lise meitner

Lise Meitner


Les travaux de cette scientifique autrichienne, sont à l'origine des découvertes autour de la fission nucléaire. Malgré sont doctorat en physique et sa collaboration cruciale avec Otto Hahn, elle fut écartée du crédit de ces découvertes durant la Seconde Guerre mondiale. Le comité du prix Nobel de physique s'employa activement à la marginaliser et ce fut Hahn solo qui remporta le prix Nobel de chimie en 1944.


 I’ve created these flyers for a school activist project where I bring more attention to the women in history that have been forgotten or ignored. This blog will be an extension of those flyers where I post longer biographies of these women and other bad-ass women like them. Too often women’s achievements have been pushed aside, either by others in their lives, or else by the historians who choose to ignore them. This tumblr is dedicated to celebrating them and bringing their achievements to light!


Six Women Who Changed Science. And The World. Part 2.

Part 1 • Purchase

Women scientists you need to know - International Women’s Day.

If you think about the greatest women scientists throughout history, Marie Curie is probably at the top of the list. For good reason - she is still, after all, the only person in history to win two Nobel prizes in two sciences. However, for many people she remains the only historical female scientist they have heard of. Because March 8 is International Women’s Day, here is an introduction to some women who have made incredible contributions to science.

Maria Mitchell

A distant cousin of Benjamin Franklin, Maria Mitchell became the first American woman to become a professional astronomer. She began looking at the stars as a child, and at 12 years old she used a solar eclipse to calculate the location of her home.

She discovered the comet C/1847 T1, which had also had been found by a European astronomer who had received credit at first. Since Mitchell’s discovery was documented two days prior, the record was adjusted and the comet became known as “Miss Mitchell’s Comet.” She later became a professor of astronomy at Vassar College, shortly after it had been founded.

Emmy Noether

When Emmy Noether earned her doctorate, she graduated with honors. However, she had troubles finding a job in academia who would pay her, though she finally found a position at her alma mater, the University of Göttingen.

Inspired by Einstein’s work, she crafted a theorem that had incredible importance in explaining symmetry in nature as well as universal laws of contributions. The “Noether’s theorem” was also used to help search for the Higgs boson and other significant discoveries in physics. Emmy Noether has been described by many (including Einstein) as the foremost mathematician of her time.

Jocelyn Bell Burnell

While working as a postgrad, Jocelyn Bell Burnell observed radio pulsars for the first time. Despite being the first one to actually see them, she was passed over when the discovery was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1974. Instead, it went to her advisor and another colleague. Though many expressed outrage over Bell’s omission, she never expressed any disappointment on the matter publicly. However, she is still credited as the person who made one of the most important discoveries of the century in physics.

Later, Bell worked as a physics professor at Open University in the UK and at Princeton. She continued to work in academia up until her retirement, receiving a host of other awards and honorary degrees along the way.

Valentina Tereshkova

Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space in 1963, onboard the Vostok 6 as part of the Cosmonaut Corps. Not only did she go into space, but she actually piloted the vessel. Her mission in space lasted just under 72 hours and included 48 orbits around the Earth.

Following her time in space, she earned a doctorate in engineering and eventually entered politics where she used her position to advocate for space exploration, particularly for women.

Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin

Though Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin completed her studies at Cambridge in the 1920s, degrees were not given to women. She later traveled to America where she received her Ph.D. in astronomy from Radcliffe University. Her thesis was hailed as “undoubtedly the most brilliant Ph.D. thesis ever written in astronomy.”

She became the first person to determine that stars are primarily composed of hydrogen and helium, though she was pressured into retraction by a colleague who then arrived at the same conclusion a few years later. Her life was spent in academia at Harvard, where she continued to advocate for science and became a role model for women wanting to enter astrophysics.

Lise Meitner

For three decades, Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn worked together in researching radioactivity and they even discovered the element protactinium together. However, she had to flee Germany and leave Hahn in the 1930s. She offered the first explanation for tremendous amounts of energy that would be produced during nuclear fission. Hahn then wrote a paper based on that idea, but did not credit Meitner. Without that credit, Meitner was excluded when Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1944.

However, her contributions were not unnoticed by others in the field, particularly Niels Bohr. Bohr not only helped Meitner escape the Nazis in Berlin until she reached safety in Sweden, but he also promoted her among the physics community and would nominate her for a Nobel Prize on three separate occasions. Albert Einstein hailed Meitner as “our Madame Curie” and a pioneer in physics.

Caroline Hershel

Sister of William Herschel, Caroline was also an astronomer. Her father gave her an education himself, though her mother did not approve. Her physical appearance had been marred by smallpox and typhus as a child, so her brother William showed her there was more to life than being a maid just because she probably would never marry.

