(November 7, 1878 – October 27, 1968)
Although 11 years younger, Lise Meitner shares the November 7th birthday with another outstanding female scientist: Marie Curie. And like Curie who became the first female professor at the University of Paris, Meitner got the first physics professorial chair given to a woman in Germany. But, she lost it when the Nazis came to power. Working in a team that included Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner became a pioneer in radioactivity and radiochemistry. Further collaborations with Otto Frisch (who happened to be her nephew) saw Meitner unraveling the mechanisms of nuclear reactors and atomic bombs. As a woman with Jewish ancestry, being an academic or a researcher in those days was doubly difficult: due to rampant discriminations. Perhaps, it may explain why the Nobel Committee awarded their 1944 Prize solely to Otto Hahn, instead of sharing it between him, Meitner, Strassman and Frisch: all of whom contributed to the unmasking of Nuclear Fission. Five decades later, that committee would be officially criticized for this. Lise Meitner corresponded with many of her contemporaries (including: James Chadwick, Otto Hahn, Otto Frisch, Fritz Haber, Leo Szilard and Niels Bohr). Although she distinguished herself and received many awards, her exclusion from the 1944 Nobel Prize still attracts sympathy. Several posthumous awards were given to her. In 1997, the chemical element, meitnerium, was named in her honor. She is also the eponym of the 87-kilometer wide Meitner lunar impact crater. The same applies to the 149-kilometer wide Meitner multi-ring Venusian impact crater, and to the 6999 Meitner main-belt asteroid.

7 Comments

  1. Good and bad decisions are parts of life. The criteria for Nobel Prizes are as good as those who make decisions about them. Politics can sometimes play a part.

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