Being barred from going to college and then being forced to run for her life from Nazi’s was not enough to keep Lise Meitner from studying radioactivity.
Lise graduated from school at the age of 14, however, at the time, Austria didn’t allow women to go to college. So for the next seven years, she studied the works of William Rontgen and Henri Becquerel, until she was finally allowed to go to college.
After she received her doctorate degree in 1907 she went to Berlin to study radioactivity. For 3o years she worked closely with Max Planck and Otto Hahn. During that time Lise and Max made a number of breakthroughs including discovering the element Protactinium.
However, in 1938 she hit another roadblock…the Nazis. Lise was Jewish which meant that her life was in danger. So she fled to Stockholm, Sweden. While there she was given no research support, nothing. But did that stop her? Not even remotely. She continued to correspond with Otto. They secretly met in Copenhagen to continue their research. They thought they had discovered radium but it turns out that they found Barium…oops! It was this research that led to proving there was evidence of Nuclear Fission. Her work also inspired the Manhattan Project.
Unfortunately, she didn’t get named in the Nobel Peace Prize because Hahn was forced to downplay her role in their research. But she did receive the Enrico Fermi Award. It’s fitting that the heaviest element was named after her, Meitnerium since she was one of the most significant female scientists of the 20th century.
Do you have a woman that you would like to nominate for Fierce Femme Friday? Let me know!