Eugene Paul Wigner (b. Budapest, 17 November 1902 – d. Princeton, New Jersey, 1 January 1995) received a share of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1963 “for his contributions to the theory of the atomic nucleus and the elementary particles, particularly through the discovery and application of fundamental symmetry principles”. At the award ceremony, he held a lecture entitled “Events, laws of nature and invariance principles”.
He attended school at the Fasori Gimnázium in Budapest, later mentioning his teachers László Rátz and Sándor Mikola as laying the foundation for his career. He wrote his DSc thesis on the formation of hydrogen molecules at the Technische Hochschule of Berlin, under the supervision of fellow Hungarian Michael Polányi. Along with his studies in chemistry, he was most interested in physics and regularly attended the colloquia of the German Physical Society, which featured lectures by the greatest physicists of that period, such as Albert Einstein, Dennis Gábor and Leo Szilárd. He conducted research on the symmetric properties of crystals and their role in quantum mechanics at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute and later published a three-piece work on the subject of quantum mechanics together with John von Neumann while working as an assistant at the University of Göttingen. He returned to Berlin in 1927 as a private tutor at the Technische Hochschule. At that time, he also met the 20-year old Edward Teller. He went to the USA in 1931 and after two years in Wisconsin he then spent 6 decades as a professor at Princeton University. Wigner became a US citizen in 1937. He worked on the Manhattan Project, was director of research and development on the possible methods of building and maintaining nuclear power plants, and conducted research on the possibilities of developing reactors. From 1964, he focused intensely on the need to develop civil defence.
After a long absence, he returned home to Hungary in 1976 for the first time, at the invitation of the Eötvös Loránd Physics Society. He was elected an honorary member of the Physics Society in 1977 and an honorary member of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in 1988. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by ELTE University in 1987, where he gave his last lecture in Hungary. As a Hungarian Nobel Prize winner, he had the following words: “… After 60 years in the United States I am still more Hungarian than American; much of American culture escapes me… Hungarian poetry is perhaps the most beautiful in Europe.”
As part of its coin series celebrating Hungarian Nobel laureates, the Magyar Nemzeti Bank is proud to issue a silver coin commemorating the 50th anniversary of Wigner’s Nobel Prize in Physics. The coin was designed by Fanni Vékony, with the front depicting an atomic model using the motif of ellipses marking electron orbitals. On the back, the portrait of Eugene Wigner is accompanied by the Wigner-Eckart theorem.
Denomination 3000 forint
Metal & Fineness Silver .925
Total weight 12.5 g
Diameter 30x25 mm oval
Issue limit 5,000 pcs Proof
Designer VÉKONY Fanni