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Famous people

Meitner (1878)

Lise Meitner (1878)

Image of Lise Meitner circa 1925

Source: Wikimedia Commons, cropped (Public Domain)

German postal stamp of Lise Meitner

Source: Deutsche Bundespost Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain)

Lise Meitner was born in Austria in 1878. As a young girl, she had a love for mathematics and physics, and adopted Madame Curie and Florence Nightingale as her heroines. After private schooling, she entered the University of Vienna and received her doctorate in physics in 1906. She had to get used to being the only woman in a room full of one hundred students.

She worked at the Kaiser-Wilhelm Institute with radiochemist, Otto Hahn. They discovered the element protactinium and studied the effects of neutron bombardment on uranium. Meitner became joint director of the institute and was appointed head of the Physics Department in 1917. After leaving Nazi Germany in 1938, she found a post at the Nobel Physical Institute in Stockholm. She continued her research there, and, together with her nephew Otto Frisch, realized that they had split the uranium nucleus. They called the process "fission." During the war, she refused to work on the atomic bomb. In 1947, a laboratory was established for her by the Swedish Atomic Energy Commission, and she worked on an experimental nuclear reactor.