Papers of a Nobel Prize winning physicist and professor at the University of California, 1960-1964. The materials include general and family correspondence, and correspondence with physicists Hans Jensen and Edward Teller. Also included are reprints and writings of hers, as well as research notebooks, class lectures, and teaching materials from both the University of Chicago and the University of California, San Diego. The collection is arranged in seven series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) REPRINTS, WRITINGS AND LECTURES, 3) RESEARCH NOTEBOOKS AND CLASS LECTURES, 4) TEACHING MATERIALS, 5) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 6) NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS, and 7) SUBJECT MATERIALS. The addition processed in 1997 contains photographs, diplomas, certificates, and awards. The materials are arranged in two series: 1) PHOTOGRAPHS and 2) AWARDS, CERTIFICATES AND DIPLOMAS.


Maria Goeppert Mayer was born on June 28, 1906 in Kattowitz, Germany, to Friedrich and Maria (nee Wolff) Goeppert. In 1910 she moved with her parents to Gottingen where her father taught pediatrics at the University. She enrolled at the University at Gottingen in the spring of 1924 with the expectation of pursuing a career in mathematics, but soon became attracted to physics and the developing field of quantum mechanics. In 1930 Mayer took her doctorate in theoretical physics under the direction of Nobel prize winners Max Born, James Franck, and Adolf Windaus.

While completing her studies at Gottingen she met and married Joseph Edward Mayer, an American post-doctoral fellow working in physical chemistry under James Franck. Together they moved to Baltimore, Maryland where Joseph taught at the Johns Hopkins University. In 1939 they went to Columbia University. There Maria worked under the direction of Harold Urey at the S.A.M. (Strategic Alloy Metals) Laboratory which researched the separation of isotopes of uranium. She co-authored a text entitled STATISTICAL MECHANICS (1940) with her husband. After the war she took a professorship of physics at the Institute for Nuclear Studies, University of Chicago. During this period Mayer began a long correspondence with Edward Teller.

In 1948, Mayer began work on nuclear shell structure and the meaning of the "magic numbers"- those nuclei that have a special number of protons. She postulated these numbers to be the shell numbers of a shell model, a "nuclear counterpart to the closed shells of electrons" at the atomic level. In 1950 she met and began a collaboration with Johannes Hans Daniel Jensen which led to the publication of the book entitled ELEMENTARY THEORY OF NUCLEAR SHELL THEORY (1955). In 1963, Maria Mayer was awarded the Nobel Prize jointly with Hans Jensen for their work on the Shell Model.

Maria Goeppert Mayer came to the University of California, San Diego, in 1960 as a professor of physics. At San Diego she taught while conducting research in nuclear physics under grants administered by Keith Brueckner. During this period Mayer publically encouraged young women to pursue careers in the sciences. She was a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the Akademie der Wissenschafter in Heidelberg, and the Philosophical Society. After a protracted illness, she died on February 20, 1972.

Scope and Content

Accession Processed in 1988

Maria Mayer's papers contain a relative abundance of correspondence, much in German, with family members, professional colleagues, and admirers. In addition, her research notebooks provide a unique resource. Unfortunately, the collection largely lacks manuscript materials related to her numerous publications. The materials have been arranged in seven series: 1) CORRESPONDENCE, 2) REPRINTS, WRITINGS, AND LECTURES, 3) RESEARCH NOTEBOOKS AND CLASS LECTURES, 4) TEACHING MATERIALS, 5) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 6) NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS, and 7) SUBJECT MATERIALS.

The CORRESPONDENCE is arranged in a number of subseries by provenance, with a general correspondence subseries, a family subseries, and letters from Edward Teller. Within the subseries, folders follow a chronological order. An index lists selected authors and the dates of each item (see Addendum 1).

The Teller letters were probably written in the period 1939-1971 by Dr. Edward Teller, physicist, and "Father of the H-Bomb." Most of the letters are on plain paper, handwritten, and signed "Edward". A few are typed on letterhead from the University of Chicago, University of California (Berkeley), and a Santa Fe Post Office Box (Los Alamos). One letter was written in German, while the remaining letters are in English, and for the most part appear to have been written from hotel rooms or during transit on planes or trains.

