Anna, Whitney, Stephen Lise Meitner Project

1878 - 1968
Lise Meitner’s Biography
Born November 7, 1878 in Vienna, Austria
Jewish family
Studied physics at the University of Vienna
 Didn’t start until age 23 because of female education
 First woman admitted to the University’s physics program
 Ludwig Boltzmann, her teacher, inspired her in physics
 Graduated with a doctorate in 1905
Went to Berlin to work at Berlin’s Kaiser
Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry
 Worked unpaid for many years
Women not allowed any official status
 Met Otto Hahn, a chemist
 They collaborated for 30 years
Worked with radioactive substances
Discovered protractinium together in
Began researching uranium’s possibilities
together with Fritz Strassman
Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn
in their laboratory
World War I
 Volunteered as an x-ray nurse on the front
 Her physics background
 Was glad when war ended and she could
continue working in Berlin
 University of Berlin – salary equal to Hahn’s
 Nazis revoked position in 1933
 Still worked at Kaiser Wilhelm Institute
World War II
Germany conquered Austria in 1938
Meitner fled to Sweden
 She was Jew by birth, though not by religion
Had converted to Protestantism
Hahn continued experiments without her
 Fritz Strassman
In Stockholm, Sweden, she worked at
Manne Siegbahn’s Institute
 Little support – Siegbahn was prejudiced against women
A laboratory, but no other resources
Siegbahn more focused on building big
Hahn and Meitner’s clandestine meeting
 Visited Meitner’s nephew, Otto Frisch, in Denmark
 Led to discovering nuclear fission
Splitting of the uranium atom
Hahn and Strassman published the results
in Germany
 Meitner not listed as coauthor
Gave the chemical explanation
Meitner published physics explanation a
month later
The Nobel Prize Mistake
In 1944, the Nobel Prize was given to Otto
 His discovery of fission
Meitner was ignored
 After leaving Germany (because of the war), her efforts
were downplayed
Enrico Fermi Award
Awarded to Meitner, Hahn and Strassman
in 1966
Partially rectified the Nobel Prize Mistake
Celebrated as “The Mother of
the Atomic Bomb”
Contributed in nuclear fission experiments
Had no direct role in creating bombs
Had a pacifist view
Horrified at the brutality bombs inflicted
Retired to Cambridge, England in 1960
Died October 27, 1968
 After passing away in October 1968, her
nephew Otto Frisch composed the
inscription on her headstone. It reads "Lise
Meitner: a physicist who never lost her
 Inspired by her teacher, physicist Ludwig
Boltzmann, Meitner studied physics and
became the second woman to obtain a
doctoral degree in physics at the University
of Vienna in 1905
 Women were not allowed to attend institutions of
higher education in those days, but thanks to
support from her parents, she was able to obtain
private higher education, which she completed in
 Following her doctoral degree, she rejected an
offer to work in a gas lamp factory
 Encouraged by her father and backed by
his financial support, she went to Berlin
 Max Planck allowed her to attend his
lectures, an unusual gesture by Planck, who
until then had rejected any women wanting
to attend his lectures
 After one year, she became Planck's assistant
 During the first years she works as Planck’s
assistant, she worked together with
chemist Otto Hahn and discovered with him
several new isotopes
 In 1909 she presented two papers on betaradiation
 In 1912 the research group Hahn-Meitner
moved to the newly founded KaiserWilhelm-Institute (KWI) in Berlin
 Worked without salary as a "guest" in Hahn's
department of Radiochemistry
 It was not until 1913, at age 35 that she
got a permanent position at KWI
The Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Chemistry
 1914-1916,the first part of World War I,
she served as a nurse handling X-ray
 She returned to Berlin and her research in 1916
 In 1917, she and Hahn discovered the first
long-lived isotope of the element
protactinium, for which she was awarded
the Leibniz Medal by the Berlin Academy of
 That year, Meitner was given her own
physics section at the KWI for Chemistry
 In 1922, she discovered the cause, known
as the Auger effect, of the emission from
surfaces of electrons with 'signature'
 The effect is named for Pierre Victor Auger, a
French scientist who independently discovered
the effect in 1923
 In 1926, Meitner became the first woman
in Germany to assume a post of full
professor in physics, at the University of
 There she undertook the research program
in nuclear physics which eventually led to
her co-discovery of nuclear fission in 1939,
after she had left Berlin
 She was praised by Albert Einstein as the
"German Marie Curie"
 In 1930, Meitner taught a seminar on
nuclear physics and chemistry with Leó
 With the discovery of the neutron in the
early 1930s, speculation arose in the
scientific community that it might be
possible to create elements heavier than
uranium (atomic number 92) in the
 With that knowledge, a scientific race
began between Ernest Rutherford in
Britain, Irène Joliot-Curie in France,
Enrico Fermi in Italy, and the MeitnerHahn team in Berlin
 At the time, all concerned believed that
this was abstract research for the
probable honor of a Nobel prize
 None suspected that this research would
culminate in nuclear weapons
 Meitner was acting director of the
Institute for Chemistry when Adolf Hitler
came to power in 1933
 After Meitner was lucky to escape, she
went to Stockholm, where she took up a
post at Manne Siegbahn's laboratory,
despite the difficulty caused by Siegbahn's
prejudice against women in science
 There she established a working relationship with
Niels Bohr, who travelled regularly between
Copenhagen and Stockholm and with that she
continued to correspond with Hahn and other
German scientists
 In Sweden, Meitner was first active at
Siegbahn's Nobel Institute for Physics, and
at the Swedish Defence Research
Establishment and the Royal Institute of
Technology in Stockholm, where she had a
laboratory and participated in research on
 R1 was Sweden's first nuclear reactor
 While working on Nuclear Fission Meitner
first realized that Einstein's famous
equation, E = mc2 explained the source of
the tremendous releases of energy in
nuclear fission
 While it was politically impossible for exiled
Meitner to publish jointly with Hahn in
1939, Hahn and Strassman had sent the
manuscript of their paper to
Naturwissenschaften in December 1938,
reporting they had detected the element
barium after bombarding uranium with
neutrons; simultaneously
 Meitner, and her nephew, Otto Frisch,
correctly interpreted their results as being
nuclear fission and published their paper in
 Meitner’s nephew Frisch confirmed this
experimentally on January 13th, 1939
 While Meitner recognized the possibility for
a chain reaction of enormous explosive
potential, she refused an offer to work on
the project at Los Alamos, declaring "I will
have nothing to do with a bomb!“
 Meitner said that Hiroshima had come as a
surprise to her, and that she was "sorry that
the bomb had to be invented"
 On November 15th, 1945 the Royal Swedish
Academy of Sciences announced that Hahn
had been awarded the 1944 Nobel Prize in
Chemistry for the discovery of nuclear
 Some historians who have documented the
history of the discovery of nuclear fission
believe Meitner should have been awarded
the Nobel Prize with Hahn
 On a visit to the USA in 1946, she
received the honor of "Woman of the Year"
by the National Press Club and had dinner
with President Harry Truman and others at
the National Women's Press Club
 She lectured at Princeton, Harvard and other US
universities, and was awarded a number of
honorary doctorates
 In 1947, a personal position was created
for Meitner at the University College of
Stockholm with the salary of a professor
and funding from the Council for Atomic
 In 1949, she received the Max Planck
Medal of the German Physics Society
 Meitner was nominated to receive the prize three
 She also became a Swedish citizen in 1949
 In 1951, Meitner’s status was changed to
that of a Swedish member after she was
elected a foreign member of the Royal
Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1945
 In 1960, Meitner was awarded the Wilhelm
Exner Medal
 In 1967, she was awarded The Austrian
Decoration for Science and Art
 In 1966 Hahn, Strassmann and Meitner
were jointly awarded the Enrico Fermi
 Because of Meitner’s health, she was not
able to travel to the US to receive the
award and relatives had to present it to her
 In 1992, element 109, the heaviest known
element in the universe, was named
Meitnerium (Mt) in her honor
 Many consider Lise Meitner the "most significant
woman scientist of the 20th Century"
 All in all, Lise Meitner received 21
scientific honors and awards for her work
(including 5 honorary doctorates and
membership of many academies). In 1947
she received the Award of the City of
Vienna for science. She was the first
female member of the scientific class of
the Austrian Academy of Sciences. And in
2008, the NBC defence school of the
Austrian Armed Forces established the
"Lise Meitner" award
Nuclear Reactor
R1, Sweden’s first Nuclear Reactor
Works Cited

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