Victor Weisskopf

Last updated
Victor Weisskopf
VictorWeisskopft-LosAlamos.jpg
Weisskopf in the 1940s.
Born(1908-09-19)September 19, 1908
DiedApril 22, 2002(2002-04-22) (aged 93)
Newton, Massachusetts, United States
NationalityAustria, United States
Alma mater University of Göttingen
Awards Max Planck Medal (1956)
Oersted Medal (1976)
National Medal of Science (1980)
Wolf Prize (1981)
Enrico Fermi Award (1988)
Public Welfare Medal (1991)
Scientific career
Fields Physicist
Institutions University of Leipzig
University of Berlin
ETH Zurich
Niels Bohr Institute
University of Rochester
Manhattan Project
MIT
CERN
Thesis Zur Theorie der Resonanzfluoreszenz  (1931)
Doctoral advisor Max Born
Doctoral students J. Bruce French
David H. Frisch
Kerson Huang
J. David Jackson
Murray Gell-Mann
Kurt Gottfried
Raymond Stora
Lawrence Biedenharn

Victor (aka Viktor) Frederick "Viki" Weisskopf (September 19, 1908 – April 22, 2002) was an Austrian-born American theoretical physicist. He did postdoctoral work with Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger, Wolfgang Pauli and Niels Bohr. [1] During World War II he was Group Leader of the Theoretical Division of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, [2] and later campaigned against the proliferation of nuclear weapons. [3]

Contents

Biography

Weisskopf was born in Vienna to Jewish parents and earned his doctorate in physics at the University of Göttingen in Germany in 1931. His brilliance in physics led to work with the great physicists exploring the atom, especially Niels Bohr, who mentored Weisskopf at his institute in Copenhagen. By the late 1930s, he realized that, as a Jew, he needed to get out of Europe. Bohr helped him find a position in the United States. [4]

In the 1930s and 1940s, 'Viki', as everyone called him, made major contributions to the development of quantum theory, especially in the area of quantum electrodynamics. [5] One of his few regrets was that his insecurity about his mathematical abilities may have cost him a Nobel prize when he did not publish results (which turned out to be correct) about what is now known as the Lamb shift. [6]

From 1937 to 1943 he was a Professor of Physics at the University of Rochester.

After World War II, Weisskopf joined the physics faculty at MIT, ultimately becoming head of the department. At MIT, he encouraged students to ask questions, and, even in undergraduate physics courses, taught his students to think like physicists, not just to learn physics. He was a memorable teacher.

Weisskopf was a co-founder and board member of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He served as director-general of CERN from 1961 to 1966. [7] [8] [9] [10] [11]

Weisskopf was awarded the Max Planck Medal in 1956 and the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca in 1972, the National Medal of Science (1980), the Wolf Prize (1981) and the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences (1991). [12]

Weisskopf was a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He was president of the American Physical Society (1960–61) [13] and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1976–1979). [14]

He was appointed by Pope Paul VI to the 70-member Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1975, and in 1981 he led a team of four scientists sent by Pope John Paul II to talk to President Ronald Reagan about the need to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons.

In a joint statement Preserving and Cherishing the Earth with other noted scientists including Carl Sagan it concluded that: The historical record makes clear that religious teaching, example, and leadership are powerfully able to influence personal conduct and commitment...Thus, there is a vital role for religion and science. [15]

Personal life

His first wife, Ellen Tvede, died in 1989. He was survived by his second wife Duscha. [16]

Decorations and awards

Quotes

Human existence is based upon two pillars: Compassion and knowledge. Compassion without knowledge is ineffective; knowledge without compassion is inhuman. [19]

In class one day, speaking to junior physics majors (Spring, 1957): "There is no such thing as a stupid question." Citing initial teacher-student interactions, Noam Chomsky attributes to Victor the educational maxim,

It doesn't matter what we cover. It matters what you discover.

