nobel Prize (shared with Hans Jensen) in 1963. From 1961 on, she and Joe were Professors at the University of California in La Jolla. She died in 1972.
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Register of MGM Papers at the Mandeville Special Collection Library, UC San Diego
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