Goeppert was born in Kattowitz, Upper Silesia, then Germany, the
only child of Friedrich Goeppert and his wife. Maria was named for
her mother. When Maria was four her family moved to Göttingen
where her father was
a university professor. Maria went to private and public schools
in Göttingen and enrolled at the University in the spring
of 1924. Six years later she received her doctorate in theoretical
Maria married physical chemist Joseph E.
Mayer the same year she received her doctorate and together they
moved to Baltimore, where Joe was a professor at Johns Hopkins.
During that time it was hard for women to find jobs, but Maria continued
to work as a volunteer physicist and wrote several papers and a
textbook. She also gave birth to a daughter, Maria Ann. She was
pregnant with her son, John when Joseph lost his job at John Hopkins
in 1938 and took a new job at Columbia University. Once again, Maria
worked as a physicist, but received no pay.