Maria Goeppert Mayer

Facts

Maria Goeppert Mayer

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Maria Goeppert Mayer

Born: 28 June 1906, Kattowitz (now Katowice), Germany (now Poland)

Died: 20 February 1972, San Diego, CA, USA

Affiliation at the time of the award: University of California, San Diego, CA, USA

Prize motivation: "for their discoveries concerning nuclear shell structure."

Prize share: 1/4

Life

Maria Goeppert-Mayer was born in Katowittz, which was then part of Germany. Her father became a professor at the university in Göttingen, from which Goeppert-Mayer also received her PhD in 1930. After marrying, Goeppert-Mayer migrated to the US where regulations prohibited her from accepting employment at the same university as her husband. She was affiliated with several universities, however, and worked on the American atom bomb project during World War II. Maria Goeppert-Mayer was later made a professor at the University of California in San Diego. The Goeppert-Mayers had two children.

Work

According to modern physics, an atom consists of a nucleus made up of nucleons - protons and neutrons - surrounded by electrons distributed within shells with a fixed number of electrons. It became apparent that atomic nuclei in which the number of nucleons corresponded to full electron shells are especially stable. In 1949 Maria Goeppert Mayer and Hans Jensen developed a model in which nucleons were distributed in shells with different energy levels. The model reflected observations of directions in which nucleons rotated around their own axes and around the center of the nucleus.

To cite this section
MLA style: Maria Goeppert Mayer – Facts. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Media AB 2018. Tue. 25 Sep 2018. <https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/physics/1963/mayer/facts/>

Back to top Back To Top Takes users back to the top of the page

Explore prizes and laureates

Look for popular awards and laureates in different fields, and discover the history of the Nobel Prize.