UC San Diego Nobel Laureate and founding faculty member Maria Goeppert Mayer will appear on a new stamp being issued Thursday by the U.S. Postal Service.
The stamp art combines images from UC San Diego’s Mandeville Special Collections Library and includes photographs of Mayer and her signature. It is one in a series that honors Americans who have made extraordinary contributions to science.
Mayer was of only two women to ever win the Nobel Prize in physics — the other was Marie Curie. Although Mayer forged a distinguished career before coming to UCSD, she did so in unpaid positions. UCSD was the first institution to offer her a regular faculty position, in the physics department, when she was 54. Mayer, who was a member of the UCSD Department of Physics faculty from 1960 to1970, died in 1972.
Her papers — which include correspondence, writings and lectures, research notebooks, photographs, and other materials — were donated to UCSD’s Mandeville Special Collections Library after her death, along with the papers of her husband, UCSD chemical physicist Joseph Mayer. Her archive includes correspondence with physicists Edward Teller and Hans Jensen, at a time of great national and international turmoil (during and following WWII).
According to Lynda Claassen, director of UCSD’s Mandeville Special Collections Library, the signature on the stamp is found in a book that Mayer used in her teaching. The stamp also includes a chart and a diagram illustrating properties of chemical elements and the model of the atomic nucleus that Mayer developed with Hans Jensen, with whom she shared the Nobel Prize in physics.
The Mandeville Special Collections Library is also the repository for the papers of world-renowned scientists and Nobel Laureates Francis Crick, Jonas Salk, Harold Urey, and Hannes Alfven, said Claassen.
The Maria Goeppert Mayer stamp marks the second instance of a U.S. Postal Service stamp based on images from UCSD’s Special Collections. In 2004, a commemorative postage stamp was issued marking the 100th anniversary of the birth of Dr. Seuss, which was accompanied by the unveiling of a bronze sculpture at UCSD’s Geisel Library.