The Scientific Life of Maria Goppert-Mayer

Researcher and educator Maria Göppert-Mayer, winner of the 1963 Nobel Prize in physics for her work on the nuclear shell model, loved science and learning. That love sustained her through the difficulties she encountered in pursuing her profession, including relocation from Europe to America prior to the war years and never being granted a full-time salaried academic position until she was 53 years old. A study of Maria Göppert-Mayer’s life reveals insights into the influence of her parents on her education and achievements, as well as into the role of her mentors, physicists James Franck and Edward Teller, on her professional development. Göppert-Mayer’s doctoral thesis, published in 1931, predicted multiphoton excitation processes and served as a precursor to the development of multiphoton excitation microscopy.

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