- Wigner talks about Einstein
in 1979 (Einstein Centennial Year).
Eugene Wigner on the Princeton Mathematical Community in the 1930s linked to
We thank Dieter Brill for bringing this link to our attendtion.
A Bibliographical Memoirs, by F. Seitz, E. Vogt,
and A. Weinberg.
Frederick Seitz was Wigner's first PhD student at Princeton. Erich
Vogt was also Wigner's PhD student when he was at Princeton (1952-55).
Salam's Letter on Wigner: Abdus Salam's letter to
the organizers of the First International Wigner Symposium (1988).
Weisskopf's Speech: Victor Weisskopf's banquet speech
at the First International Wigner Symposium (1988).
Inonu's Paper on the history of group contractions,
given at the Workshop on Quantum Groups, Deformations and Contractions
(Istanbul, Turkey, 1997).
Photo, with Y. S. Kim (left) and N. Gromov after the talk.
Wigner's Sisters. One of Wigner's sisters is Mrs.
Paul A. M. Dirac. Like to know more about his sisters?
George Pitman talks about Wigner.
Van Kampen talks about Wigner's visit in 1975 to
the University of Utrecht
Kamal Seth talks about Wigner's recommendation
letter for his promotion from the rank of Assistant Professor to
Associate Professor with tenure.
Enrico Predazzi talks about Wigner and the Varenna
Istvan Hargittai. A paper prepared for the
Wigner Centennial Year (2002).
Marcelo Alonso. A talk prepared for the Wigner Seminar (2003).
Your Stories: You are invited to contribute your own
interesting storie about Wigner.
My Humble Exposure to Jeno Wigner
Rocky Hill, CT
(Received 25 Dec 2000)
I grew up in the Central Vermont area, and my parents, from my 18th year on, vacationed at a summer cottage on Lake Elmore near Morrisville, Vermont. In 1970, while my wife, Marilyn was pregnant with our first child, Bradley, I was in the process of reading The Manhattan Project by Stephane Groeff. I was, at the time, finishing my degree in Electrical Engineering at the University of Vermont and found the book to be incredibly informational and interesting. While reading the book, I noted that a not very distant neighbor at the lake had on his driveway entrance sign, the name E. P. Wigner. I wondered how many people with this name there could be; so I took a walk up the long driveway to a brick single story home and found Eugene working in his garden. We introduced each other and Eugene immediately became concerned that I may have come into contact with poison ivy that was growing nearby. He took me inside to wash up and then served each of us a glass of cognac. That was my first and last taste of cognac and I will forever treasure that experience.
Over the years, I visited with Dr. Wigner on several occasions and learned how truly humble a man this was. You could never follow him through a doorway; you never learned anything about him from him; he was always interested in learning about you.
I've since read just about all the material there is on the Manhattan Project and the nuclear years immediately following the war. The opportunity to meet Eugene probably steered me into the nuclear power field where I worked for 27 years in Nuclear Engineering for a CT power company that owned five nuclear power stations.
I have often wondered how as small a country as Hungary produced so many scientists and mathematicians and ,in general, great men who have had such an impact on the world. I have concluded that we are creatures of our circumstances, and, when threatened by such events as wars (which Hungary has a history of), we are driven beyond our normal capacity and capability to accomplish the unimaginable. I have often attempted to read Dr. Wigner's technical publications such as the bible that he and Alvin Weinberg produced on reactor design and I become lost in the first few pages. I realize that I cannot even learn from developed documents, that which individuals like Eugene were able to first imagine and then develop.
My wife and I attended the Princeton University Memorial Service for Eugene early in 1995. Edward Teller provided an incredibly informative, interesting and entertaining eulogy, starting off by characterizing Eugene as his "friend,......best friend......and only friend." I believe this stems from the Red Scare period when Edward took much heat from his colleagues for not coming to Robert Oppenheimer’s defense in a more helpful way.
I highly recommend that anyone with interest in the figures involved with the Manhattan Project obtain a transcript of Edward's eulogy. It is most inspirational and revealing of the character that Eugene Paul Wigner was. If one is not readily available, I could probably transcribe one from the tape that my friend, Martha, Eugene's daughter, gave to me.
Here is another example.
Wigner wrote a Promotion Letter for Me!
Kamal K. Seth
Department of Physics
Evanston, IL 60208
(Received 20 July 2001)
In 1963, the Chairman of the Northwestern Physics Department told me that the Department was putting me up for promotion from the rank of Assistant Professor to Associate Professor with tenure. He asked me to give him a list of ten suggested referees who would be willing to write on my behalf.
I told him that I was not sure that I could come up with ten names, and he rather humorously added that not all referees were equal, and, for example, one Nobel Lauriate was equal to ten others (I do not remember if he really said ten or five). So I took him up on his word.
In those days I was working in neutron physics and had been in correspondence with Wigner about aspects of his R-matrix theory, level spacing distributions, etc, in relation to our experimental findings. I therefore bravely decided to ask him for a letter of recommendation.
On a visit to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, I ran into Wigner in the hall. I approached him and asked him if he would be willing to write for me. I will never forget his reply. To recall as accurately as I can 38 years later, he bowed and said, "Why, Professor Seth, I will be honoured. But I must warn you of one thing." (At that point, I froze, thinking that he meant that the recommendation would not be a good one.) Fortunately, he went on to add: "You see, physicists don't like to be told by engineers what to do, and I am only an engineer"." I do not know how I suppressed my laughter at this remark, but I did say to him, "Professor Wigner, let me worry about that, but will you write?" He said, "With pleasure". Needless to say, he wrote, and wrote in a complementary enough manner, so that my Chairman told me a couple of weeks later that Wigner had written, and I should consider my promotion a done deal. So, in a very real way, I owe my entire career in physics to this very unique engineer!!
copyright@2003 by Y. S. Kim, unless otherwise specified.