Publications

Related Research Articles

Aage Bohr Danish physicist

Aage Niels Bohr was a Danish nuclear physicist who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1975 with Ben Mottelson and James Rainwater "for the discovery of the connection between collective motion and particle motion in atomic nuclei and the development of the theory of the structure of the atomic nucleus based on this connection". Starting from Rainwater's concept of an irregular-shaped liquid drop model of the nucleus, Bohr and Mottelson developed a detailed theory that was in close agreement with experiments. Since his father, Niels Bohr, had won the prize in 1922, he and his father were one of the six pairs of fathers and sons who have both won the Nobel Prize and one of the four pairs who have both won the Nobel Prize in Physics.

Felix Bloch Swiss physicist

Felix Bloch was a Swiss-American physicist and Nobel physics laureate who worked mainly in the U.S. He and Edward Mills Purcell were awarded the 1952 Nobel Prize for Physics for "their development of new ways and methods for nuclear magnetic precision measurements." In 1954–1955, he served for one year as the first Director-General of CERN. Felix Bloch made fundamental theoretical contributions to the understanding of ferromagnetism and electron behavior in crystal lattices. He is also considered one of the developers of nuclear magnetic resonance.

Niels Bohr Danish physicist

Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum theory, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr was also a philosopher and a promoter of scientific research.

Isidor Isaac Rabi American physicist

Isidor Isaac Rabi was an American physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1944 for his discovery of nuclear magnetic resonance, which is used in magnetic resonance imaging. He was also one of the first scientists in the United States to work on the cavity magnetron, which is used in microwave radar and microwave ovens.

Abraham Pais Dutch-American physicist and science historian

Abraham Pais was a Dutch-American physicist and science historian. Pais earned his Ph.D. from University of Utrecht just prior to a Nazi ban on Jewish participation in Dutch universities during World War II. When the Nazis began the forced relocation of Dutch Jews, he went into hiding, but was later arrested and saved only by the end of the war. He then served as an assistant to Niels Bohr in Denmark and was later a colleague of Albert Einstein at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey. Pais wrote books documenting the lives of these two great physicists and the contributions they and others made to modern physics. He was a physics professor at Rockefeller University until his retirement.

John Archibald Wheeler American theoretical physicist

John Archibald Wheeler was an American theoretical physicist. He was largely responsible for reviving interest in general relativity in the United States after World War II. Wheeler also worked with Niels Bohr in explaining the basic principles behind nuclear fission. Together with Gregory Breit, Wheeler developed the concept of the Breit–Wheeler process. He is best known for using the term "black hole" for objects with gravitational collapse already predicted during the early 20th century, for inventing the terms "quantum foam", "neutron moderator", "wormhole" and "it from bit", and for hypothesizing the "one-electron universe".

Ben Roy Mottelson Danish nuclear physicist

Ben Roy Mottelson is a Danish nuclear physicist. He won the 1975 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the non-spherical geometry of atomic nuclei.

James Rainwater American physicist

Leo James Rainwater was an American physicist who shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1975 for his part in determining the asymmetrical shapes of certain atomic nuclei.

John Hasbrouck Van Vleck American physicist and mathematician

John Hasbrouck Van Vleck was an American physicist and mathematician. He was co-awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1977, for his contributions to the understanding of the behavior of electrons in magnetic solids.

Wolfgang Kurt Hermann "Pief" Panofsky, was a German-American physicist who won many awards including the National Medal of Science.

George Placzek

George Placzek was a Moravian physicist.

Bernard dEspagnat

Bernard d'Espagnat was a French theoretical physicist, philosopher of science, and author, best known for his work on the nature of reality. Wigner-d'Espagnat inequality is partially named after him.

Ishfaq Ahmad Khan

Ishfaq Ahmad KhanSI, HI, NI, FPAS, was a Pakistani nuclear physicist, emeritus professor of high-energy physics at the National Center for Physics, and former science advisor to the Government of Pakistan.

Edoardo Amaldi

Edoardo Amaldi was an Italian physicist. He coined the term "neutrino" in conversations with Enrico Fermi distinguishing it from the heavier "neutron". He has been described as "one of the leading nuclear physicists of the twentieth century." He was involved in the anti-nuclear peace movement.

