Victor Weisskopf

VW headshot 1964
Victor Weisskopf (1908-2002), born in Vienna, Austria, joined a socialist student group while in gymnasium and started studying physics at the University of Vienna. In 1928, he went to study with Max Born in Göttingen where he received his Ph.D. in 1931. Weisskopf worked on basic quantum physics with Werner Heisenberg in Leipzig, then for a short time with Ernest Schrödinger in Berlin. In 1932, a Rockefeller Foundation grant allowed Weisskopf to join Niels Bohr in Copenhagen and Paul Dirac in Cambridge, England. In 1934-36, Weisskopf was research associate to Wolfgang Pauli in Zurich before working again with Niels Bohr in Copenhagen (April 1936 - September 1937).

Weisskopf fled the Nazis in the fall of 1937 and became an assistant professor at the University of Rochester. From 1943 to 1946 Weisskopf was deputy chairman of the theoretical division of the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, under Hans Bethe. In 1945, he joined the
MIT physics department; he was named Institute Professor in 1965, a position he held until he retired in 1974.

Weisskopf played a major role in particle physics in the US and in Europe: he was director general of CERN (Conseil Européen de Recherches Nucléaires) in Geneva (1961-65), and chaired the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel of the US Atomic Energy Commission (1967-73). A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, American Physical Society, Pontifical Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Sciences, Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of many international organizations including French, Austrian, Danish, Bavarian, Scottish, Spanish, and Russian academies, Weisskopf received numerous awards for his work in quantum electrodynamics, in nuclear and elementary particle physics and as an
advocate of nuclear disarmament, open exchanges of information among scientists of all nations, and individual freedom. He published over two hundred papers, and several books including in 1991 his autobiography, The Joy of Insight: Passions of a Physicist.

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