J. Hans D. Jensen Biography

Johannes Hans Daniel Jensen, a German nuclear physicist and Nobel Prize winner, made significant contributions to the field of nuclear energy. He was a member of the Uranium Club and played a crucial role in the German nuclear energy project during World War II. Jensen’s expertise in the separation of uranium isotopes is widely recognized. He held professorships at prestigious institutions such as the University of Heidelberg, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the California Institute of Technology. Despite the rise of Hitler, Jensen joined various organizations, including the National Socialist German University Lecturers League and the National Socialist Teachers League. He was also a member of the National Socialist German Workers Party. Jensen’s academic affiliations included the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences, Max Planck Gesellschaft, and Sacri Romani Imperii Academia Naturae Coriosorum.

Quick Facts

  • German Celebrities Born In June
  • Also Known As: J. Hans Jensen
  • Died At Age: 65
  • Family: father: Karl Jensen, mother: Helene Ohm Jensen
  • Physicists
  • German Men
  • Died on: February 11, 1973
  • Place of death: Heidelberg
  • City: Hamburg, Germany
  • More Facts
  • Education: University of Hamburg
  • Awards: Nobel Prize for Physics (1963)

Childhood & Early Life

J. Hans D. Jensen was born on 25 June 1907 in Hamburg, Germany. He was the son of a gardener, Karl Jensen and Helene Ohm Jensen. From 1926 to 1931, he studied physics, mathematics, physical chemistry, and philosophy at the Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg and the University of Hamburg. In 1932, he obtained his doctorate degree under Wilhelm Lenz from the University of Hamburg. In 1936, Jensen completed his Habilitation from the same university.


In 1937 Jensen was appointed a Privatdozent (unpaid lecturer) at the University of Hamburg. The same year, he began working with Paul Harteck, director of the university’s physical chemistry department and advisor to the HWA, Army Ordnance Office on explosives. In 1939, after the launch of military control over the German nuclear energy project—Uranverein (Uranium Club), Jensen joined the project at the initiative of Harteck who was one of the major figures in the Uranverein. Jensen worked on double centrifuges for separation of uranium isotopes. In 1941 Jensen was named extraordinarius professor of theoretical physics at the the University of Hanover. In 1946 he became an ordinarius professor at the same university. In 1949 he joined as an ordinarius professor at the Ruprecht Karl University of Heidelberg. He later received emeritus praecox status there.

Major Works

Jensen’s most celebrated work is his theory of the shell nuclear model. He and Maria Goeppert-Mayer proposed this separately in 1949. The shell nuclear model states that an atomic nucleus is a structure of shells with different radii just like layers of onion and each is filled with neutrons and protons.

Awards & Achievements

While working on the Nuclear project, Harteck and Jensen came up with a double centrifuge based on a rocking process (Schaukelverfahren) to make possible the separation effect. In 1947 he received an honorary professorship at the University of Hamburg. In 1963 J. Hans. D. Jensen received a Nobel Prize in Physics for his proposal of the shell nuclear model. He shared half of the Prize with Maria Goeppert Mayer and the other half of the prize was awarded to Eugene P. Wigner for some other realm of research. In 1964 he received an honorary doctorate from the Technische Universität Hannover, now the University of Hanover. In 1969 Jensen was offered an honorary citizenship of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Personal Life & Legacy

J. Hans D. Jensen died on February 11, 1973 in Heidelberg, Germany.


During the denazification process in the post-World war Germany, Werner Heisenberg wrote the Whitewash Certificate or Persilschein explaining that Jensen joined the Uranium Club to avoid facing problems in academia. This cleared all charges against Jensen.

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