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Lise Meitner

Lise MeitnerAKA Elise Meitner

Born: 7-Nov-1878
Birthplace: Vienna, Austria
Died: 27-Oct-1968
Location of death: Cambridge, England
Cause of death: unspecified
Remains: Buried, St. James Church, Bramley, England

Gender: Female
Religion: Protestant
Race or Ethnicity: White
Occupation: Physicist

Nationality: Sweden
Executive summary: Discovered nuclear fission

Military service: Austrian Army (x-ray technician, 1914-16)

As a woman in science, Austrian-Swedish physicist Lise Meitner was a rarity in the early 20th century. She studied under Ludwig Boltzmann, but after becoming the second woman to earn a PhD in Physics at the University of Vienna, she could only find scientific work as an unpaid assistant to an assistant in the university's laboratory. Later, in her first years at the University of Berlin, her lab was in the basement and she was literally not permitted to climb the stairs to the building's higher levels, where the male scientists worked in their labs.

For decades she collaborated closely with Otto Hahn, with whom she co-discovered protactinium in 1917. In 1923 she discovered a two-electron radiationless transition now called the Auger effect for Pierre Auger, who made the same discovery two years later. In 1938, working with her nephew Otto Robert Frisch, she explained the splitting of the atom (nuclear fission). When Hahn won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1944 she was not named as a co-recipient, despite co-authoring much of Hahn's pertinent work.

Meitner was born Jewish, for which (despite her 1908 conversion to Christianity) she was forced to flee Austria in 1938. She resettled in Sweden, where she became a citizen in 1949. She never married, and was whispered to have been romantically involved with her long-time colleague Hahn, who was married. She is the namesake of the radioactive transuranic element Meitnerium (Mt).

Father: Philipp Meitner (attorney, b. 1838, d. 1910)
Mother: Hedwig Skovran Meitner (b. 1850, m. 1873, d. 1924)
Sister: Gisela Meitner (b. 1876)
Sister: Auguste Meitner (b. 1877, d. 1951)
Brother: Fritz Meitner (b. 1880)
Sister: Carola Meitner (b. 1884, d. 1952)
Brother: Max Meitner (b. 1888, d. 1902)
Sister: Frida Meitner (b. 1889, 1967)
Brother: Walter Meitner (b. 1891, d. 1961)

    High School: Elevated High School for Girls, Vienna, Austria
    University: PhD, University of Vienna (1906)
    Scholar: University of Vienna (1906-07)
    Scholar: Chemical Institute, University of Berlin (1907-12)
    Scholar: Chemistry, Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, Berlin (1912-18)
    Administrator: Director of Radiation Physics, Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, Berlin (1918-38)
    Teacher: Physics, University of Berlin (1926-38)
    Scholar: Nobel Institute for Experimental Physics (1938-46)
    Professor: Catholic University of America (1946-47)
    Professor: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden (1947-60)

    Austrian Academy of Science
    German Academy of Science
    Leibniz Medal, Berlin Academy of Sciences 1924
    Lieben Prize, Vienna Academy of Sciences 1925
    Ellen Richards Prize 1932
    Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences (Foreign Member) 1945
    Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 1949
    Max Planck Medal 1949
    Otto Hahn Prize 1954
    Royal Society 1955 (Foreign Member)
    Ordre pour le Merite (West Germany) 1957
    Enrico Fermi Award 1966
    Converted to Protestantism 1908 (formerly Jewish)
    Naturalized German Citizen 1938
    Naturalized Swedish Citizen 1949
    Chemical Element Namesake meitnerium (Mt, 109)
    Lunar Crater Meitner (10.5 S 112.7 E, 87 km. diameter)
    Austrian Ancestry
    Jewish Ancestry


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