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Eugene Feenberg Papers

Identifier: WUA-03-wua00097

This collection contains the papers, notes, and correspondence of Eugene Feenburg. 


  • Creation: 1935-1977


Conditions Governing Access


Conditions Governing Use

Users of the collection must read and agree to abide by the rules and procedures set forth in the Materials Use Policies.

Providing access to materials does not constitute permission to publish or otherwise authorize use. All publication not covered by fair use or other exceptions is restricted to those who have permission of the copyright holder, which may or may not be Washington University.

If you wish to publish or license Special Collections materials, please contact Special Collections to inquire about copyright status at (314) 935-5495 or (Publish means quotation in whole or in part in seminar or term papers, theses or dissertations, journal articles, monographs, books, digital forms, photographs, images, dramatic presentations, transcriptions, or any other form prepared for a limited or general public.)


7 linear feet

9 boxes

Biographical Information

Eugene Feenberg (1906-1977) was Wayman Crow Professor of Physics at Washington University in St. Louis from 1946 to 1977 and is regarded as a highly pivotal figure in the promotion of many-body physics. Feenberg gained great notoriety and international praise for his timely contributions to the areas of quantum fluids, quantum mechanics, nuclear shell structure, elementary excitations, energy perturbation, and helium atoms.

Eugene Feenberg was born in Fort Smith, Arkansas in 1906 and raised in Dallas, Texas. As a self-supporting student at the University of Texas in Austin, he completed both bachelor's and master's degrees in physics within three years, graduating with top honors. Eugene then journeyed to Harvard to study for the Ph.D. under Edwin C. Kemble, author of an early American text on quantum mechanics. His thesis, written in 1933 after a year in Europe as a Parker Traveling Fellow, presented the first statement and proof of the optical theorem for quantum scattering.

During the remainder of the pre-war period, he held positions as Instructor at Harvard, Lecturer at Madison, and Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, joining the faculty at NYU in 1938. During World War II he participated in radar research at Sperry Gyroscope Corporation. In 1946, Feenberg accepted a faculty position at Washington University in St. Louis, where he remained the rest of his life, becoming Wayman Crow Professor of Physics in 1964 -- a Chair previously occupied by such eminent scientists as Arthur H. Compton, Arthur L. Hughes, and Edward U. Condon. He was member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Eugene Feenberg was a pioneer in the application of non-relativistic quantum mechanics to many-particle systems. His contributions to nuclear theory, to approximation methods, and to the theory of strongly correlated quantum fluids have become part of the enduring fabric of physics.

Working with Breit and Wigner in the mid-1930s, Feenberg was among the first to document the charge independence of the nuclear force and to interpret it as a new symmetry of nature. In the immediate postwar period, Feenberg laid a sound basis for the development of modern nuclear shell theory through comprehensive studies addressing the assignment of orbital configurations on the basis of spins and magnetic moments, the character of nuclear transitions, and the correlation between shell structure and nuclear isomerism. His important role is exemplified by the appearance of back-to-back letters to the Physical Review in 1949, the first by Feenberg, Hammack, and Nordheim, and the second by Maria Goeppert Mayer.

From the late 1950s onward, Feenberg's primary intellectual endeavor was the development of the method of correlated basis functions, a powerful theory aimed at microscopic (i.e., `ab initio'}) description of the ground and low excited states of strongly correlated many-particle systems under realistic conditions of interaction, density, and temperature. His 1969 book on the "Theory of Quantum Fluids" continues to be a valuable and treasured resource for researchers in many-body physics.  Feenberg died in 1977.


The material is divided into eight series:

Series 01:  Personal and Professional Development (arranged alphabetically by subject)

Series 02:  Publications by Feenburg (arranged alphabetically by title)

Series 03:  Publications by Others (arranged alphabetically by author’s last name)

Series 04:  Research Notes (arranged alphabetically by subject)

Series 05:  Class Notes and Syllabi by Subject (arranged alphabetically by subject)

Series 06:  Class Notes and Syllabi by Class (arranged by class number)

Series 07:  Research Proposals and Reports (arranged alphabetically by subject)

Series 08:  Correspondence (arranged alphabetically by last name and subject)

Method of Acquisition

This material was donated to the University Archives by Hilda (Mrs. Eugene) Feenberg in 1989. Additional material given to University Archives by Professor John Clark, Physics Department, on August 14, 2007.


Accruals are interfiled within the collection.

Processing Information

Processed collectively by Jay Kempen, Bradley Proctor, and Amy Wilson in August 2002. Updated by Sarah Pabarcus in February 2006.

Eugene Feenberg Papers
Description rules
Language of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 May 21: Resource record updated in ArchiveSpace by Sarah Schnuriger.

Collecting Area Details

Part of the University Archives Collecting Area

Sonya Rooney
Olin Library, 1 Brookings Drive
MSC 1061-141-B
St. Louis MO 63130 US
(314) 935-5495