November 17, 1902-January 1, 1995
By Frederick Seitz, Erich Vogt, and Alvin M. Weinberg
Eugene Wigner was a towering leader of modern physics for more than half of the twentieth century. While his greatest renown was associated with the introduction of symmetry theory to quantum physics and chemistry, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for 1963, his scientific work encompassed an astonishing breadth of science, perhaps unparalleled during his time.
In preparing this memoir, we have the impression we are attempting to record the monumental achievements of half a dozen scientists. There is the Wigner who demonstrated that symmetry principles are of great importance in quantum mechanics; who pioneered the application of quantum mechanics in the fields of chemical kinetics and the theory of solids; who was the first nuclear engineer; who formulated many of the most basic ideas in nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry; who was the prophet of quantum chaos; who served as a mathematician and philosopher of science; and the Wigner who was the supervisor and mentor of more than forty Ph.D. students in theoretical physics during his career of over four decades at Princeton University.
The legacy of these contributions exists in two forms. First, there are the papers—in excess of five hundred-now included in eight volumes of his collected works.1 His legacy