The Monthly Scientist: Miss October

This months scientist is recognised for the discovery of nuclear fission although never officially. She was also the first female professor at the university of Berlin. This outstanding scientist is of course:

Miss Lise Meitner

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Born: 7, November, 1878 – Austria

Died: 27, October, 1968 – Cambridge, UK.

Noted for: Discovery of nuclear fission.

Why scientist of the month?

In 1901, Meitner enrolled at the University of Vienna (they finally let women in in 1899) and studied physics under the renowned Ludwig Boltzmann. She received a doctorate in physics in 1906, the second woman to do so. She sent a letter to Curie to see if she could work with her in Paris but there was no room. So she then went to Berlin to study under Otto Hahn and Max Planck in 1907. Meitner worked very closely with Hahn for nearly thirty years at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry in Berlin. They both collaborated and studied radioactivity because of her physics knowledge and his chemistry expertise. Together, they discovered the protactinium isotope in 1918. She discovered the Auger Effect, which is the emission process of electrons, in 1922. In 1926, she became a full physics professor at the University of Berlin, the first women to accomplish this in Germany. There, she commenced the nuclear physics research program which ultimately led to her co-discovery, in 1939, of nuclear fission however she was not credited for this in the end.

She has to run from Nazi Germany and away from Hahn. She moved to Stockholm and then to the UK to live out her retirement. She received a total of twenty-one other scientific awards and honours in her life. As well as having an element named after, she was a pioneer in women in STEM subjects being taken seriously. What a lady!

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