(November 7, 1878 – October 27, 1968)
Although 11 years younger, Lise Meitner shares the November 7 birthday with another outstanding female scientist: Marie Curie. And like Curie who became the first female professor at the University of Paris, Meitner received 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 an early 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 and/or a researcher in those days was doubly difficult: due to rampant discriminations. Perhaps, it explains 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. Conversely, in 1949, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry recognized her alongside Hahn as discoverers of protactinium. In addition to her research-team members, Lise Meitner corresponded with many of her contemporaries including: Niels Bohr, James Chadwick, Fritz Haber and Leo Szilard. She distinguished herself and received many awards, including several posthumous ones. For example, the element meitnerium was named after her in 1997. She is also the eponym of the Meitner-Hupfeld effect, the 87-kilometer-wide Meitner lunar crater, the 149-kilometer-wide Meitner multi-ring Venusian crater, and the 6999 Meitner main-belt asteroid.

19 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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