Argonne National Laboratory

John Schiffer

Distinguished Argonne Fellow, Emeritus & Professor of Physics, University of Chicago, emeritus


High School

Fasori Evangélikus Gimnázium, 
Budapest, Hungary

(emigrated to U.S. 1947)


Oberlin College (1948-51)

1951 (physics)


Yale University



Yale University 
"Energy Levels of Ca Isotopes"
(with Ernest Pollard)



Research Associate
(with Tom Bonner)

The Rice Institute


Assistant Physicist

Argonne National Laboratory


Associate Physicist



Senior Physicist

Argonne Distinguished








Associate Director

ANL Physics Division





Interim Director



Professor of Physics
(joint appt.)

University of Chicago


Prof. of Physics



Visiting Appointments

Guggenheim Fellow

AERE Harwell, England


Visiting Assoc. Prof.

Princeton University


Visiting Prof.

University of Rochester


Visiting Prof.

Technical University Munich




APS(1968), AAAS (1984), NAS (1987), American Acad. of Arts and Sciences (1998), Royal Danish Academy of Arts and Sciences (1996)



Guggenheim Fellow, 1959; Humboldt Award, 1973; Bonner Prize (APS), 1975; Wilbur Cross Medal (Yale), 1985; Dr. Sc. (hon) University of Notre Dame, 1999.


Professional Committees and Offices 


Panel on the Future of Nuclear Physics, 1975; Committee on Nuclear Physics, 1996-99; Neutrino Facilities Assessment Committee, 2002, etc.


APS/Division of Nucl. Physics:

Executive Comm. 1972-77, chair DNP, 1975-76, Divisional Councilor, 1997-99, etc.



Member of Council 1989-94, chair Section B (physics) 1992-93.



NSAC 1981-85, chair, 83-85; Chair of Subcomm. on the Implementation of the Long Range Plan 1991, etc.



Physics Advisory Panel, 1971-73; etc.


Accelerator Program Advisory Committees:

LAMPF 1971-73; IUCF 74-77; Bevalac 78-80; AGS 79-82; SIN/PSI 80-84; MIT-Bates 84-87; CEBAF 86-91; GSI 87-88; RIKEN 98-; etc. 


Conference Organizer (chair or primary role): 

Direct Nuclear Reactions, ANL 1964; Chair, Gordon Conference on Nuclear Physics, 1974; Symposium on Delta Nucleus Dynamics, ANL 1983; etc.



White House Forum on Science in the National Interest, 1994; RIKEN Advisory Council, 1996-2003; etc.


Research Interests 

My primary interests have been in trying to understand the single-particle structure and effective interactions that underlie the structure of structure of atomic nuclei. This entails calibrating reaction mechanisms to best extract the relevant information. Some of this work was done a long time ago - and some recently - particularly with a focus on how these nuclear properties might change as nuclei move further away from stability.

An additional interest has been to investigate 'exotic' phenomena that are associated with nuclear physics. Among these (and the only one that turned out to be real) was the Mössbauer effect. When I first heard of it (a small effect in 191Ir) we were incredulous but then Argonne was were the first to repeat this successfully. Shortly after this I came across 57Fe, and from this a whole industry emerged; I worked on relativistic red-shift measurements. After quarks were first proposed by Gell-Mann, I spent a fair amount of effort in looking for stable fractional charges in Nature - including sea water, the atmosphere, meteorites, and moon dust, and on trying to reproduce some positive experiments in this regard - we found none. After that came the 'GSI positron lines' reported from the collisions between very heavy nuclei, and our work with APEX could not confirm the reported phenomena. I did some work on cold fusion. More recently, the reported 'triggered decay' of an isomer in Hf by x-rays, lead to speculations about new method of airplane propulsion and of other uses. We found no such effect. We also set a limit on helium-like strangelets in nature.

I am currently involved with a number of measurements with unstable light nuclei that are of interest both for nuclear structure and related to microscopic ab origine theoretical predictions of nuclear properties and for astrophysical interests. I have proposed a new scheme for charged-particle detection from reactions in inverse kinematics (that is required with radioactive beams) a technique that could overcome many of the current difficulties encountered in such measurements. The scheme requires a large super-conducting solenoid and methods of obtaining such a solenoid and detector array are being pursued. 

I have also been interested in setting constraints on matrix elements for neutrinoless double beta decay, based on precision studies of the structure of candidate nuclei, and refining the methods of measuring the relevant nuclear properties.

Some years ago I suggested the possibility of very cold ions freezing into a crystalline form in ion beams or ion traps and explored the properties of this limit of very cold ions in simulations and in experiments.

Selected Recent Publications 

"Temperature, ordering, and equilibrium with time-dependent confining forces" J. P. Schiffer et al., Proc. Nat. Ac. Sc. 97, 10697 (2000).

"Melting of crystalline confined plasmas", J. P. Schiffer, Phys. Rev. Lett. 88, 205003 (2002).

"A solenoidal transport device for reactions in inverse kinematics" A. H. Wuosmaa et al., Nucl. Phys. A746 (2004).

"Search for x-ray induced decay of the 31-yr isomer of 178Hf..." I. Ahmad et al., Phys. Rev. C 71, 024311 (2005).

"Nuclear structure relevant to neutrinoless double beta decay in 76Ge " J. P. Schiffer et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 100, 112501 (2008).

"Pair correlations in the neutrinoless double beta decay candidate  130Te " T. Bloxham et al., Phys. Rev. C 82, 027308 (2010).

"Test of sum rules in nucleon transfer reactions" J. P. Schiffer et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 108, 022501 (2012).

"Neutron s-states in loosely bound nuclei" C. R. Hoffman et al., Phys. Rev. C 89, 061305(R) (2014).