Victor Frederick Weisskopf papers
Scope and Contents of the Collection
The papers document Weisskopf’s professional and personal life from the 1920s through 2002. The bulk of the collection dates from the 1960s through the early 1990s, reflecting his role as a physicist, educator, administrator, and advocate of social and political causes. While his activities before the 1960s are less fully represented, the collection includes materials from his early scientific career that provide insights into his educational background and research interests and projects. His professional collaborations and personal contacts with major people in the field of quantum physics are also documented. An extensive set of records documents Weisskopf’s relationship with CERN, mainly from the period when he served as a member of the CERN Scientific Policy Committee (1966-1977). His role as the chair of the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel - HEPAP (1967-1973) is also well covered in the collection.
There are no original materials related to Weisskopf’s work at Los Alamos on the Manhattan Project. Most of the records pertaining to his administrative activities as chair of MIT’s physics department and the head of the Center for Theoretical Physics are not included here; as MIT records they remained with the department. His engagement in scientific, social, and political issues is documented mainly in materials gathered in Series 6 (Organizations and Conferences) and Series 10 (Policy, Science, and Education Working Files). Extensive sets of records, included in Series 9 (Research Working Files) and Series 11 (Writings and Presentations), pertain to his research activities and interests as they evolved over a time span of more than seventy years.
- 1922 - 2002
Language of Materials
Intellectual Property Rights
- 1908 September 19
- Born Vienna, Austria
- 1927 to 1928
- Studies at Vienna University
- Earns PhD from University of Gottingen, Germany
- 2002 April 22
- Died, Newton, Massachusetts
- Works with Werner Heisenberg, Leipzig, Germany
- Works with Erwin Schrödinger, University of Berlin, Germany
- 1932 to 1933
- Works with Niels Bohr at Bohr's Institute in Copenhagen and with P. A. M. Dirac at Cambridge University, England, with grant from Rockefeller University
- 1934 to 1936
- Instructor in technology (works with Wolfgang Pauli), Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland
- 1936 to 1937
- Research Associate, Niels Bohr Institute, Copenhagen, Denmark
- 1937 to 1939
- Instructor, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York
- 1939 to 1945
- Assistant Professor, University of Rochester, Rochester, New York
- 1943 to 1946
- Group Leader and Associate Head, Theory Division, Manhattan Project, Los Alamos, New Mexico
- 1945 to 1946
- Associate Professor of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- 1946 to 1965
- Professor of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- 1961 to 1965
- Director General, CERN, Geneva, Switzerland
- Institute Professor, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- 1967 to 1973
- Head, Department of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- 1974 to 2002
- Institute Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Co-founder, Federation of Atomic Scientists
- Member, Emergency Committee of Scientists
- Attends the First Pugwash Conference, Pugwash, Nova Scotia, Canada
- Vice President, American Physical Society
- President, American Physical Society
- 1966 to 1977
- Member, CERN Pauli Committee
- Member, CERN Scientific Policy Committee
- 1967 to 1973
- Chair, High Energy Physics Advisory Panel, US Atomic Energy Commission
- 1976 to 1979
- President, American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- Fellow, Pontifical Academy of Sciences
During his early research career Weisskopf continued working on the basic problems of quantum physics, first with Werner Heisenberg in Leipzig, where he went in the fall of 1931, followed by a brief period spent as a temporary research associate of Ernest Schrödinger in Berlin. In the summer of 1932 Weisskopf went to Kharkov, Soviet Union, where he lectured at the Physico-Technical Institute. A year-long Rockefeller Foundation grant, received in the fall of 1932, allowed him to join Niels Bohr and his group in Copenhagen, and Paul Dirac in Cambridge, England. For two years, between 1934 and 1936, he held the position of research associate to Wolfgang Pauli at the Institute of Technology in Zurich. His last appointment in Europe was again with Niels Bohr in Copenhagen, where he worked from April 1936 to September 1937.
In the fall of 1937, to escape the growing Nazi threat, Weisskopf immigrated to Rochester, New York, where he was an instructor and then an assistant professor at the University of Rochester. From 1943 to 1946 Weisskopf served as deputy chair (with Hans Bethe as chair) of the theoretical division of the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos.
