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Argonne National Laboratory Named APS Historic Site

Newest APS Historic Site showcases the work of Nobel laureate Maria Goeppert Mayer

November 13, 2018 | Amanda Babcock

The most recent APS Historic Site recognizes the second woman to receive a Nobel Prize in Physics. In a ceremony on November 2, APS President Roger Falcone presented the APS Historic Site plaque to Argonne National Laboratory, where Maria Goeppert Mayer carried out her research in nuclear physics.

The citation on the plaque reads:

While working at Argonne National Laboratory in the late 1940s, Maria Goeppert Mayer developed the “shell” model of the atomic nucleus that is the basis for our modern understanding of nuclear structure. She determined that there are certain “magic numbers” of nucleons that constitute complete shells with maximum binding energy at different energy levels, analogous to the stability of full shells of orbital electrons.

“We are delighted to receive this honor on behalf of a highly esteemed former Argonne scientist. Dr. Mayer was an amazing contributor to the profession,” said John Arrington, interim Physics division director at Argonne.

Goeppert Mayer joined Argonne in 1946, and the results of her work were published in the Physical Review in June 1949. She shared the Nobel prize in 1963 with Hans Jensen, who independently came up with the same result, and Eugene Wigner for unrelated work.

Argonne National Lab
Photograph provided courtesy of Argonne National Laboratory

The APS Historic Site plaque presented to Argonne National Laboratory. L-R: Paul Halpern, Paul Kearns, Roger Falcone, and Kawtar Hafidi.

“Maria Goeppert Mayer, only the second woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Physics, made extraordinary contributions to nuclear physics, including the co-discovery of the shell model. The APS Historic Sites Initiative is delighted to honor her and the many accomplishments of the site where she worked, Argonne National Laboratory,” said Paul Halpern, Chair of the APS Historic Sites Committee, who also attended the ceremony.

The APS Historic Sites Initiative recognizes important and interesting events and locations in the history of physics. These sites provide an engaging way to bring physics before the general public and increase awareness of past scientific advances.

For more information visit the Historic Sites Initiative page.

The author is Science Writing Intern at APS in College Park, MD.

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