The letters were written against a background of national and international events: the outbreak of World War II in Europe in 1939; the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the entry of the United States into the War; the dropping of atom bombs on Japan in 1945; the political situation in the post war United States; the re-election of President Truman in 1948; the Klaus Fuchs exposure in 1950; the Soviet take-over of Hungary; the United States entry into the Korean War in 1950; and the investigation of J. Robert Oppenheimer, Director of the Manhattan Project.

From this historical background, it is possible to assign tentative year dates to many of the letters. In a very few cases, a month has been added when a family event, for example a birth or death, has been mentioned. When the letters were received from the donor there was no apparent organization. They have now been organized into 16 folders by date. The general nature of these letters is purely personal. Although there are occasional references to particular physics problems in which Teller or Mayer was engaged, there are no detailed discussions of a scientific nature.

There are innumerable references to mutual friends and physicists, their locations and activities. Occasionally, Teller mentions his wife Mici and his children Paul, Susan, and Wendy. Teller speaks about his family in Hungary. He discusses the condition of postwar Germany and of what might be done to get surviving scientists out and to the United States. He speaks of his great love for the Hungarian language and for Hungarian poetry and of his regret that Maria does not know that language. He takes note of place as well as time, speaking of walking by the Danube River, the beauty of New Mexico, and the climate of California.

The great strength of the letters is the completely open way in which Teller writes about his hopes, fears, disappointments, and rages, his dissatisfaction with himself, his work habits, and his frequently stormy relations with fellow scientists. This is particularly true of the period 1946 when he was trying to choose between remaining at Los Alamos, returning to the University of Chicago, or accepting an offer from the University of California. It is also true of a later period, 1950, when the issue of the loyalty oath in California caused him to refuse a position as professor at the University. He expressed himself vigorously on this issue. Finally, there are no apparent direct references to his testimony before the Atomic Energy Committee in their enquiry into J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Also contained in the CORRESPONDENCE are letters from Maria's dissertation advisor, Max Born, who emigrated to England before World War II. Most of his letters are of a personal nature, discussing the impending war with Germany, life in besieged England, and the affairs of mutual friends and colleagues.

Within the REPRINTS, WRITINGS, AND LECTURES series reprint materials are organized chronologically, while "writings and lectures" by Mayer are alphabetized. "Writings by other authors" are also alphabetized. RESEARCH NOTEBOOKS were assigned arbitrary numbers and each reflects her descriptive subdivisions. The TEACHING MATERIALS are divided by institution. BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS are alphabetized by subject and include a subseries of photographs in chronological order. The NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS are accompanied by Addendum 3 and also follow a chronological order. Finally, the SUBJECT MATERIALS are alphabetized.

Accession Processed in 1997

Additions to the Maria Mayer Papers processed in 1997 contain photographs, awards, certificates, and diplomas of Maria Mayer. The materials are arranged in two series: 1) PHOTOGRAPHS and 2) AWARDS, CERTIFICATES AND DIPLOMAS.


The PHOTOGRAPHS series contains a large group photograph of seated attendees to the Alfred Nobel Dinner in 1964, images taken of Maria in her UCSD office after the announcement of her Nobel Prize and a photograph album that documents her trip to Japan for "Women's Week in Japan." The photograph album was created as a memento by her Japanese hosts and contains numerous images of Mayer.


This series contains Mayer's academic diplomas and certificates, as well as awards she received during her career.