By her brother’s side, she aided in his observations and performed complex calculations. With Caroline’s help, William discovered Uranus in 1781. She began to make observations herself and became the first woman to discover a comet in 1786. In total, she discovered six comets and three nebulae and earned many awards for her contributions to astronomy.

Rita Levi-Montalcini

Though her father believed her place was in the home, not in a lab, Rita Levi-Montalcini earned a degree in medicine. Though Mussolini’s Manifesto of Race prevented Levi-Montalcini from obtaining a job due to her Jewish heritage, she constructed a laboratory in her bedroom and continued her research anyway. She served as a surgeon in WWII, and returned to dedicate her time to academics. She became a professor at Washington University and set up research labs in St. Louis and Rome.

She received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1986 for her work with tumor cells and isolating Nerve Growth Factor. She retired in 1977, but she spent the rest of her life advocating for science until her death in 2012.


It’s the birthday of Lise Meitner, who was born in 1878 in Vienna. In 1905 Meitner became the second woman to obtain a PhD in physics at the University of Vienna. After World War I, she became the first woman to hold a full professorship of physics in Germany. Meitner’s research was in nuclear physics. In 1922 she discovered the Auger effect independently of Pierre Auger. And in 1938 - the year she had to flee Germany to escape antisemitic persecution - she, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann discovered nuclear fission.


Women of Science: Lise Meitner

Not only is inequality damaging for individuals, it also vandalises society as a whole.

This begs the question: what has society missed out on because of inequality?

This is a small testament to those women who somehow managed to throw off the shackles of oppression and change the scientific world.

Women of Science:

Lise Meitner

In a very extreme case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, Lise Meitner was a female Austrian Jew who excelled in physics; meanwhile fleeing Nazi prosecution.

At the age of 14 she completed her schooling feeling unsatisfied and wanted to continue onto higher education. This was the only schooling females were allowed to do at the time, but she was motivated by discoveries from scientists such as Henri Becquerel and wanted to pursue a future of radioactivity research.

Keep reading


Ten Historic Female Scientists You Should Know

Emilie du Chatelet (1706 – 1749)

Gabrielle-Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, the daughter of the French court’s chief of protocol, married the marquis du Chatelet in 1725. She lived the life of a courtier and bore three children. But at age 27, she began studying mathematics seriously and then branched into physics. This interest intensified as she began an affair with the philosopher Voltaire, who also had a love of science. Their scientific collaborations—they outfitted a laboratory at du Chatelet’s home, Chateau de Cirey, and, in a bit of a competition, each entered an essay into a contest on the nature of fire (neither won)—outlasted their romance. Du Chatelet’s most lasting contribution to science was her French translation of Isaac Newton’s Principia, which is still in use today. At age 43, she fell in love with a young military officer and became pregnant; she died following complications during the birth of their child.

Caroline Herschel (1750 – 1848)

Herschel was little more than the household drudge for her parents in Hanover, Germany (she would later describe herself as the “Cinderella of the family”), when her older brother, William, brought her to England in 1772 to run his household in Bath. After she mastered the art of singing—to accompany William, who was the organist for the Octagon Chapel—her brother switched careers and went into astronomy. Caroline followed. In addition to assisting her brother in his observations and in the building of telescopes, Caroline became a brilliant astronomer in her own right, discovering new nebulae and star clusters. She was the first woman to discover a comet (she discovered eight in total) and the first to have her work published by the Royal Society. She was also the first British woman to get paid for her scientific work, when William, who had been named the king’s personal astronomer after his discovery of Uranus in 1781, persuaded his patron to reward his assistant with an annual salary. After William’s death in 1822, Caroline retired to Hanover. There she continued her astronomical work, compiling a catalogue of nebulae—the Herschels’ work had increased the number of known star clusters from 100 to 2,500. She died in 1848 at age 97 after receiving many honors in her field, including a gold medal from the Royal Astronomical Society.

Mary Anning (1799 – 1847)

In 1811, Mary Anning’s brother spotted what he thought was a crocodile skeleton in a seaside cliff near the family’s Lyme Regis, England, home. He charged his 11-year-old sister with its recovery, and she eventually dug out a skull and 60 vertebrae, selling them to a private collector for £23. This find was no croc, though, and was eventually named Ichthyosaurus, the “fish-lizard.” Thus began Anning’s long career as a fossil hunter. In addition to ichthyosaurs, she found long-necked plesiosaurs, a pterodactyl and hundreds, possibly thousands, of other fossils that helped scientists to draw a picture of the marine world 200 million to 140 million years ago during the Jurassic. She had little formal education and so taught herself anatomy, geology, paleontology and scientific illustration. Scientists of the time traveled from as far away as New York City to Lyme Regis to consult and hunt for fossils with Anning.

