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Collection Overview

Wigner, Eugene Paul, 1902-1995
Princeton University. Library. Special Collections
Eugene Paul Wigner Papers
Manuscripts Division
Permanent URL:
1930-1989 (mostly 1940-1979)
119 boxes and 49.7 linear feet
Storage Note:
Firestone Library (mss): Box 1-119


Consists of the papers of Hungarian-born, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Eugene Wigner, and includes correspondence, subject files, writings, and offprints reflecting his long career in physics.

Collection Description & Creator Information


The collection consists of the papers of Wigner, including correspondence, subject files, writings, and offprints reflecting his long career in physics. While some of the material concerns his work in the early 1930s as a professor at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin, the bulk of the papers relate to the period after Wigner moved to the United States. There is correspondence with other physicists and scientsts, such as John von Neumann, Pascual Jordan, Werner Heisenberg, Leo Szilard, Glenn T. Seaborg, Frederick Seitz, and Alvin M. Weinberg, as well as correspondence relating to his receipt of the Enrico Fermi Award, the Max Planck Medal, and the Nobel Prize for Physics. Additionally, there are 15 cassettes of taped interviews with Wigner discussing his entire life, conducted by Andrew Szanton from 1988 to 1989. Most of the papers and correspondence are in English; however, there is some material in German or Hungarian.

In addition, there are two sets of typewritten lectures on "Solid State" delivered at Princeton University. The first (138 pp.), dating from the 1930s, contains autograph notes by Frederick Seitz. The second set of lectures (181 pp.) is titled "Theory of Solid State" and was delivered at Princeton University between 1948 and 1949.

Collection Creator Biography:

A Hungarian-born physicist, Wigner worked in the early 1930s as a professor at the Technische Hochschule in Berlin, where he studied the quantum mechanical interpretation of atomic spectra which resulted in the publication of his book Gruppentheorie und Ihre Anwendung auf die Quantenmechanik Der Atomspektren (1931), later translated and published as Group Theory (1951), now a classic in its field. He moved to the United States, where he became professor of mathematical physics at Princeton University from 1933 to1937 and from 1937 to 1938 at the University of Wisconsin; he then returned to Princeton, where he worked until 1971, becoming professor emeritus. Prior to World War II, Wigner, along with Leo Szilard and Albert Einstein, was instrumental in getting the United States government to investigate the use of atomic energy for military purposes. During the War, he was on the staff of the Metallurgical Laboratory at the University of Chicago (the Manhattan Project) researching ways to produce an atomic bomb, and he helped design the nuclear reactor at Hanford, Wash., where plutonium was produced. He was a member of the general advisory committee for the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (1952-1957, 1959-1964) and director of the Civil Defense Research Project at Oak Ridge, Tenn. (1964-1965), reflecting his interests in civil defense and national security. He received the Enrico Fermi Award (1958) and the Max Planck Medal (1961), and in 1963 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics.

Collection History


Parts of this collection were donated by Eileen Hamilton Wigner (1993, 1994), the American Institute of Physics (1994), Andrew Szantos (1994), Arthur Wightman (1999, 2003), Andrew Lenard (2001), and Jagdish Mehra (2002). A number of photographs of Eugene Wigner were transferred from the University Archives in 2005. Additional material was received from the Department of Physics in 2011.

Archival Appraisal Information:

No appraisal information is available.

Access & Use

Access Restrictions:

Collection is open for research use.

Conditions for Reproduction and Use:

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. No further photoduplication of copies of material in the collection can be made when Princeton University Library does not own the original. Inquiries regarding publishing material from the collection should be directed to RBSC Public Services staff through the Ask Us! form. The library has no information on the status of literary rights in the collection and researchers are responsible for determining any questions of copyright.

Credit this material:

Eugene Paul Wigner Papers; Manuscripts Division, Department of Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Permanent URL:
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