Skip to content


Scientific American has a nice write-up of the theoretical physicist who discovered nuclear fission and was denied credit, yet assigned blame:

While the celebrity Meitner deserved was blatantly denied her, an undeserved association with the atomic bomb was bestowed. Meitner was outright opposed to nuclear weapons: “I will have nothing to do with a bomb!” Indeed, she was the only prominent Allied physicist to refuse an invitation to work on its construction at Los Alamos.

  • 1878 born in Vienna, Austria, third of eight children in middle-class family
  • 1892 at age 14 offered no more school, by 19th-century Austrian standards for girls. begins private lessons
  • 1905 earns PhD in physics from University of Vienna
  • 1907 moves to Berlin to access modern lab for research. denied her own lab because a woman, given an office in a basement closet, forced to use bathroom in a restaurant “down the street”
  • 1908 publishes three papers
  • 1909 publishes six papers
  • 1917 given salary and independent physics position
  • 1926 first woman in Germany to be made full professor
  • 1934 intrigued by Fermi work, begins research into nuclear reaction of uranium
  • 1938 Nazi regime forces her to leave Germany, because Jewish
  • 1944 Nobel prize awarded to the Berlin man who ran the lab she used for experiments

Amazing to see how determined she was and how she blazed a trail for others to do good. And yet the things she did, men wouldn’t give her credit for, while the thing she opposed was blamed on her instead.

Posted in Energy, History, Security.

0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.