Accession Processed in 1988


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General Correspondence

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11 General Correspondence, 1933 - 1934.
12 General Correspondence, 1935.
13 General Correspondence, 1936.
14 General Correspondence, 1937.
15 General Correspondence, 1938.
16 General Correspondence, 1939.
17 General Correspondence, 1940.
18 General Correspondence, 1941.
19 General Correspondence, 1942.
110 General Correspondence, 1943.
111 General Correspondence, 1944.
112 General Correspondence, 1945.
113 General Correspondence, 1946.
114 General Correspondence, 1947.
115 General Correspondence, 1948.
116 General Correspondence, 1949.
117 General Correspondence, 1950.
118 General Correspondence, 1951.
119 General Correspondence, 1952.
120 General Correspondence, 1953.
121 General Correspondence, 1954.
122 General Correspondence, 1955.
123 General Correspondence, 1956.
124 General Correspondence, 1957.
125 General Correspondence, 1958.
126 General Correspondence, 1959.
127 General Correspondence, 1960.
128 General Correspondence, 1961.
129 General Correspondence, 1962.
21 General Correspondence, 1963.
22 General Correspondence, 1963.
23 General Correspondence, 1964.
24 General Correspondence, 1964.
25 General Correspondence, 1965.
26 General Correspondence, 1966.
27 General Correspondence, 1967.
28 General Correspondence, 1968.
29 General Correspondence, 1969.
210 General Correspondence, 1970.
211 General Correspondence, 1971.
212 General Correspondence, 1972.
213 General Correspondence, 1973.

Edward Teller Correspondence

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31 Edward Teller Correspondence. No Date
32 Edward Teller Correspondence, 1939 - 1941.
33 Edward Teller Correspondence, 1944.
34 Edward Teller Correspondence, 1945.
35 Edward Teller Correspondence, 1946 - 1947.
36 Edward Teller Correspondence, 1947. [Summer]
37 Edward Teller Correspondence, 1948 - 1949.
38 Edward Teller Correspondence, 1950. Los Alamos
39 Edward Teller Correspondence, 1950 - 1951. Los Alamos and leaving Los Alamos
310 Edward Teller Correspondence, 1952. Livermore, California
311 Edward Teller Correspondence, 1953.
312 Edward Teller Correspondence, 1954. Berkeley, Radiation Laboratory
313 Edward Teller Correspondence, 1955. Livermore, California
314 Edward Teller Correspondence, 1956. Berkeley
315 Edward Teller Correspondence, 1960. Berkeley
316 Edward Teller Correspondence, 1963 - 1969.
317 Edward Teller Correspondence, 1971. Livermore, California

Undated Correspondence (arranged alphabetically )

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318 Undated Correspondence. A - H
319 Undated Correspondence. I - Z

Family Correspondence (in German)

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320 Family Correspondence (in German) - Maria Wolff (Mayer's mother), 1929.
321 Family Correspondence (in German) - Maria Wolff (Mayer's mother), 1930.
322 Family Correspondence (in German) - Maria Wolff (Mayer's mother), 1930.
323 Family Correspondence (in German) - Maria Wolff (Mayer's mother), 1931.
41 Family Correspondence (in German) - Maria Wolff (Mayer's mother), 1932.
42 Family Correspondence (in German) - Maria Wolff (Mayer's mother), 1933.
43 Family Correspondence (in German) - Maria Wolff (Mayer's mother), 1933.
44 Family Correspondence (in German) - Maria Wolff (Mayer's mother), 1934.
45 Family Correspondence (in German) - Maria Wolff (Mayer's mother), 1935.
46 Family Correspondence (in German) - Maria Wolff (Mayer's mother), 1936.
47 Family Correspondence (in German) - Maria Wolff (Mayer's mother). No Date
48 Family Correspondence (in German) - Catherine Mayer (mother) to Maria Wolff, 1930 - 1932.
49 Family Correspondence (in German) - Hannah Fehler, 1937 - 1968.
410 Family Correspondence (in German) - Kathe Fehler, 1937 - 1951.
411 Family Correspondence (in German) - Wilhelm Fehler, 1945 - 1962.
412 Family Correspondence (in German) - Heinrich Goeppert, 1926 - 1933.
413 Family Correspondence (in German) - Otto Goeppert, 1937 - 1941.
414 Family Correspondence (in German) - Vera Goeppert, 1950 - 1971.
415 Family Correspondence (in German) - Miscellaneous Goeppert Family Members. No Date
416 Family Correspondence (in German) - Margarete Marquardt, 1949 - 1964.
417 Family Correspondence (in German) - Niels Marquardt, 1970 - 1971.


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51 Reprints, 1925 - 1938.
52 Reprints, 1940 - 1949.
53 Reprints, 1950 - 1952.
54 Reprints, 1953 - 1958.
55 Reprints, 1960 - 1965.

