Maria Goeppert Mayer

Theoretical Physicist

PhD, University of Göttingen



This scientist is most known for...

Nobel Prize in Physics 1963 for discoveries concerning nuclear shell structure.
Studying nuclear structure and discovering that nuclei with 2, 8, 20, 28, 50, 82, or 126 protons/neutrons (going forward these were known as "magic numbers") were most stable.

Worked “just for the fun of doing physics"

Affliated Institution(s)/Place(s) or Work:

Sarah Lawrence College
Columbia University
Los Alamos Laboratory
Argonne National Laboratory
University of California, San Diego
University of Chicago

She was only offered volunteer and part-time (no salary) positions at whatever institution her husband, physical chemist Joseph Mayer, was affiliated with at the time until UCSD (then, a new university) offered her full professorship in 1960. This was 3 years before her Nobel Prize and shortly before she suffered a stroke from which she never recovered. On her father’s side, she is the seventh straight generation of university professors.

Member of the National Academy of Sciences.
Corresponding member of the Akademie der Wissenschaften in Heidelberg.

From Nobel Lectures, Physics 1963-1970, Elsevier Publishing Company, Amsterdam, 1972