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John P. Schiffer




  • High School Fasori Evangélikus Gimnázium, Budapest, Hungary (emigrated to U.S. 1947)
  • B.A.Oberlin College, 1948-51 (physics)
  • M.Sc. Yale University, 1952
  • Ph.D. Yale University Energy Levels of Ca Isotopes” (with Ernest Pollard), 1954


  • Research Associate (with Tom Bonner), The Rice Institute, 1954-56
  • Assistant Physicist, Argonne National Laboratory, 1956-60
  • Associate Physicist, 1960-64
  • Argonne Distinguished Scientist/Senior Physicist (emeritus), 1964-present
  • Associate Director, ANL Physics Division, 1964-2000
  • Director, 1979-82
  • Interim Director, 1999-2000
  • Professor of Physics (joint appt.), University of Chicago, 1969-2000
  • Prof. of Physics (emeritus), 2000-present
Visiting Appointments
  • Guggenheim Fellow AERE Harwell, England, 1959-60
  • Visiting Assoc. Prof., Princeton University, 1964
  • Visiting Prof., University of Rochester, 1967-68
  • Visiting Prof., Technical University Munich, 1973-74



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; Distinguished Service Award (APS-DNP), 2011.

Professional Committees and Offices

  • NAS/NRC: 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.
  • AAAS: Member of Council 1989-94, chair Section B (physics) 1992-93.
  • DOE/NSF: NSAC 1981-85, chair, 83-85; Chair of Subcomm. on the Implementation of the Long Range Plan 1991, etc.
  • NSF: 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.
  • Other: 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 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 of mine 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 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. 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.

An interest that grew out of nuclear physics is in the simulation of very cold plasmas such as can be obtained in ion traps and storage rings and the properties of such plasmas properties associated with crystallization.

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 initio 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 was implemented at Argonne (by others) and has been productive; it is being duplicated at CERN and in the future at FRIB.

I initiated a set of precision measurements yielding a microscopic view of candidates for searches of neutrinoless double beta-decay. These lead to precision measurements of nucleon transfer reactions and placed them on a firmer footing.

Recent Publications