Writings and Lectures

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56 DYNAMISCHE GITTERTHEORIE DER KRISTALLE, with Max Born. ca. 1931. Item has been removed and added to Rare Book Collection. A list laid into the front of the book is retained in this folder.
57 Elementary Theory of Nuclear Shell Structure - Reviews and Illustrations, 1955.
58 Magic Numbers in Nuclear Structure, UCSD Faculty Lectures. Handwritten draft. September 23, 1960
59 Shell Model, 1963.
510 Fine Arts Society Lecture, 1964.
511 Changing Status of Women as Seen by a Scientist. Speech delivered in Japan, ca. 1965
512 Hans Jensen Biography written for the ENCYCLOPEDIA AMERICANA, 1965.
513 Speech to the New Citizens. January 7, 1966
514 Obituary for Max Born. January 1970
515 Book Review for the AMERICAN JOURNAL OF PHYSICS - "Physics in My Generation". By Max Born. Reviewed September 1970
516 On the Abundance and Origin of Elements. With Edward Teller. Undated

Writings by Other Authors

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517 Fermi, Enrico. "Polarization of High Energy Protons Scattered by Nuclei" 1954. Also includes "Uber die Anwendung der statistischen methode auf die probleme des Atombaues" No Date
518 Suess, Hans E. "Contributions to Science". Undated


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61 Notebook One - Part 1.
62 Notebook One - Part 2.
63 Notebook One - Part 3.
64 Notebook Two - Miscellaneous experimental.
65 Notebook Three - Part 1.
66 Notebook Three - Part 2.
67 Notebook Four - Part 1.
68 Notebook Four - Part 2.
71 Notebook Five - Part 1.
72 Notebook Five - Part 2.
73 Notebook Six -- Thermodynamics.
74 Notebook Seven -- "Chaneleer Laboratories". No Date
75 Notebook Eight -- untitled.
76 Notebook Nine -- Quantum Mechanics III -- Fall 1955.
77 Notebook Ten -- Class Lecture.
78 Notebook Eleven -- Poetry.

Research Subjects

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79 Irrotational Flow.
81 Neptuniam Hexafluoride.
82 Opacity.
83 Quantum Theory.
84 Rand Radio Signal.
85 Superconductivity.
86 Transuranic Elements.


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University of Chicago, 1947-1956

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87 Atomic Physics 231, 1947.
88 Physics 241/242, 1947 - 1949. Course outlines and examinations
89 Physics 251 (Thermodynamics), 1949 - 1951.
810 Physics 252 (Statistical Mechanics). ca. 1949
811 Miscellaneous course outlines.

University of California, San Diego, 1960-1970

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812 Nuclear Physics 213.
813 Nuclear Physics 213.
814 213A - Theoretical Nuclear Physics. Taught by Keith Brueckner
815 213B - Theoretical Nuclear Physics. Taught by Keith Brueckner
816 Advanced Nuclear Physics 222.
817 Candidacy examination for the Department of Physics.
818 Development of undergraduate curriculum for Physics and Chemistry.
91 Miscellaneous outlines and examinations. undated


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92 Autobiographies.
93 Biographical Information. Correspondence with biographical reference publishers
94 Birth, Death, and Marriage Certificates / Medical History.
95MC-037-15Charcoal Portrait of Maria and Joe Mayer, 1966.
96 Genealogical Chart.
97 Naturalization Documents. U.S. Immigrant Identification Card, February 25, 1930. Naturalization Paper, March 13, 1933
98 Obituaries.
99 Photographs - Portraits.
910 Photographs. ca. 1920 - 1930
911 Photographs. ca. 1930
912 Photographs - Heidelberg. February 7, 1951
913 Photographs - "Bothe-Festspiele", 1951.
914 Photographs - "International Conference on Nuclear Structure". September 8, 1957 - September 14, 1957 - Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovoth, Israel
915 Photographs - Nobel Prize Ceremony, 1963.
916 Photographs - Graduate students at UCSD, 1960 - 1964.
917 Photographs - Women in Science. February 24, 1964
918 Photographs - Gordon Research Conference. August 23,1965 - August 27,1965 Kimball Union Academy. Meriden, New Hampshire
919 Photographs - At the University of Portland with the Reverend Joseph L. Poivers. June 12, 1968
920 Photographs - "Lindau 19", 1968.
921MC-037-15Photographs - Instituts Internationaux de Physique et de Chimie. May 5, 1969 - May 10, 1969
922 Photographs - International Conference on Statistical Mechanics, 1968.
923 Photographs - Miscellaneous. No Date
924 Moon, the atom ... and the urge to know. A special report to the Regents of the University of California, ca. 1968
925 Vitae.


