UC San Diego Nobel Laureate and founding faculty member Maria Goeppert Mayer now graces a Forever stamp issued this June by the U.S. Postal Service. The stamp, which is one in a series that honors Americans who have made extraordinary contributions to science, includes photographs of Mayer and her signature from UC San Diego's Mandeville Special Collections Library.
Mayer, one of only two women to ever win the Nobel Prize in physics--the other was Marie Curie--enjoyed a distinguished career before joining UC San Diego. Surprisingly, however, she worked in unpaid positions until she was offered a regular faculty position in the physics department at the age of 54. Mayer, who was a member of the UCSD faculty in the Department of Physics from 1960-1970, died in 1972.
After her death, Mayer's family donated her papers--which include correspondence, writings and lectures, research notebooks, photographs and other materials--to UC San Diego's Mandeville Special Collections Library. Her archive includes correspondence with physicists Edward Teller and Hans Jensen, at a time of great national and international turmoil (during and following WWII).
According to Lynda Claassen, director of UCSD’s Mandeville Special Collections Library, the signature on the stamp was found in a book that Mayer used in her teaching. The stamp also includes a chart and a diagram illustrating properties of chemical elements and the model of the atomic nucleus that Mayer developed with Hans Jensen, with whom she shared the Nobel Prize in physics.
"The Mandeville Special Collections Library houses a substantial collection on 20th century science and science policy," said Claassen, "including some of the nation’s most renowned scientists. We are thrilled to be playing a role in increasing awareness of Professor Mayer’s significant accomplishments, at a time when few female scientists were working, let alone winning the Nobel Prize."
Mandeville Special Collections is also the repository for the papers of world-renowned scientists and Nobel Laureates Francis Crick, Jonas Salk, Harold Urey, and Hannes Alfven, said Claassen.
The Maria Goeppert Mayer stamp marks the second instance of a U.S. Postal Service stamp based on images from UCSD’s Special Collections. In 2004, a commemorative postage stamp was issued marking the 100th anniversary of Dr. Seuss, which was accompanied by the unveiling of a bronze sculpture at UCSD’s Geisel Library.