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Eugene Paul Wigner

American Jewish Recipients of the Nobel Prize

Eugene Paul Wigner: Nobel
Prize Recipient in Physics-1963

by Seymour “Sy” Brody

Eugene Paul Wigner was an American Jewish recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics, in 1963, which he shared half the prize with Maria Goeppert-Mayer and J. Hans D. Jensen, for his contributions to the theory of the atomic nucleus and the elementary particles, particularly through the discovery and application of fundamental symmetry principles.

Eugene Paul Wigner was born on November 17, 1902, in Budapest, Hungry. He became a naturalized citizen on January 8, 1937. He received his formal education in Europe before coming to the United States. He received his Ph.D. in chemical engineering from the Technische Hochschule, in Berlin, 1925.

He became a lecturer at the University of Gottingen. When he came to the United States, he was a professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin, 1936-1938. He then received an offer from Princeton University to be a professor of mathematical physics, 1938. He spent the next 33 years teaching at Princeton University until he retired, in 1971.

Wigner and others persuaded Albert Einstein to write a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt to establish a United States atomic-bomb project. In World War II, he worked with Enrico Fermi to construct the first atomic pile at the Metallurgical Laboratory, at the University of Chicago.

In 1946-1947, Wigner became the Director of Research and Development at the Clinton Laboratories, at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

He was married to Mary Annette Wheeler, in 1941. They had two children: a daughter, Martha, and a son, David, who had his doctorate in mathematics and taught at the University of California, in Berkeley.

Dr. Eugene Paul Wigner received many awards and honors:
● United States Medal for Merit, 1946
● Enrico Fermi Prize, 1958
● Atoms for Peace Award, 1960
● Medal of the Franklin Society
● Max Planck Medal of the German Physic Society
● George Washington Award of the American-Hungarian Studies Foundation, 1964
● Semmelweiss Medal of the American-Hungarian Medical Association, 1965
● National Medal of Science, 1969
● He had memberships in American Association of Physics Teachers, National Academy of Science, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences and Letters, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Royal Society of Great Britain, a corresponding member of the Gesellschaft der Weissenschaften, Gottingen, Germany.
● Dr. Eugene Paul Wigner has received honorary degrees from: University of Wisconsin, Washington University, Case Institute, University of Alberta (Canada), University of Chicago, Colby College, University of Pennsylvania, Yeshiva University, Thiel College, Notre Dame University, Technische Universitat (Berlin), Swarthmore College, Universite de Liege (France), University of Illinois, Seton Hall University, Catholic University and the Rockefeller University.

Dr. Eugene Paul Wigner died on January 1, 1995, in Princeton, New Jersey.

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