Skip to Main Content

St. Clair County Community College Library

Women in Science

Lise Meitner (1878 - 1968)

Lise Meitner (1878-1968), lecturing at Catholic University, Washington, D.C., 1946Born in Vienna, Austria in 1878, Lise Meitner studied physics at the University of Austria, receiving a doctorate in 1906. She moved to Berlin, Germany in 1907 to pursue research opportunities that were not available to women in Austria at the time. She volunteered as an x-ray nurse in World War I, and following the war was made head of a physics lab at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry. She conducted research in nuclear physics until she was forced to flee Germany because of her Jewish heritage, and headed for the safety of Stockholm, Sweden in 1938. There she accepted a position at the Nobel Institute for Physics, and was visited over the winter holiday by her nephew Otto Frisch.

During this holiday, Meitner and Frisch discovered the process of nuclear fission,"that would immediately revolutionize nuclear physics and lead to the atomic bomb", in December 1938. Frisch submitted their findings in the journal Nature in 1939,  leaving Meiner uncredited for her part in the discovery. Her name has has since been added to the article, an attempt to correct the previous omission. 

Source: Tretkoff, Ernie. "This Month in Physics History December 1938: Discovery of Nuclear Fission." APS News, vol. 16, no. 11, Dec. 2007. Accessed 19 Feb. 2019. 

Image credit: Smithsonian Institution [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Related Websites