Otto Hahn, Lise Meitner and Fritz Strassmann
First meeting of Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn, 1908. Their collaboration led, 30 years later, to the experimental detection and interpretation of fission.
In 1938 Otto Hahn (1879–1968), Lise Meitner (1878–1968), and Fritz Strassmann (1902–1980) became the first to recognize that the uranium atom, when bombarded by neutrons, actually split.
Hahn went in search of a collaborator with whom to pursue studies in experimental radioactivity and teamed up with Lise Meitner. She had come to Berlin to attend Max Planck’s lectures on theoretical physics after receiving her doctorate in physics from the University of Vienna in 1905—the second doctorate in science from that university granted to a woman. In the first year of the Hahn–Meitner partnership they had to work in a remodeled carpenter’s shop because the university did not yet accept women on an official basis. In 1912 their research group was relocated to the new Kaiser Wilhelm Gesellschaft, where Fritz Haber was head of the physical chemistry institute, Hahn was head of the radioactivity institute, and from 1918 Meitner was head of the radioactivity institute’s physics department. During World War I, Hahn served in the German gas warfare service headed by Haber, and Meitner volunteered as an X-ray nurse for the Austrian army.
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Excerpted with permission, Chemical Heritage Foundation