Scope and Content of Collection
Mayer, Joseph Edward,
Title: Joseph Mayer Papers,
Date (inclusive): 1920 - 1983
19.20 linear feet
(50 archives boxes, 1 card file box and 2 oversize folders.)
Abstract: Papers of a theoretical chemical physicist, researcher, author, consultant, and professor of chemistry at the University of
California, San Diego (UCSD) from 1960 until his retirement in 1973. Mayer is best known for his work in statistical mechanics
and the application of statistical mechanics to concepts of liquids and dense gases. His accomplishments include the writing
of two important textbooks in the field, STATISTICAL MECHANICS (1940) and EQUILIBRIUM STATISTICAL MECHANICS (1968), as well
as numerous papers and articles which stimulated scientific inquiry. Before coming to UCSD, Mayer taught at Johns Hopkins
University, Columbia University, and the University of Chicago. His first wife was the physicist Maria Goeppert Mayer (1906-1972),
who shared the Nobel Prize for physics in 1963. Joseph Mayer married Margaret Griffin in 1972.
Most of the materials in the collection date from 1946 to 1973, although some items, such as Mayer's college memorabilia,
originate in earlier periods. Most important are the writings and correspondence. Also included are materials, 1973-1975,
created by Mayer as president of the American Physical Society. Among the significant correspondents represented in the collection
are Max Born, Johannes Hans Jensen, Martin Kamen, Linus Pauling, Roger Revelle, Leo Szilard, Hermann Weyl, and Bruno Zimm.
Absent from the materials are records related to Mayer's consulting work for the United States Government during and after
World War II. Also absent is documentation of his activities at Johns Hopkins and Columbia University. The collection is
divided into thirteen series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 2) GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS BY JOSEPH MAYER, 4) WRITINGS
BY OTHERS, 5) SPEECHES BY JOSEPH MAYER, 6) ORGANIZATIONS, 7) CONFERENCES, 8) GRANT MATERIALS, 9) UCSD MATERIALS, 10) UNIVERSITY
OF CHICAGO MATERIALS, 11) GENERAL SUBJECTS, 12) PHOTOGRAPHS, and 13) LANTERN SLIDES.
The accession processed in 1997 contains photographs, awards, certificates, and diplomas and is arranged in two series: 1)
PHOTOGRAPHS and 2) AWARDS, CERTIFICATES AND DIPLOMAS.
University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
La Jolla, California 92093-0175
Collection number: MSS 0047
Language of Material:
Collection materials in English
Collection is open for research.
Joseph Mayer Papers, MSS 0047. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.
Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.
The son of a bridge engineer, Joseph Edward Mayer was born on February 5, 1904 in New York City. His family later moved to
Canada and then to California, where Mayer graduated from Hollywood High School. In 1924 he received a B.S. in chemistry
from the California Institute of Technology. He went on to the University of California at Berkeley and earned his doctorate
there in 1927 under the direction of Gilbert N. Lewis.
After graduation, Mayer spent a year of postdoctoral work at Berkeley as an assistant to Lewis. Between 1929 and 1930, as
a Rockefeller International Education Board fellow, he studied under James Franck at Gottingen, Germany, carrying out research
on virial expansion. There he met Maria Goeppert, a doctoral student studying physics under Max Born. Mayer and Goeppert
were married in the spring of 1930.
Returning to the United States, Mayer took a position as associate professor at Johns Hopkins University, where he taught
until 1939. On a return visit to Gottingen in 1931, Mayer worked on lattice energy theory in corroboration with Max Born
and Lindsay Helmhotz. At Johns Hopkins, Mayer's research focused on the theoretical versus the experimental side of chemistry.
From 1939 to 1946 he worked at Columbia University in New York City, where he took over from Harold C. Urey the editorship
(1940-1953) of the Journal of Chemical Physics. In 1940, Joseph and Maria Mayer jointly published Statistical Mechanics,
one of the first textbooks in the field.
During World War II, while still an associate professor at Columbia, Joseph Mayer also consulted at the Ballistic Research
Laboratory at Aberdeen, Maryland. In 1945, as a civilian consultant, he took a trip to the Pacific Theatre to observe the
experimental characteristics of army artillery.
In 1946, at the urging of Enrico Fermi, Harold Urey, and Edward Teller, Mayer became a full professor at the Institute for
Nuclear Studies at the University of Chicago. In addition, he continued to consult for the Aberdeen laboratory as a member
of its Scientific Advisory Committee. Mayer became a trustee of the Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists in January 1948.