Herman Feshbach was an American physicist. He was an Institute Professor Emeritus of physics at MIT. Feshbach is best known for Feshbach resonance and for writing, with Philip M. Morse, Methods of Theoretical Physics.

This discusses women who have made an important contribution to the field of physics.

Kurt Gottfried is professor emeritus of physics at Cornell University, known for his work in the areas of quantum mechanics and particle physics. He is also a co-founder with Henry Way Kendall of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He has written extensively in the areas of physics and arms control.

Fabiola Gianotti Italian particle physicist and CERN Director-General


Fabiola Gianotti is an Italian experimental particle physicist, and the first woman to be Director-General at CERN in Switzerland. Her mandate began on 1 January 2016 and runs for a period of five years. At its 195th Session in 2019, the CERN Council selected Gianotti for an unprecedented second term as Director-General. Her second five-year term began on 1 January 2021 and go on until 2025. This is the first time in CERN's history that a Director-General has been appointed for a full second term.

Sergio Fubini was an Italian theoretical physicist. He was one of the pioneers of string theory. He was engaged in peace activism in the Middle East.

Francis Lee Friedman was a professor of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

References

  1. "Weisskopf dies at 93; was protégée of physicist Niels Bohr". MIT News. 24 April 2002. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  2. "Victor Weisskopf, Group Leader - Los Alamos Theoretical Division". The Manhattan Project Heritage Preservation Association, Inc. 2005. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  3. "War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Weapon of Choice, The; Interview with Victor Weisskopf, 1986". openvault.wgbh.org. Retrieved 2017-06-05.
  4. Office of the Home Secretary; National Academy of Sciences (1 January 2004). Biographical Memoirs. Vol. 84. National Academies Press. p. 375. ISBN   978-0-309-08957-9.|volume= has extra text (help)
  5. Gottfried, Kurt; Jackson, J. David (February 2003). "Mozart and Quantum Mechanics: An Appreciation of Victor Weisskopf" (PDF). Physics Today. 56 (2): 43–47. Bibcode:2003PhT....56b..43G. doi:10.1063/1.1564348.
  6. Gottfried, Kurt; Jackson, J. David. "Victor Frederick Weisskopf, 1908-2002, A Biographical Memoir" (PDF). p. 16. I might even have shared the Nobel Prize with Lamb
  7. "Who's who in Cern: Victor F. Weisskopf". CERN Courier. 1 (15): 2. Winter 1960.
  8. Hine, Mervyn (January 2003). "Working with Viki at CERN". CERN Courier.
  9. Kummer, Wolfgang (June 2002). "Victor Weisskopf: looking back on a distinguished career". CERN Courier. 42 (5): 28–32.
  10. "Farewell to Professor Weisskopf". CERN Courier. 6 (1): 3–5. January 1966.
  11. "People and things". CERN Courier. 23 (10): 432. December 1983.
  12. "Public Welfare Medal Recipients". National Academy of Sciences. 2015. Archived from the original on 9 August 2013. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  13. "Past and Present Presidents". American Physical Society. 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  14. "Academy Presidents". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  15. Carl Sagan; Hans A. Bethe; S. Chandrasekhar; et al. (January 1990). "Preserving and Cherishing the Earth". Yale Forum on Religion and Ecology. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
  16. Chang, Kenneth (2002-04-25). "Victor Weisskopf, a Manhattan Project Physicist, Dies at 93". New York Times. Retrieved 2017-06-06.
  17. "Weisskopf wins Oppenheimer Prize". Physics Today. 36 (7): 77. July 1983. doi:10.1063/1.2915767.
  18. "Reply to a parliamentary question" (PDF). Österreichisches Parlament (in German). Wien. 23 April 2012. p. 1372. Retrieved 5 January 2013.
  19. V. Stefan (Editor). PHYSICS and SOCIETY. Essays in Honor of Victor Frederick Weisskopf by the International Community of Physicists., Forward p. v. ISBN   1-56396-386-8

Bibliography

Preceded by
John Adams (Acting Director-General)
CERN Director General
1961 1965
Succeeded by
Bernard Gregory