Lise Meitner was an Austrian-born, later Swedish, physicist who shared the Enrico Fermi Award in 1966, with fellow chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann, for their collaborative work on the discovery of uranium fission. She remains one of the most important figures in the fields of radioactivity and nuclear physics. The name of the chemical element, meitnerium (Mt), was suggested in Meitner’s honor, who is also widely credited as the discoverer of protactinium.
Early Life and Education:
Born into a prosperous Jewish family in Vienna, Lise Meitner’s father was a prominent Jewish lawyer in Austria. She chose to convert to Christianity, being baptized in 1908.
Heavily motivated and influenced by her mentor, Ludwig Boltzmann, Meitner studied physics, becoming the second woman to earn a doctoral degree in physics from the University of Vienna in 1905.
Contributions and Achievements:
After coming to Berlin for further education and research work, Lise Meitner started working on the new field of radioactivity with Otto Hahn. Her partnership and friendship with Hahn lasted a lifetime. Meitner and Hahn discovered a new radioactive element, protactinium, in 1918. Meitner is probably best known for explaining, with another fellow physicist Otto Robert Frisch, some strange experimental results. They had concluded that the nucleus had actually split in two halves, that later became known as the process of fission.
She did not share the Nobel Prize for this discovery which was simply absurd, because it was her discovery of fission that led to creation of the atomic bomb and to more peaceful uses of atomic energy.
Later Life and Death:
Lise Meitner died on October 27, 1968 in Cambridge, England. She was 89 years old.