Maria Mayer’s contributions to modern quantum physics and mathematical chemistry are bountiful. The majority of her theoretical formulas and solutions occurred after her immigration to the United States, but her influential past and supportive colleagues from her childhood in Prussia provided the necessary tools and foundation to succeed. Maria Mayer’s contributions to quantum physics may have been the highlight of her career, but she also contributed to a variety of other sciences as well. After the closing of World War II, Mayer refocused her studies towards furthering progression of organic chemistry prediction formulas. It was her accomplishments within this field that enticed Karl Herzfeld, a quantum theorist of physics, to take interest. The opportunities that Herzfeld provided paved the way to Mayer’s monumental career by solidifying the theories behind quantum particles and quantum theory in general (Sachs, 1979).

Her first major accomplishment in the science of physics happened just five years after her marriage to Joseph Mayer and employment at John Hopkins University. The academic environment suited Maria Mayer and allowed her to apply her mathematical expertise to probability and prediction problems in physics. In 1935, she announced her theoretical solution to Eugene Wigner’s unstable neutrino decay and emission predictability problem. Mayer’s theory, known as double beta-decay, created a mathematical formula to determine neutrino decay rates. The result of the formula theorized a decay rate half-life of 10^17 years yielding two electrons and two anti-neutrino byproducts (Mayer, 1935). This formula aided in building a solid foundation upon which all quantum physics rests upon.

Using the double beta-decay theory as a foundation, Maria Mayer, together with Eugene Wigner and Hans Jensen, produced the groundbreaking Nuclear Shell Model using the framework provided by Max Borne’s matrix mechanics. This technology was one of the many products of the Manhattan Project, which Mayer was enlisted in. Her predictions provided valuable material in deciphering the complexities behind nuclear fission. Specifically, the research team an array of values, which determined the resulting energy bound within an element for each additional nucleon attached based the elements original atomic mass (Mayer, 1948). These calculations proved to be invaluable in the search for a stabilized element with maximum energy encapsulation. This theory predicted that an isotope of uranium with exactly 235 bound nucleons to be the most efficient source material for energy extraction through nuclear fission (Mayer, 1964). This theory was the final key to unlocking both nuclear power and the hydrogen bomb.