Maria Goeppert-Mayer was a famous female physicist around in the early 1900’s. She was born on June 28, 1906 in Kattowitz, Upper Silesia, (today called Katowice, Polland). Maria was the only child of Friedrich Goeppert and his wife Maria Nee Wolff. In 1910 when Maria was four her father moved to Göttingen where Maria stayed and spent most of her life until she was married. Maria forst started off going to public schools in Göttingen but because she was so smart she was able to also go to private schools as well.
After taking the “abitur” in 1924 at her private school Maria was accepted at the University of Göttingen, with the decision of being a mathematicaticain. Besides going to Cambridge, England where she stayed for one term to learn english most of her education was gained at Göttingen. Shortly after choosing her career choice she decided that mathematics was not the thing for her, and that’s when she discovered she really enjoyed physics. Max Born(who was also a famous physicist) was one of her close friends who helped her when it came to her science education.
Maria Geoppert-Mayer married Joseph Edward Mayer in 1930. After their marriage she followed him back to Johns Hopskins University in Baltimore where she taught physics. Since most universities back then wouldn’t think of employing a professors wife, Maria worked for free but didn’t complain because of her love for physics. Karlz F. Herzfeld(who was aslo a Famous Professor of Physics at Johns Hopkins University) was very interested in Maria’s work and helped and influenced her to develop into chemical physics. She wrote many papers with Karlz F. Herzfeld and her husband about her new concern in physics which was the color of organic molecules.
After earning her Phd they moved to Columbia in 1936 where she taught one year Sarah Lawrence College, but she still worked mainly at the S.A.M. Laboratory which was directed by Harold Urey. After staying there for ten years in 1946 they moved to Chicago which was the first place that she was finally treatedwith open arms. Maria right off the back became a Professor in the Physics Department and in the Institute for Nuclear Studies. She was also employed by the Argonne National Laboratory with very little knowledge of Nuclear Physics. In 1948 Maria started to work on magic numbers, but it took her another year to find their explanation, and many years to work out most of their consequences.
Finally Maria’s model explained why certain numbers of nucleons in the nucleus of an atom cause an atom to be extremely stable. She explained her experiment by saying:
"Think of a room full of waltzers. Suppose they go round the room in circles, each circle enclosed within another. Then imagine that in each circle, you can fit twice as many dancers by having one pair go clockwise and another pair go counterclockwise. Then add one more variation; all the dancers are spinning twirling round and round like tops as they circle the room, each pair both twirling and circling. But only some of those that go counterclockwise are twirling counterclockwise; the others…