Mary Somerville (1780 – 1872)

Intrigued by the x’s and y’s in the answer to a math question in a ladies’ fashion magazine, 14-year-old Mary Fairfax of Scotland delved into the study of algebra and mathematics, defying her father’s injunction against such pursuits. Her studies were sidetracked by a marriage, in 1804, to a Russian Navy captain, but after his death she returned to Edinburgh and became involved in intellectual circles, associating with people such as the writer Sir Walter Scott and the scientist John Playfair, and resumed her studies in math and science. Her next husband, William Somerville, whom she wed in 1812, supported these efforts, and after they moved to London, Mary became host to her own intellectual circle, which included the astronomer John Herschel and the inventor Charles Babbage. She began experimenting on magnetism and produced a series of writings on astronomy, chemistry, physics and mathematics. She translated astronomer Pierre-Simon Laplace’s The Mechanism of the Heavens into English, and although she was unsatisfied with the result, it was used as a textbook for much of the next century. Somerville was one of the first two women, along with Caroline Herschel, to be named honorary members of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Maria Mitchell (1818 – 1889)

Young Maria Mitchell learned to observe the stars from her father, who used stellar observations to check the accuracy of chronometers for Nantucket, Massachusetts, whalers and taught his children to use a sextant and reflecting telescope. When Mitchell was 12, she helped her father record the time of an eclipse. And at 17, she had already begun her own school for girls, teaching them science and math. But Mitchell rocketed to the forefront of American astronomy in 1847 when she spotted a blurry streak—a comet—through her telescope. She was honored around the world, earning a medal from the king of Denmark, and became the first woman to be elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1857 Mitchell traveled to Europe, where she visited observatories and met with intellectuals, including Mary Somerville. Mitchell would write: “I could not help but admire [her] as a woman. The ascent of the steep and rugged path of science has not unfitted her for the drawing room circle; the hours of devotion to close study have not been incompatible with the duties of wife and mother.” Mitchell became the first female astronomy professor in the United States, when she was hired by Vassar College in 1865. There she continued her observations, particularly those of the Sun, traveling up to 2,000 miles to witness an eclipse.

Lise Meitner (1878 – 1968)

When Lise Meitner finished school at age 14, she was barred from higher education, as were all girls in Austria. But, inspired by the discoveries of William Röntgen and Henri Becquerel, she was determined to study radioactivity. When she turned 21, women were finally allowed into Austrian universities. Two years of tutoring preceded her enrollment at the University of Vienna; there she excelled in math and physics and earned her doctorate in 1906. She wrote to Marie Curie, but there was no room for her in the Paris lab and so Meitner made her way to Berlin. There she collaborated with Otto Hahn on the study of radioactive elements, but as an Austrian Jewish woman (all three qualities were strikes against her), she was excluded from the main labs and lectures and allowed to work only in the basement. In 1912, the pair moved to a new university and Meitner had better lab facilities. Though their partnership was split up physically when she was forced to flee Nazi Germany in 1938, they continued to collaborate. Meitner continued her work in Sweden and after Hahn discovered that uranium atoms were split when bombarded with neutrons, she calculated the energy released in the reaction and named the phenomenon “nuclear fission.” The discovery—which eventually led to the atomic bomb (“You must not blame scientists for the use to which war technicians have put our discoveries,” Meitner would say in 1945)—won Hahn the Nobel Prize in 1944. Meitner, overlooked by the Nobel committee, refused to return to Germany after the war and continued her atomic research in Stockholm into her 80s.

Irène Curie-Joliot (1897 – 1956)

The elder daughter of Pierre and Marie Curie, Irène followed her parents’ footsteps into the lab. The thesis for her 1925 doctor of science was on the alpha rays of polonium, one of the two elements her mother discovered. The next year, she married Frédéric Joliot, one of her mother’s assistants at the Radium Institute in Paris. Irène and Frédéric continued their collaboration inside the laboratory, pursuing research on the structure of the atom. In 1934, they discovered artificial radioactivity by bombarding aluminum, boron and magnesium with alpha particles to produce isotopes of nitrogen, phosphorus, silicon and aluminum. They received the Nobel Prize in chemistry the next year, making Marie and Irène the first parent-child couple to have independently won Nobels. All those years working with radioactivity took a toll, however, and Irène died of leukemia in 1956.

Barbara McClintock (1902 – 1992)

While studying botany at Cornell University in the 1920s, Barbara McClintock got her first taste of genetics and was hooked. As she earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees and moved into postdoctoral work, she pioneered the study of genetics of maize (corn) cells. She pursued her research at universities in California, Missouri and Germany before finding a permanent home at Cold Spring Harbor in New York. It was there that, after observing the patterns of coloration of maize kernels over generations of plants, she determined that genes could move within and between chromosomes. The finding didn’t fit in with conventional thinking on genetics, however, and was largely ignored; McClintock began studying the origins of maize in South America. But after improved molecular techniques that became available in the 1970s and early 1980s confirmed her theory and these “jumping genes” were found in microorganisms, insects and even humans, McClintock was awarded a Lasker Prize in 1981 and Nobel Prize in 1983.

