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Joseph Mayer Papers
MSS 0047  
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Collection Details
 
Table of contents What's This?
  • Descriptive Summary
  • Access
  • Acquisition Information
  • Preferred Citation
  • Publication Rights
  • Biography
  • Scope and Content of Collection
  • Indexing Terms

  • Descriptive Summary

    Creator: Mayer, Joseph Edward, 1904-
    Title: Joseph Mayer Papers,
    Date (inclusive): 1920 - 1983
    Extent: 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.
    Repository: 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

    Access

    Collection is open for research.

    Acquisition Information

    Not Available

    Preferred Citation

    Joseph Mayer Papers, MSS 0047. Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD.

    Publication Rights

    Publication rights are held by the creator of the collection.

    Biography

    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 committees.
    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 in 1968.
    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 under Mayer.
    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 between 1973-1975.
    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 AND DIPLOMAS.
    SERIES 1: PHOTOGRAPHS
    The PHOTOGRAPHS series contains images of Mayer in award presentations and with groups of colleagues. Also included are formal portraits.
    SERIES 2: AWARDS, CERTIFICATES AND DIPLOMAS
    This series contains awards, certificates and diplomas of Joseph Mayer.

    Indexing Terms

    The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the library's online public access catalog.

    Subjects

    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
    Statistical mechanics
    Chemistry, physical and theoretical -- Study and teaching
    Chemistry, physical and theoretical -- History
    Photographic prints -- 20th Century.

    Contributors

    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