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Weisskopf was born in Vienna to Jewish parents and earned his doctorate in physics at the University of Göttingen in Germany in 1931. His brilliance in physics led to work with the great physicists exploring the atom, especially Niels Bohr, who mentored Weisskopf at his institute in Copenhagen. By the late 1930s, he realized that, as a Jew, he needed to get out of Europe. Bohr helped him find a position in the United States.
In the 1930s and 1940s, 'Viki', as everyone called him, made major contributions to the development of quantum theory, especially in the area of quantum electrodynamics. One of his few regrets was that his insecurity about his mathematical abilities may have cost him a Nobel prize when he did not publish results (which turned out to be correct) about what is now known as the Lamb shift.
From 1937 to 1943 he was a Professor of Physics at the University of Rochester.
After World War II, Weisskopf joined the physics faculty at MIT, ultimately becoming head of the department. At MIT, he encouraged students to ask questions, and, even in undergraduate physics courses, taught his students to think like physicists, not just to learn physics. He was a memorable teacher.
In joint statement Preserving and Cherishing the Earth with other noted scientists including Carl Sagan it concluded that: The historical record makes clear that religious teaching, example, and leadership are powerfully able to influence personal conduct and commitment...Thus, there is a vital role for religion and science.
His first wife, Ellen Tvede, died in 1989. He was survived by his second wife Duscha.