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926 About Maria Goeppert Mayer, 1933 - 1956.
927 About Maria Goeppert Mayer, 1960 - 1962.
928 About Maria Goeppert Mayer. November 5-6, 1963
929 About Maria Goeppert Mayer. November - December 1963
930 About Maria Goeppert Mayer, 1964.
931 About Maria Goeppert Mayer, 1965.
932 About Maria Goeppert Mayer, 1966 - 1972.
933 Miscellaneous clippings not about Maria Mayer.


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934 American Academy of Arts and Science / American Philosophical Society. Statement on U.S. policy in Vietnam
101 Brueckner contract with the Atomic Energy Commission, 1960 - 1971.
102 Calling cards/nameplate.
103 Certificates. Daughters of the American Revolution; ENCYCLOPEDIA BRITANNICA; University of California Regents
104 Dag Hammarskjold Foundation.
105 Financial materials (primarily in German).
106MC-037-15GOTTINGER TAGEBLATT. April 29, 1936
107 Gottingen University. List of friends and visitors from the U.S.. No Date
108MC-037-15HAMBURGER TAGEBLATT. September 16, 1935
109 Heidelberg Conference, 1951. Agenda and etc.
1010 Honorary Degrees -- citations and programs. Russell Sage College,1960; Mount Holyoke College,1961; Ripon College 1970
1011 Kanpur Indo - American Program materials.
1012 National Academy of Science Centennial. Participation/academic costume information
1013 National Citizens Organizing Committee for Johnson-Humphrey. Roster of members
1014 New Year's Eve Parties, 1952 - 1959. Invitation lists and menus
1015 Nobel Foundation - Nobel Prize Lecture "The Shell Model". December 12, 1963
1016 Nobel Foundation - Das Schalenmodell des Atomkerns (German translation of Nobel.
1017 Nobel Foundation - Correspondence regarding the publication of the Nobel Prize L.
1018 Nobel Foundation - Invitaitons to events in Stockholm.
1019 Nobel Foundation - Letters of congratulation.
1020 Nobel Foundation - Newspaper Clippings.
1021 Nobel Foundation - Miscellaneous Materials.
1022 Nursery School Report for Marianne Mayer.
1023 Poetry and Prose.
111 Programs. National Academy of Sciences, 1956; LOS ANGELES TIMES, 1962; Women of the Year Awards; American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1963; American Academy of Achievement, 1971; Die Tagungen der Nobelpriestager in Lindau, 1971
112 Reprints of a work by Maria Mayer's father, Friederich Goeppert. "Festrede Gehalten Bei Der Reichsgrundungsfeier"; and another reprint -- "Ein Morgan in der Kinderklinik" 1920
113 Scientific notes and papers.
114 Tanganjika Territory, Poland, inheritance documents.
115 Travel Materials -- passports, itineraries, bills.
116 University of California - Miscellaneous materials.
117 Women's Week in Japan, 1965. Ephemera
118 Other individual's writings - Max Born.
119 Other individual's writings - Johannes Jensen.
1110 Other individual's writings - Eugene Wigner.
1111 Originals of Preservation Photocopies.

Accession Processed in 1997


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121FB-188-01Alfred Nobel Dinner, Los Angeles, 1964.
122FB-188-02Photographs taken at the time of notification of Nobel Prize Award.
123FB-189-01Women's Week in Japan. Photograph album of Mayer's trip to Japan, April 1965.


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124FB-188-03Awards, certificates and diplomas., 1930 - 1969.
125FB-188-04Pillars of American Freedom Award, 1964.
126 Who's Who in the World, 1971 - 1972.

Finding aid generated: 2005-10-28