Victor Frederick Weisskopf

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Victor Frederick Weisskopf

German: Prof. Dr.
Also Known As: "Friedrich Viktor", "Viki"
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Death: April 22, 2002 (93)
Newton, Middlesex, MA, United States
Immediate Family:

Son of Dr. jur. Emil Weisskopf and Martha Weisskopf
Husband of Ellen Margrete Weisskopf and Renate Weisskopf
Ex-partner of Ruth Benario
Father of Thomas E. Weisskopf and Karen Worth
Brother of Walter Albert Weisskopf and Edith Weisskopf, PhD

Occupation: Physiker, Hochschullehrer
Managed by: Rafi Kornfeld (c)
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Victor Frederick Weisskopf

Immigration USA with his wife Ellen and 2 sons Robert and William ???

Victor Frederick "Viki" Weisskopf (September 19, 1908 – April 22, 2002) was an Austrian-born American theoretical physicist. He did postdoctoral work with Werner Heisenberg, Erwin Schrödinger, Wolfgang Pauli and Niels Bohr. During World War II he was Group Leader of the Theoretical Division of the Manhattan Project at Los Alamos, and later campaigned against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Weisskopf was born in Vienna to Jewish parents and earned his doctorate in physics at the University of Göttingen in Germany in 1931. His brilliance in physics led to work with the great physicists exploring the atom, especially Niels Bohr, who mentored Weisskopf at his institute in Copenhagen. By the late 1930s, he realized that, as a Jew, he needed to get out of Europe. Bohr helped him find a position in the U.S.

In the 1930s and 1940s, 'Viki', as everyone called him, made major contributions to the development of quantum theory, especially in the area of Quantum Electrodynamics. One of his few regrets was that his insecurity about his mathematical abilities may have cost him a Nobel prize when he did not publish results (which turned out to be correct) about what is now known as the Lamb shift.

From 1937 to 1943 he was a Professor of Physics at the University of Rochester.

After World War II, Weisskopf joined the physics faculty at MIT, ultimately becoming head of the department. Weisskopf was a co-founder and board member of the Union of Concerned Scientists. He served as director-general of CERN from 1961 to 1966.

Weisskopf was awarded the Max Planck medal in 1956 and the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca in 1972, the National Medal of Science (1980), the Wolf Prize (1981) and the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences (1991).

Weisskopf was a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He was president of the American Physical Society (1960–61)[7] and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1976–1979).

He was appointed by Pope Paul VI to the 70-member Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1975, and in 1981 he led a team of four scientists sent by Pope John Paul II to talk to President Ronald Reagan about the need to prohibit the use of nuclear weapons.

In joint statement Preserving and Cherishing the Earth with other noted scientists including Carl Sagan it concluded that: The historical record makes clear that religious teaching, example, and leadership are powerfully able to influence personal conduct and commitment...Thus, there is a vital role for religion and science.

He married Ellen Tvede. He was survived at death by his second wife Duscha.

Decorations and awards[

This article incorporates information from the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.

  • • 1956: Max Planck Medal
  • • 1972: Prix mondial Cino Del Duca
  • • 1976: Oersted Medal
  • • 1978: Pour le Mérite for Arts and Sciences
  • • 1980: National Medal of Science
  • • 1981: Wolf Prize
  • • 1982: Austrian Decoration for Science and Art
  • • 1984: Albert Einstein Medal
  • • 1990: Ludwig Wittgenstein Prize of the Austrian Science Foundation
  • • 1991: Public Welfare Medal (United States National Academy of Sciences)
  • • 2000: Grand Gold Medal with Star for Services to the Republic of Austria[10]

Victor Weisskopf's autobiography "The Joy of Insight" is a superb and engaging description of the milieu in which he grew up in Vienna. His family was well-to-do, well educated, cultured, hard working, and assimilated. Oliver Bryk


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Victor Frederick Weisskopf's Timeline

September 19, 1908
Vienna, Austria
April 22, 2002
Age 93
Newton, Middlesex, MA, United States