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‘The Onion Madonna’ of physics

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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.

Executive Leadership newsletter: 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)

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