The committee was then chaired by Albert Einstein, and its membership included Harold Urey, Leo Szilard, and Harrison Brown.
Mayer was named president of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) in 1951.
At the University of Chicago, Mayer lectured as a member of the Physical Chemistry Group, taught physical chemistry courses,
and directed graduate students. With the support of an Atomic Energy Commission contract entitled "Statistical and Quantum
Mechanics of Interacting Atoms," Mayer investigated the theoretical predictions of equations of state (pressure as a function
of volume and temperature), for classical and quantum mechanical systems, and studied fundamental methods of quantum mechanics
and statistical mechanics relating to these equations.
In 1960 Mayer and his wife accepted the offer of professorships at the newly forming campus of the University of California,
San Diego (UCSD). The Mayers were persuaded to come to San Diego by Clark Kerr, President of the University of California,
and Roger Revelle, Dean of the School of Science and Engineering (precursor of the UCSD general campus). Joseph Mayer became
one of the first members of the UCSD Department of Chemistry, while Maria Mayer joined the Department of Physics. Joseph
Mayer influenced the structure and development of the graduate chemistry curriculum and served on numerous academic and administrative
While at UCSD, with the support of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission, Mayer continued his research grant on "Interacting Atoms"
until 1972. In combination with Kurt Shuler, John Weare, and John Wheeler, Mayer applied for National Science Foundation
grant entitled simply, "Theoretical Chemistry." Mayer also worked as a consultant to the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory,
the Rand Corporation, and Midway Laboratories in Chicago. His second textbook, Equilibrium Statistical Mechanics was published
Maria Mayer died in 1972 after a long illness. That year Joseph Mayer married Margaret Griffin. Retiring the following year,
he became a UCSD professor emeritus and continued to maintain an office on campus. Freed from academic responsibilities,
he accepted the presidency of the American Physical Society in 1973 and actively attended conferences. He produced a second
edition of Statistical Mechanics in 1977, and continued to write until his death on October 15, 1983.
Mayer maintained an active membership in national organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American
Chemical Society, the American Physical Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Philosophical
Society. Among numerous awards, he received the Gilbert N. Lewis Medal (1958), the Charles Frederick Chandler Medal (1966),
the Peter Debye Award in Physical Chemistry (1967), and the John G. Kirkwood Medal (1967).
Scope and Content of Collection
Accession Processed in 1988
The Joseph Mayer Papers contain a diversity of documentation on the life and work of a dedicated chemical physicist and academician.
Most of the materials in the collection date from the beginning of Mayer's tenure at the University of Chicago to his retirement
from UCSD in 1973. Well represented in the collection are his scientific writings, correspondence, and materials collected
as president of the American Physical Society in 1973. Absent from the papers are records from Mayer's activities at Johns
Hopkins and Columbia University. Also absent are materials documenting his work for the U.S. government during World War
II. Classified files related to this work were given up to government authorities when Mayer moved to UCSD.
The collection is divided into thirteen series: 1) BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS, 2) GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE, 3) WRITINGS BY JOSEPH
MAYER, 4) WRITINGS BY OTHERS, 5) SPEECHES BY JOSEPH MAYER, 6) ORGANIZATIONS, 7) CONFERENCES, 8) GRANT MATERIALS, 9) UCSD
MATERIALS, 10) UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO MATERIALS, 11) GENERAL SUBJECTS, 12) PHOTOGRAPHS, and 13) LANTERN SLIDES.
SERIES 1: BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS
The BIOGRAPHICAL MATERIALS contain memorabilia, autobiographical sketches, and personal documents accumulated by Mayer. Of
interest is Chen Yang's presentation to the Sanibel Symposium in 1982. Yang places Mayer's contributions to the field of statistical
mechanics in an historical context.
SERIES 2: GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE
The GENERAL CORRESPONDENCE contains Mayer's communications with colleagues, graduate students and others. The materials are
arranged in alphabetical order by name of correspondent. Letters for correspondents represtented by less than three items
are filed alphabetically in miscellaneous files under the approriate letters of the alphabet. Much of the correspondence
reflects the fact that Mayer spent much of his time and energy in critique of the work of others, evaluating research proposals,
and carrying on long term relationships with graduate students.
SERIES 3: WRITINGS BY JOSEPH MAYER
The WRITINGS BY MAYER are organized alphabetically by title, with untitled materials placed at the beginning of the series.
