Lise Meitner (1878-1968) reshaped the physics of the 20th century with her cunning. It was through her studies of radioactivity and atomic energy that nuclear fission was discovered. It is widely believed that Meitner is one of the brightest minds in science, despite her failure to win the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her research. You can learn more about extraordinary women by reading the biography of Lise Meitner.

Summary of Lise Meitner’s life

The index

  • Sparks that cannot be quenched

  • Physicist Lisa Meitner

  • Ignored because I’m a woman?

  • Nuclear fission and life after it

Sparks that cannot be quenched

Lise Meitner was born on November 7, 1878, in Vienna, Austria. The Meitner family was traditionally Jewish. Despite this, she never professed or followed Judaism. Already in her majority, Ella Meitner joined the Lutheran church and supported the Christian-Protestant order’s beliefs. In spite of this, she always maintained a deep respect for the Jewish faith.

The scientific future of Lise Meitner cannot be denied. As a child, the Austrian made scientific notes about the thickness of the oils and the reflection of light on leaves and other household items. Seeing her extraordinary talent, her parents encouraged her scientific drive and instructed her in the areas of science and mathematics from an early age.

In 1900, science schools were all-male, making attending the best science schools impossible for Meitner. Therefore, Lise Meitner was forced to attend public schools, where she received a short and superficial education. In spite of this, her persistence paid off as she was able to enter, with extraordinary grades, the University of Vienna, where her talent would be revealed.

Through physics, Lisa Meitner

In 1905, Lise Meitner earned a Ph.D. in physics from the University of Vienna, becoming the second woman to do so. During his career, Meitner took several classes from Austrian physicist Ludwig Boltzmann, whose classes lit up his intellect like an incandescent light bulb.

In order to continue her education, Lise Meitner moved to Germany and enrolled at the University of Berlin. In Berlin, she met Otto Hahn, who would be her ally for over thirty years. In a friendship fueled by a shared love of science and physics, Meitner and Hahn committed themselves to studying nuclear physics, an area that at the time was still largely unknown.


As a teacher at a high school in Berlin, Lise Meitner became the first woman to teach science and physics. Until 1933, she was also a professor at the Humboldt University of Berlin in the field of physics.

Women ignored because they are women?

It was Lise Meitner who, in 1918, discovered protactinium with Otto Hahn. Nuclear fission would later be possible due to the discovery of this chemical element. In chemistry and physics, Meitner’s research marked a significant advance. The selfishness of her partner, Otto Hahn, would partially overshadow this triumph.

Since Nazi persecution was spreading throughout Europe by then-around 1939-Hahn argued that crediting Meitner would cause controversy given his Jewish descent. Therefore, he decided to leave out his partner and take most of his merits. It was even Lise Meitner’s work that earned Hahn the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1944.

Lise Meitner is the Austrian equivalent of Marie Curie. Albert Einstein.

After nuclear fission, there is life

After the obvious disappointment of her research partnership with Hahn, Lise Meitner stopped working on nuclear fission. In Sweden and the UK, she taught classes instead. Her deep humanitarian character made her a committed advocate of the moderate and adequate use of atomic energy.

Despite being grossly ignored by major organizations and institutions, Lise Meitner, who died on October 27, 1968, is considered one of the most remarkable women in physics and modern science. The only woman to possess her own chemical element, meitnerium, on the periodic table.

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