A very human physicist – On the great life of Lise Meitner
I See Sabine Ernst, Lise Meitner an Otto Hahn: Briefe aus den Jahren bis . They valued anonymity, alienation, and indifference in social relationships as. Recently, she gave me a summary of Lise Meitner's life based on She then began to work with the chemist Otto Hahn, resulting in There has always been the question of what sort of relationship Meitner and Hahn had. Also, albeit unintentionally, Lise Meitner probably contributed as much as anyone to Through Planck, Meitner met Otto Hahn, a German chemist also soon initiated a research relationship that continued for three decades.
Because she was unsure if she wanted to study mathematics or physics, she attended multiple lectures in both areas of study, "taking more notes than the registered students". While studying a beam of alpha particlesshe found that scattering increased with the atomic mass of the metal atoms, in her experiments with collimators and metal foil, which led Ernest Rutherford later on to the nuclear atom, and which had been her forte, submitting her report of same to the Physikalische Zeitschrift on 29 June During the first years she worked together with chemist Otto Hahn and together with him discovered several new isotopes.
In she presented two papers on beta radiation.
She also, together with Otto Hahn, discovered and developed a physical separation method known as radioactive recoil, in which a daughter nucleus is forcefully ejected from its matrix as it recoils at the moment of decay.
She worked without salary as a "guest" in Hahn's department of Radiochemistry. It was not untilat 35 years old and following an offer to go to Prague as associate professor, that she got a permanent position at KWI. In the first part of World War Ishe served as a nurse handling X-ray equipment. She returned to Berlin and her research inbut not without inner struggle. She felt in a way ashamed of wanting to continue her research efforts when thinking about the pain and suffering of the victims of war and their medical and emotional needs.
This program eventually led to the unexpected discovery of nuclear fission of heavy nuclei in Decemberhalf a year after she had left Berlin. As Chadwick and others were attempting to prove the existence of the neutronMeitner sent polonium to Chadwick for his experiments.
Chadwick eventually required and received more polonium for his experiments from a hospital in Baltimorebut he would remain grateful to Meitner. After the discovery of the neutron in the early s, the scientific community speculated that it might be possible to create elements heavier than uranium atomic number 92 in the laboratory.The amazing life of Lise Meitner an inspiring scientist
At the time, all concerned believed that this was abstract research for the probable honour of a Nobel prize. None suspected that this research would culminate in nuclear weapons. When Adolf Hitler came to power inMeitner was still acting as head of the physics department of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry. Most of them emigrated from Germany. Her response was to say nothing and bury herself in her work. After the Anschluss in Marchher situation became difficult.
She was forced to travel under cover to the Dutch border, where Coster persuaded German immigration officers that she had permission to travel to the Netherlands. She reached safety, though without her possessions.
Before she left, Otto Hahn had given her a diamond ring he had inherited from his mother: It was not required, and Meitner's nephew's wife later wore it. Here she established a working relationship with Niels Bohrwho travelled regularly between Copenhagen and Stockholm.
Lise Meitner - Wikipedia
She continued to correspond with Hahn and other German scientists. Later they continued to exchange a series of letters. In December Hahn and his assistant Fritz Strassmann performed the difficult experiments which isolated the evidence for nuclear fission at their laboratory in Berlin-Dahlem. The surviving correspondence shows that Hahn recognized that 'fission' was the only explanation for the presence of barium at first he named the process a 'bursting' of the uraniumbut, baffled by this remarkable conclusion, he wrote to Meitner.
The possibility that uranium nuclei might break up under neutron bombardment had been suggested years before, notably by Ida Noddack in Between andHahn and Meitner were jointly nominated for the Nobel Prize nineteen times, seventeen times in chemistry and twice in physics. Building on these scientific advancements, Enrico Fermi began bombarding uranium with neutrons, thereby generating new radioactive materials. Inspired by the work of Fermi, Hahn and Meitner started an interdisciplinary project in to pursue transuranium research and neutron irradiation of uranium.
However, inMeitner and Hahn were forced to separate, prematurely terminating their joint research program, when Jewish-born Meitner emigrated to Stockholm and Hahn remained in Berlin. Only five months after Meitner's escape from Germany, the key experiments discovering the nuclear fission process were successfully conducted by Otto Hahn.
Experimental setup used for neutron bombardment experiments which demonstrated nuclear fission.
Wikimedia Commons Following Meitner's departure, the two friends and collaborators remained in close contact, communicating almost daily via letters. Seeking insight from Meitner, Hahn wrote to the exiled physicist in December of detailing neutron bombardment experiments in which he had surprisingly detected barium among the decay products. He described the process as the 'bursting' of the uranium atom. Over the Christmas holiday, the two theoretical physicists laid the foundation for the theory of nuclear fission by interpreting Hahn's experiments.
They described how the uranium nucleus could split into multiple smaller nuclei based on the existing liquid-drop model of an atomic nucleus. Meitner and Frisch's final interpretation elegantly integrated the pre-existing liquid-drop nucleus theory, settled misconceptions about transuranic elements as neutron bombardment products and provided quantitative energy predictions.
Portrait of Lise Meitner
On January 6th,Hahn and Staussmann published their uranium splitting results in Die Naturwissenschaft, becoming the first to experimentally describe nuclear fission. Lise Meitner's exclusion from the Chemistry Nobel Prize and subsequent failure to receive a Physics Nobel Prize has remained particularly controversial, especially given the fact that Meitner was nominated for a Nobel Prize a grand total of 48 times. On her side, Meitner publically supported Hahn's Nobel Prize achievement, emphasizing the significance of his experimental work and his deservingness of the prize.
Yet, she was bruised by the lack of recognition and stated in private letters that she and Otto Frisch deserved credit as well. In this long running biographical programme, the presenter Matthew Parris asks guests to nominate someone who has inspired their lives.
Jenny Agutter, the actor, chose Meitner, having been impressed with the way she made her way at a time when women had few opportunities. Jeff Hughes was on hand as the scientific expert, and he outlined how Meitner was born in Vienna in to an intellectual Jewish family and educated privately to enable her to enter the University of Vienna in In she became only the second woman in Vienna to receive a doctorate in physics.
She moved to Berlin in where she attended lectures by Max Planck, eventually becoming his friend. She then began to work with the chemist Otto Hahn, resulting in their lifelong friendship and long collaboration examining the basis of radioactivity and nuclear physics.
Together they were a strong team with Meitner providing expertise in physics and Hahn in chemistry. She rose to become a professor ina first for a woman in German science. Meitner stayed until her status as a Jew became too dangerous, and then fled to Sweden in She never fully resumed her scientific career but there was a key event still to come.
A very human physicist
While in Sweden, she corresponded regularly with Hahn. Hahn had been doing experiments on the bombardment of uranium with neutrons and had eventually found that this led to production of the lighter element, barium, a finding he was unable to interpret.
Meitner never received the credit for this idea and Hahn and others gradually wrote her out of the story. Hahn received a Nobel Prize for the work and Meitner was not even mentioned.