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Lise Meitner

Physicist
1878 - 1968


Lise Meitner<BR>
Lise Meitner (LEE zeh MITE nuhr) was born in Vienna, Austria November 7, 1878. She was the third child of eight children in the family. Her father Philipp, who was a lawyer, hired tutors to teach the children, and she received a good background in mathematics. Music was important to the family, and all the children learned to play the piano. One of her brothers even became a composer and concert pianist.

The Meitner children were taught to listen to their parents, but to think for themselves.

Her formal schooling as a child ended when she was fourteen years old, but she still wanted to learn. She asked her father if she could study at the University of Vienna. However, the classes there were closed to women and Jews. She, being a woman from a Jewish family, was excluded. Her parents insisted she first learn how to be a teacher before she pursued a higher education. They felt she needed to have some way to support herself financially.

Though Jewish, Meitner converted to Protestantism when she became an adult along with some of the other members of her family.

In 1899 the university began to admit women even if they lacked a high school diploma. She began to prepare for the entrance exam which was called the Matura. She finished an eight year study in two years. She took the exam and passed. Fourteen women took the test and only four passed. Meitner was one of them. She was able to enroll and attend physics* classes with the men. She was 23 years old. Five years later she had a PhD in Physics.

She went to the University of Berlin where she, as a woman, was not allowed to use the same lab as the men for her experiments.

While in Berlin she worked with Otto Hahn. She and Hahn discovered a radioactive* element and named it protactinium.* She did most of the work because Otto had to serve in World War 1. Hahn, however, received all the credit for the work. She asked him repeatedly to give her the recognition due her, but it never happened.

picture2
Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn

In 1944 Hahn would receive the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the interpretation of nuclear* fission.* Meitner was not mentioned. Some say this was the greatest oversight ever made by the Nobel prize committee.

She stayed in Berlin as long as she dared, but fled the Nazis because they were about to arrest her. After 30 years in Berlin she went to Sweden.

Sometimes she would write scientific articles and just sign them "L. Meitner". The publisher thought she was a man. When he learned "L. Meitner" was a woman, he quit publishing her articles.

She had named the process on which she was working nuclear fission. Without her knowledge other scientists built on her work and called it the "Manhattan Project" which was actually the development of the atomic bomb. She refused to help with the development of the weapon. Meitner did not know the end result of her discovery would lead to weapons of mass destruction. She wanted her discoveries to be used for peaceful purposes. To her dismay, her research resulted in the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan to bring about the end of World War 2.

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During her 60 years of work in the field of atomic physics she wrote 128 articles, served on scientific commissions, and served on the United Nations committee on atomic energy.

For many years she worked with her nephew, Otto Robert Frisch who was 34 years younger.

She and Eleanor Roosevelt in 1945 pledged to work together for world peace.

Albert Einstein affectionately called her "our German Madame Curie".

Two years before she died she received the Enrico Fermi* Award along with her co-workers Strassman and Hahn. In 1997, twenty-nine years after her death, the chemical element 109, the heaviest known element was named Meitnerium* in her honor.

On her gravestone is written "A physicist who never lost her humanity".

This biography by Patsy Stevens, a retired teacher, was written in 2008.

Many of the facts in this story were found in the book Lise Meitner and the Dawn of the Nuclear Age by Patricia Rife

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Dictionary

From Word Central's Student Dictionary
by Merriam - Webster

(Pronunciation note: the schwa sound is shown by ə)

physics
Pronunciation:FIZ iks
Function: noun
a science that deals with matter and energy and their actions upon each other
in the fields of mechanics, heat, light, electricity, sound, and the atomic nucleus

radioactivity
Pronunciation: RAID-e-o-ak-TIV-əh-te
Function: noun
the giving off of rays of energy or particles by the breaking apart of atoms of certain elements (as uranium)

protactinium
Pronunciation:proat-ak-TIN-e-əm
Function: noun
a shiny metallic radioactive element of short life

nuclear
Pronunciation: NYOO-kle-ər
Function:adjective
of, relating to, or using the atomic nucleus as nuclear reactions,
being or relating to energy or a weapon that involves a nuclear reaction
such as nuclear energy, a nuclear war, or nuclear power plants

fission
Pronunciation: FISH-ən
Function:noun
the splitting of an atomic nucleus resulting in the release of large amounts of energy

meitnerium
Pronunciation: mite-NIR-e əm
Function: noun
a short-lived radioactive element produced artificially

Fermi
Pronunciation:FEH(ə)r-me
Function: proper name
Enrico 1901-1954 American (Italian-born) physicist; Nobel Prize winner (1938)


Research Links

Lise Meitner
information at UCLA

Lise Meitner, A Life in Physics
By Ruth Lewin Sime

Chemical Achievers

Lise Meitner
Atomic Archive.com

Naming the Chemical Elements (audio)
Engines of Our Ingenuity.

Lise Meitner
short biography

Lise Meitner
at Wikipedia

Lise Meitner
contributions and honors


Videos



Nuclear Fission - Part 1
YouTube presentation describes Meitner's role


Books
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Lise Meitner and the Dawn of the Nuclear Age



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Page Comments
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2012-05-02
This is very good info. Just enough i need for my project...........Thanks and god bless you
2012-02-18
for my school project about inventors i chose her because she's women who does motivate me and i respect all her works for me she's an idol
Reem
2011-03-17
Lise Meitner should have been more honored while she was alive since she is an am,azing role model for women. In that time being a woman was like a sin, it was too hard. I am proyd to be doing a project about since I knew nothing about her & now I do. In the end, she got what she deserved but she doesnt know it...or maybe she does...
sciencefreak
2011-03-08
Thanks for info but it says NOTHING about how she died, which i really need, but thanks for the INFO!!


-Elli-
Elli
2011-01-27
lise meitner sounds like soeone who didnt deserve what she got. But in the end she proved how strong she was and i liked that about her
Ashleyy
2009-04-17
I have just been given a science project where we have to make a movie about a scientist and I got Lise. I litterally got this assignment 5 minutes ago so I don't a lot about her but she seems like an amazing person.=]
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