The child of a doctor and a piano teacher, Maria Goeppert-Mayer was born in Germany, immigrated to the United States and became only the second woman, after Marie Curie, to win a Nobel Prize in physics. Goeppert-Mayer’s work involved discovering how the nucleus of an atom is arranged in a series of shells.
Executivenewsletter: What was it like to work so closely with the likes of Max Born, Enrico Fermi and Edward Teller?
Mayer: They reminded me of my father in their intensity.
EL: Your father was a pediatrician and a professor, and he believed that girls and boys deserved equal opportunities. He came from a line of six professors. Is it true that you were determined to be the seventh?
Mayer: Yes. I started in math at the University of Göttingen. It was a great time for quantum mathematics, which led me to physics. I switched to theoretical physics and studied for my Ph.D. under Max Born.
But it was my fa...(register to read more)