They were an interdisciplinary yin and yang: Hahn, the chemist, Meitner,the physicist. Together, in 1917, they discovered a new element, protactinium.
But, in the midst of these revelations, Meitner had to flee from Nazi Germany, which cut her off from her laboratory and colleagues.
While this exile saved her life, it cost her the Nobel Prize and a prominent niche in many annals of physics.
« We knew ourselves that [uranium] can’t actually burst apart into [barium].
»Within days, collaborating with her nephew Otto Robert Frisch, also a noted physicist, she worked out a theoretical model of nuclear fission.
As with Curie (but rare for a woman at the turn of the century), the intellectual atmosphere that surrounded Meitner as a child nurtured her scientific proclivity.
Only the second woman to obtain a doctoral degree in physics at the University of Vienna, she was soon drawn into the novel study of radioactivity.In this company the name Lise Meitner has diminished to a footnote.Yet in her day she had a reputation as one of Germany’s best experimentalists.Sime’s engrossing narrative shows how easy it was for so-called « good » Germans to rationalize their compromises and look the other way.Dismissed from teaching, her name suppressed, Meitner hung on without protest, nervously hoping that the unpleasantness would be temporary.By 1917, still in her thirties, she was given her own physics section in the prestigious Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry.