- historical event:
- Lise Meitner was almost the contemporary of Albert Einstein according to her year of birth. She attained her PhD at the University of Vienna, being one of the first women to do so. Her research led to the discovery of nuclear fission, the key process on which nuclear weapons and reactors are based.
One of the most famous nuclear physicists in history – Lise Meitner – died on this day in 1968. She was a member of the team whose research led to the discovery of nuclear fission, for which her colleague Otto Hahn was even awarded the Nobel Prize. Today it is believed her contribution to that process has been mostly neglected and that she should have received the Nobel Prize herself.
However, this was partially compensated by the fact that the chemical element with the atomic number of 109, meitnerium (Me), was named after her in 1997. In addition, craters on the Moon and Venus, and one asteroid (6999 Meitner) were also named after her.
Lise Meitner was born in Vienna in 1878, to a Jewish family. Her father was a lawyer and known chess master. According to her year of birth, she was almost the contemporary of Albert Einstein. She attained her PhD at the University of Vienna, being one of the first women in history to do so. She then moved from Vienna to Germany, where she worked together with the aforementioned Otto Hahn. Their discoveries were very important for the development of nuclear physics.
When Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, Lise Meitner was at first spared persecution due to her Austrian citizenship. In 1908 she had converted to Christianity, but the Nazi racial laws considered Jews to be a biological, rather than a religious category. After Hitler annexed Austria in 1938, Lise Meitner fled to the Netherlands, and then to Sweden. Although in exile, Lise continued to work with Hahn (they even met in Denmark). Their research led to the discovery of nuclear fission, the key process on which nuclear weapons and reactors are based.
In 1949 Lise received Swedish citizenship, and in 1960 she moved to Britain. She died on this day, aged 89, near Cambridge.