Courtesy of the Nobel Prize

392: Maria Goeppert Mayer

Theoretical Physicist

Born: 28 June 1906, Kattowitz, Upper Silesia, German Empire (Present-day Katowice, Poland)

Died: 20 February 1972, San Diego, California, United States of America

Through her father’s side Maria was the 7th straight generational university professor.

She earned her PhD in theoretical physics in 1930 but would also work in nuclear and chemical physics throughout her career.

Maria was a member of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States (where she had moved after being a relationship with the American man who would become her husband) and was a corresponding member of the Akademie der Wissenschaften (Austrian Academy of Sciences) in Austria.

During World War II, Maria worked both at the SAM Laboratory at Columbia University and then later in Los Alamos, New Mexico on the Manhattan Project—which led to the eventual creation of the world’s first Atomic bombs.

Maria was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963. She shared the award with three others. The citation for the prize reads, "for their discoveries concerning nuclear shell structure."

She and her husband had two children together.

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Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky