Trinity Remembered

Eugene Wigner (1903-1995)

Eugene Wigner

Eugene Wigner was born in Budapest, Hungary, on November 17, 1902. He obtained his Ph. D. in chemical engineering from the Technische Hochschule Berlin. In 1928, he began sharing a position at Princeton University with his friend and collegue, John von Neumann.

With the discovery of fission, Wigner began working with Enrico Fermi on the problem of determining whether a fission-induced chain reaction was possible. He worked with Fermi at the Metallurgical Laboratory, from 1942 to 1945. By the time Fermi’s reactor actually went critical, Wigner and his team had completed the task of almost unbelievable proportions, the design of the full-scale Hanford production reactors. He then continued to assist in their construction.

In 1946 - 1947 became Director of Research and Development at Oakridge. Official recognition of his work in nuclear research includes the Enrico Fermi Award in 1958 and the Atoms for Peace Award, in 1960. He shared the 1963 Nobel Prize in Physics with U.S. physicist Maria Goeppert-Mayer and German physicist J. H. D. Jensen for work on the structure of the atomic nucleus.

Eugene Wigner died on January 1, 1995.