Within the titled materials are Mayer's books as well as short papers and notes. Mayer often provided a title for his notes
from a given day, but the title often provides no clue of the form or purpose of the writing. Included are notes relating
to lectures, research, and portions of book chapters intended for larger frameworks. Most of the material is written in mathematical
language. Materials relating to Mayer's published books include the typescripts for Equilibrium Statistical Mechanics (1968)
and the second edition of Statistical Mechanics (1977).
SERIES 4: WRITINGS BY OTHERS
The WRITINGS BY OTHERS are arranged in alphabetical order by author. They include drafts of dissertations by students working
SERIES 5: SPEECHES BY JOSEPH MAYER
The SPEECHES, arranged chronologically, date from the middle 1960's and include Mayer's address to the American Physical Society
entitled "The State of Physics."
SERIES 6: ORGANIZATIONS
Within the ORGANIZATIONS series are located those materials generated by organizations with which Mayer interacted, including
materials from publishers. Of note are the American Physical Society records which were created during Mayer's term as president
SERIES 7: CONFERENCES
Mayer actively attended conferences while at UCSD and after his retirement. Filed in the series CONFERENCES, these files
generally contain schedules of events and miscellaneous publicity materials rather than notes or manuscript materials.
SERIES 8: GRANT MATERIALS
The GRANT MATERIALS contain office records from Mayer's Atomic Energy Commission and National Science Foundation grants. The
AEC grant entitled "Interacting Atoms" was begun at the University of Chicago and carried over at the University of California,
San Diego. The NSF grant dates from 1971.
SERIES 9: UCSD MATERIALS
The UCSD MATERIALS are organized into three subseries- committees, Chemistry Department, and subjects. Mayer sat on a number
of committees in the early 1960's when programs and policies were being formed. The Chemistry Department materials relate
to his activities within the department.
SERIES 10: UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO MATERIALS
The UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO MATERIALS focus around his professorship in the Chemistry Department.
SERIES 11: GENERAL SUBJECTS
The GENERAL SUBJECTS series groups a number of miscellaneous files which fall outside other categories.
SERIES 12: PHOTOGRAPHS
Most of the PHOTOGRAPHS in the collection either portray Mayer early in his career or record award ceremonies.
SERIES 13: LANTERN SLIDES
A series of twelve LANTERN SLIDES, probably used to illustrate a lecture, concludes the collection.
Accession Processed in 1997
The accession processed in 1997 contains awards, certificates, diplomas, and photographs which were on exhibit in Mayer Hall
at the University of California, San Diego. The materials are arranged in two series: 1) PHOTOGRAPHS and 2) AWARDS, CERTIFICATES
SERIES 1: PHOTOGRAPHS
The PHOTOGRAPHS series contains images of Mayer in award presentations and with groups of colleagues. Also included are formal
SERIES 2: AWARDS, CERTIFICATES AND DIPLOMAS
This series contains awards, certificates and diplomas of Joseph Mayer.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.
Mayer, Joseph Edward, 1904- -- Archives
Mayer, Maria Goeppert, 1906-1972, -- Archives
American Physical Society -- Archives
University of California, San Diego -- History -- Archives
University of California, San Diego -- Faculty -- Archives
Chemistry, physical and theoretical -- Study and teaching
Chemistry, physical and theoretical -- History
Photographic prints -- 20th Century.
Mayer, Joseph Edward, 1904- . -- Statistical mechanics
Mayer, Joseph Edward, 1904- . -- Equilibrium statistical mechanics
Arnold, James R. -- (James Richard), 1923- , -- correspondent
Born, Max, 1882-1970, -- correspondent
Brown, Harrison, 1917-1986, -- correspondent
Mayer, Maria Goeppert, 1906-1972, -- correspondnet
Jensen, Johannes, 1934- -- correspondent
Kamen, Martin David, 1913- -- correspondent
Pauling, Linus, 1901- -- correspondent
Rabi, I.I. -- (Isidor Isaac), 1898- -- correspondent
Szilard, Leo, -- correspondent
Teller, Edward, 1908- -- correspondent
Revelle, Roger, 1909- -- correspondent
Urey, Harold Clayton, 1893- -- correspondent
Veblen, Oswald, 1880- -- correspondent
York, Herbert F. -- (Herbert Frank), -- correspondent
Zimm, Bruno, -- correspondent