His decades-long association with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology began in 1945 when, recruited by Jerrold Zacharias, Weisskopf joined the faculty of the physics department, where he resumed his scientific research and assumed teaching duties as a professor of physics. In 1965 he was named Institute Professor, a position he held until his retirement in 1974. During that period, from 1967 through 1973, he served as the head of the Department of Physics and played a role in the formation of the Center for Theoretical Physics. From 1974 until the end of his life Weisskopf held the titles of Institute Professor Emeritus and Professor of Physics Emeritus.
In addition to his scientific work, teaching, and administrative duties at MIT, Weisskopf played a major role in setting directions of research in high energy particle physics both in the US and in Europe. In 1960 he was invited to serve as the director general of CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), a position he assumed in 1961 and held through 1965. Upon his return to the US, he became heavily involved in the efforts leading to the creation of the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel of the Atomic Energy Commission and served as its chair from 1967 through 1973.
Throughout his life Weisskopf was involved in the activities of many professional societies, both in the US and abroad. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and served as its president from 1976 to 1979. As a fellow of the American Physical Society he held the position of vice president in 1959 and president in 1960. He was a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, the Academy of Arts and Sciences, and various international organizations including French, Austrian, Danish, Bavarian, Scottish, Spanish, and Russian academies.
Weisskopf received numerous awards for both his scientific and social contributions, including the Max Planck Medal of the German Physical Society in 1956, the George Gamow Medal in 1968, the Boris Pregel Prize from the New York Academy of Sciences in 1971, the Prix Mondial Cino del Duca for Humanism in 1972, the Ludwig Boltzmann Prize for 1976, the Ludwik Smoluchowski Medal in 1977, the Orden Pour le Merite in 1978, the US National Medal of Science in 1980, the Wolf Prize in Physics for 1981, the Ehrenzeichen der Republic Österreich für Kunst und Wissenschaft in 1982, the J. Robert Oppenheimer Medal in 1983, the Sigma Xi Proctor Award in 1984, the Enrico Fermi Award from the US Department of Energy in 1988, the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1991, the Compton Medal for Statesmanship in Science from the American Institute of Physics in 1992, and the Gian-Carlo Wick Medal from the World Federation of Scientists in 1994. He also received numerous honorary degrees.
During his long career as a theoretical physicist Weisskopf made numerous contributions to the fields of quantum electrodynamics, nuclear physics, and the physics of elementary particles. (For an overview of his scientific contributions, see Kaiser 2007, pp. 44-56; Jackson and Gottfried 2003, pp. 3-27; and Stefan 1998.) He was a teacher and an advocate of nuclear disarmament, an open exchange of information among scientists of all nations, and the freedom of individuals to express their beliefs. Over his career, Weisskopf published over two hundred papers on a variety of topics including quantum theory, nuclear and particle physics, science policy, and nuclear disarmament. He also authored and coauthored several books including Theoretical Nuclear Physics with John Blatt in 1952, Concepts of Particle Physics with Kurt Gottfried in 1984-1986, and an autobiography, The Joy of Insight: Passions of a Physicist, in 1991.
His first wife, Ellen (nee Tvede), whom he married in 1934, died in 1989. They were the parents of two children, Thomas Weisskopf and Karen Weisskopf Worth. In 1991 Weisskopf married Duscha Schmid. Weisskopf died on April 22, 2002, at the age of 93.
60.2 Cubic Feet (8 record cartons, 148 manuscript boxes, 6 half manuscript boxes, and 3 flat boxes)
He was a member of the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Department of Physics starting in 1945, Institute Professor from 1965, and Institute Professor Emeritus from 1974. In addition to his research and teaching activities, Weisskopf played a major role in shaping the development of high-energy particle physics in the US and in Europe, serving as director general of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) between 1961 and 1965 and chair of the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel (HEPAP) from 1967 through 1973. Throughout his life he was involved in activities of many professional organizations including the Federation of Atomic Scientists, Pugwash Conferences, American Physical Society, American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the Pontifical Academy of Science. The bulk of the collection dates from the 1960s through the 1990s, reflecting Weisskopf’s role as a physicist, educator, administrator, scientific statesman, and advocate of social and political causes.
Arrangement of Collection
Source of Acquisition
- Blatt, John Markus, and V. F. Weisskopf. Theoretical Nuclear Physics. New York: John Wiley, 1952.
- de-Shalit, A., H. Feshbach, and L. van Hove, eds. Preludes in Theoretical Physics, in Honor of V. F. Weisskopf [essays]. Amsterdam: North Holland Publishing Company; New York: John Wiley, 1966.
