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By Grace Ross. Mary Goeppert-Mayer. One of the greatest female minds to walk the face on the earth. By: Grace Ross. Childhood. Maria was born June 28, 1906 in Kattowitz, Silesia. She was the only child of Friedrich and Maria Goppert. Maria grew up in an “academic”

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mary goeppert mayer

Mary Goeppert-Mayer

One of the greatest female minds to walk the face on the earth.

By: Grace Ross


Maria was born June 28, 1906 in

Kattowitz, Silesia. She was the only

child of Friedrich and Maria Goppert.

Maria grew up in an “academic”

environment. Her father encouraged

self-confidence and an inquisitive

mind-set. Her father was a

pediatrician, and she absolutely

adored him.


Maria’s father (Friedrich Goppert) a pediatrician, and her husband (Joseph Edward Mayer) a chemical physicist inspired Ma ria to take a doctorate in theoretical physics under the direction of Nobel Prize Winners Max Born, Jame s Franck, and Adolf Wind aus.


Maria went to a public elementary school for girls until the age of 15. She passed the examination for admission to a university. In the spring of 1924, she enrolled at the university of Gottingen. She originally planned to have a career in mathematics, but she was more attracted to physics, and she looked for a more challenging curriculum. So she

switched to physics and decided to continue the family tradition and purse a doctorate.

“This was wonderful. I liked the mathematics in it… Mathematics began to seem too much like puzzle solving… Physics is puzzle solving, too, but of puzzles created by nature, not by the mind of man… Physics was the challenge.”

- Maria Goeppert-Mayer

The Big Year

In 1930, Maria received her PhD at Gottingen in theoretical physics under Max Born. She married U.S. chemical physicist Joseph Edward Mayer on January 18, 1930. After her graduation, the Mayer’s took a steamboat to the United States because John Hopkins University had offered Joseph a position as assistant professor in chemistry. She arrived in Baltimore on April 1, 1930.


Even though Maria was white she still was discriminated against. Since she was a woman, she wasn’t able to work as a full professor with a salary until she was in her later years. So, all of her discoveries in physics were made by volunteering.


Maria Goeppert-Mayer was one of the two women to win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963. She jointly won with Johannes Hans Daniel Hensen, for their work on the shell model of nuclear studies. Or in other words, their discoveries concerning the organization of neutrons and protons within an atomic nuclei, for the work she did between 1948, and 1955, at the University of Chicago.

contribution to physics
Contribution to Physics

The discovery of magic numbers and their explanation,

and her model of the shell structure of an atomic nuclei.

  • “Maria Goeppert-Mayer – Biography.” November 17, 2003. <>
  • “Maria Goeppert-Mayer 1906-1972.” Nov. 18, 2003.
  • Shearer, Benjamin. “Notable Woman in the Physical Sciences.” Westport, Conn. :Greenwood, 1997