Monday, June 27, 2011

Outstanding Scientific Women in last 100 years (4)

Lise Meitner was born to a jewish family in Vienna, Austria (1878) and died in Cambridge, England (1968); due to Austrian restrictions on female education, she only could enter the University of Vienna in 1901.  Ludwig Boltzman, who thought that physics is a battle for ultimate truth, was her teacher.

When the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to Otto Hahn in 1944 for the discovery of nuclear fission ("for his discovery of the fission of heavy nuclei") the Academy overlooked Lise Meitner, who worked with him in the discovery and gave the first theoretical explanation of the fission process.  They collaborated for 30 years at the Berlin`s Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry, where each of them headed a section, she studied the physics and he the chemistry of racioactive substances. The proof of fission required both the physical insight of Meitner and her nephew physicist Otto Frisch, and the chemical findings of Hahn and Strassmann. In 1966, Hahn, Meitner and Strassmann were awarded the U.S. Fermi Prize

After the German annexation of Austria in 1938, she had to emigrate and went to Stockholm, where she continued working.  She later retired to Cambridge, England, where she died in 1968.  In 1997 was announced that element 109 would be named meitnerium (Mt) in her honor. Many consider her the most significant woman scientist of the XXth century.