- Fierz, Markus, and Victor F. Weisskopf, eds. Theoretical Physics in the Twentieth Century: A Memorial Volume to Wolfgang Pauli. New York: Interscience Publishers, 1960.
- Gottfried, Kurt, and V. F. Weisskopf. Concepts of Partical Physics. Volume I and II. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1984, 1986.
- Huang, Kerson, ed. Physics and Our World: A Symposium in Honor of Victor F. Weisskopf. Cambridge, Mass.: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1974.
- Jackson, J. David, and Kurt Gottfried.
Victor Frederick Weisskopf, 1908-2002.Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 84, 2003, pp. 3-27.
- Kaiser, David. "Viki Weisskopf: Searching for Simplicity in a Complicated World." Physics@MIT (no. 20), pp.44-56. Cambridge, Mass.: Department of Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2007.
- Miller, Arthur I., ed. Early Quantum Electrodynamics: A Source Book. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
- Pauli, Wolfgang. Wissenschaftlicher Briefwechsel mit Bohr, Einstein, Heisenberg, u.a. (Scientific Correspondence with Bohr, Einstein, Heisenberg, a.o.) Edited by A. Hermann, K. v. Meyenn, and V. F. Weisskopf. 3 vols. New York: Scribner, 1979-2000.
- Pauli, Wolfgang. Collected Scientific Papers by Wolfgang Pauli. edited by V. F. Weisskopf and R. Kronig. New York: John Wiley, 1964.
- Schweber, Silvan S. QED and the Men Who Made It: Dyson, Feynman, Schwinger, and Tomonaga. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994.
- Stefan, Vladislav, ed. Physics and Society: Essays in Honor of Victor Frederick Weisskopf by the International Community of Physicists. New York: AIP Press, Springer, 1998.
- Weisskopf, Victor Frederick. Physics in the Twentieth Century: Selected Essays. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1972.
- Weisskopf, Victor Frederick. Knowledge and Wonder (translated into 16 languages). New York: Doubleday, 1962.
- Weisskopf, Victor Frederick.The Priviledge of Being a Physicist. New York: W. H. Freeman, 1989.
- Weisskopf, Victor Frederick. The Joy of Insight: Passions of a Physicist.(autobiography) New York: Basic Books, 1991.
Processing Information note - digitization
2013.012 request from Mehr
- Digitization order from Mehr for items to be used in an eBook re-issue of Weisskopf's "The Joy of Insight"
- Series 1, Box 2
- Series 1, Box 4
- Series 2, Box 1
- Series 3a, Box 1
- Series 4, Box 1 (CT, 4/03/2018)
- Series 4, Box 3 (CT, 4/03/2018)
- Series 4, Box 4 (CT, 4/04/2018)
- Series 7, Box 2
Partially Screened Boxes
- Series 3b, Box 14 (CT, 8/21/17)
- Series 4, Box 5 (CT, 4/04/2018);
- Series 4, Box 8 (CT, 8/21/17)
- American Academy of Arts and Sciences
- Arms race Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Bohr, Niels, 1885-1962
- Disarmament Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- European Organization for Nuclear Research
- Institute Professors Subject Source: Local sources
- International Union of Pure and Applied Physics
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- Faculty Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Center for Theoretical Physics
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Department of Physics
- Nuclear arms control -- History. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Nuclear physics -- Study and teaching. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Nuclear physics. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Nuclear reactions Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Nuclear structure Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Particles (Nuclear physics) -- Research. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Pauli, Wolfgang, 1900-1958
- Physicists -- Archives. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Physicists -- Correspondence Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Physics -- History -- 20th century. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Physics -- Popular works. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Physics -- Research. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Physics -- Study and teaching. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Physics. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Pontificia Accademia delle scienze
- Quantum electrodynamics. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Quantum field theory. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Quantum theory Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Quantum theory Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Quantum theory -- Study and teaching. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Science -- History. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Science -- International cooperation. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Science -- Social aspects. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Science -- Study and teaching Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Science news Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- United States. High Energy Physics Advisory Panel
- Weisskopf, Victor Frederick, 1908-2002
- Guide to the Victor Frederick Weisskopf Papers
- Ewa Basinska
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Processing funded by the Center for History of Physics, American Institute of Physics.
- 2021 July 12: Edited by Lana Mason to remove aggrandizing terms in the biographical note description.
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