Authorised form of nameMeitner; Lise (1878 - 1968)
Dates1878 - 1968
Dates and placesBirth:
Vienna, Austria (07 November 1878)
Cambridge (27 October 1968)
St James's, Branley, near Basingstoke, Hampshire
ActivityResearch Field:
Nuclear physics
Intensive private lessons to prepare, then entered University of Vienna in 1901. Ludwig Boltzmann, a renowned theoretical physicist and social progressive who elieved in women's education, was her professor for the entire physics course.
University of Vienna. PhD (1905)
Second woman to gain a doctorate in Science at University of Vienna; worked on radioactivity and learned radioactivity techniques from Stefan Meyer, one of the early researchers in the field; went to Berlin 1907 to study under Max Planck; worked on radioactrivity experiments with Otto Hahn at the Chemical Institute, Berlin where they investigated all known beta emitters and discovered several new radioactive substances including element 91, protactinium, in 1918; worked at Kaiser-Wilhelm Institut fur Chemie, Berlin-Dahlem (1912), where she had a salaried position by 1913, then her own physics section in 1917, and the title of professor in 1919. Each step was a first for women in German Science. She was Assistant to Max Planck, University of Berlin (1912-1915); Roentgenographic nurse, Austrian Army (World War I); Head of Physics Department, Kaiser-Wilhelm Institut (1917); Docent (1922), then Extraordinary Professor (1926), University of Berlin; on 13 July 1938 she left Germany illegally and two Dutch friends, Dirk Coster and Adrian Fokker, helped her to get to Holland, then Denmark. In August 1938 she travelled to Stockholm, Sweden, for a position in Manne Seighan's Nobel Institute for Experimental Physics (to 1947) where he neither invited her to join his group nor gave her the resources to form her own. In 1943 she turned down an invitation to join the British scientific delegation in Los Alamos, refusing to work on a bomb. Otto Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1944, barely mentioning Lise Meitner and her contribution to nuclear fission, a position Lise felt unable to challenge because of Hahn's prominence. Visiting Professor, Catholic University, Washington DC (1946); worked in laboratory established for her by Swedish Atomic Energy Commission, at the Royal Institute of Technology; worked in laboratory, Royal Academy for Engineering Sciences; retired to Cambridge (1960) to be near Otto Robert, a Fellow at Trinity College and his family.
Royal Society activityMembership:
Foreign Member
Election Date:
RelationshipsDaughter and third of eight children of Hedwig Skovran and Philipp Meitner, lawyer; of Jewish descent, but baptised Protestant in 1908
Published worksWith Otto Frisch 'Disintegration of Uranium by Neutrons: A New Type of Nuclear Reaction' in Nature Volume 143, pp 239-240 (1939); 'Looking Back' in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Volume 20:11 (November 1964) pp 2-7
Bulloch's Roll; DSB
Biographical Memoirs of Fellows of the Royal Society 1970 vol 16 pp 405-420, plate, by O R Frisch
Personal papers, including diaries, notes and correspondence, deposited at Churchill Archives Centre, Cambridge
A R Mackintosh, 'The Third Man: Charles Drummond Ellis, 1895-1980' in NR 1995 vol 49 pp 277-293
P Fara, ' Big bangs. Invisible rays: a history of radioactivity' by G I Brown
R L Sime, 'Lise Meitner: A Life in Physics' 1996 University of California Press
Royal Society codeNA6477
Archives associated with this Fellow
Reference numberTitleDate
EC/1955/28Meitner, Lise: certificate of election to the Royal Society
IM/Meitner Graf/003048Meitner, Lisend
IM/003052Lise Meitner's grave15 May 1987
IM/Meitner Graf/003051Meitner, Lisend
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