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Biographical Memoirs: Volume 65
JOSEPH EDWARD MAYER
February 5, 1904-October 15, 1983
BY BRUNO H. ZIMM
JOSEPH EDWARD MAYER was a distinguished scientist who could be called either a physical chemist or a chemical physicist, and whose main contributions to science came from two distinct lines of work. The first, the thermodynamics of ionic crystals, involved both theoretical calculations and the development of ingenious experimental techniques; the second, for which he was particularly well known, was in the statistical mechanical theory of imperfect gases and solutions, including ionic solutions. In his professional career, he was successively a member of the chemistry departments of Johns Hopkins (1930-39), Columbia (1939-45), Chicago (1946-60), and the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) (1960-72), UCSD emeritus 1972-83.
Mayer wrote an interesting autobiographical sketch of the first part of his life entitled, ''The Way It Was,'' [Annual Review of Physical Chemistry, 33(1982):1-23]. Much of the following material is taken from it.
Joseph E. Mayer was born on February 5, 1904, in New York City. His father, also named Joseph Mayer, was an expatriate Austrian from the small town of Schruns in western Austria, and trained in applied mathematics at the Sorbonne. He was employed as a civil engineer, but according to his son he considered himself a scientist who prac-