Dorothy Hodgkin (1910 – 1994)

Dorothy Crowfoot (Hodgkin, after her 1937 marriage) was born in Cairo, Egypt, to a pair of British archaeologists. She was sent home to England for school, where she was one of only two girls who were allowed to study chemistry with the boys. At 18, she enrolled in one of Oxford’s women’s colleges and studied chemistry and then moved to Cambridge to study X-ray crystallography, a type of imaging that uses X-rays to determine a molecule’s three-dimensional structure. She returned to Oxford in 1934, where she would spend most of her working life, teaching chemistry and using X-ray crystallography to study interesting biological molecules. She spent years perfecting the technique, for which she was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1964, and determined the structures of penicillin, vitamin B12 and insulin. In 2010, 16 years after her death, the British Royal Mail celebrated the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society by issuing stamps with the likenesses of 10 of the society’s most illustrious members, including Isaac Newton and Benjamin Franklin; Hodgkin was the only woman in the group.

Rosalind Franklin (1920 – 1958)

James Watson and Francis Crick get credit for determining the structure of DNA, but their discovery relied on the work of Rosalind Franklin. As a teenager in the 1930s, Franklin attended one of the few girls’ schools in London that taught physics and chemistry, but when she told her father that she wanted to be a scientist, he rejected the idea. He eventually relented and she enrolled at Cambridge University, receiving a doctorate in physical chemistry. She learned techniques for X-ray crystallography while in Paris, returning to England in 1951 to work in the laboratory of John Randall at King’s College, London. There she made X-ray images of DNA. She had nearly figured out the molecule’s structure when Maurice Wilkins, another researcher in Randall’s lab who was also studying DNA, showed one of Franklin’s X-ray images to James Watson. Watson quickly figured out the structure was a double helix and, with Francis Crick, published the finding in the journal Nature. Watson, Crick and Wilkins won a Nobel Prize in 1962 for their discovery. Franklin, however, had died of ovarian cancer in 1958.

Six Women Who Changed Science. And The World Part II - Clothing.

The ‘WOMEN IN SCIENCE - PART 2' collection is now available as clothing at the Hydrogene Portfolio store! Create custom t-shirts, sweatshirts, and hoodies by choosing a design and background color of your choice. Clothing is available in adult and kid sizes.

Purchase Here!


Happy International Women’s Day! Here’s one of my favorite women in history…. Lise Meitner (7 November 1878 – 27 October 1968), an Austrian physicist who worked alongside Nobel laureate and chemist Otto Hahn for decades studying radioactivity. Meitner earned a doctoral degree in physics from the University of Vienna in 1905 and, after moving to Berlin, she became an assistant to Max Planck. After World War I (during which she worked as a nurse), Meitner became Germany’s first professor of physics, assuming a post at the University of Berlin in 1926.

After losing her Austrian citizenship in 1938 following the Anschluss (Meitner was Jewish by birth, though a baptized Lutheran), Meitner fled to Sweden but continued her work with Hahn who, as the chemist, performed research and experiments and discovered in 1938 a process that Meitner and her nephew Otto Frisch  explained and dubbed “nuclear fission”, a term borrowed from biology. In 1944 Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the discovery of nuclear fission; Meitner was not acknowledged by the academy despite her contributions to the theoretical portion of the discovery (Hahn once wrote to her asking her to “come up with some sort of fantastic explanation” for his observed results - that explanation being nuclear fission), although she was eventually awarded, along with Hahn and Fritz Strassman, the Enrico Fermi Award. In addition, she and Hahn received the Max Planck Medal in 1949, and in 1997 she alone became the namesake of a new element -  "meitnerium" (Mt). 

When she was invited to work on the Manhattan Project in 1943, she replied “I will have nothing to do with a bomb!”, and in her later life she reportedly had mixed feelings about her role in the development of the bomb, as a co-discoverer of nuclear fission. The inscription on her headstone, chosen by Frisch, read: “Lise Meitner: a physicist who never lost her humanity.”


So my mom and I saw this “Just for Men” hair commercial that showed the life of Theodor Roosevelt, and we decided that girls needed ads like that too, so I made these. I want to make more but I’d also like to sleep tonight :p 

If anyone has any ideas for other ladies of history send me an ask and I’ll make more! 

6 Women Scientists Who Were Snubbed Due to Sexism

Despite enormous progress in recent decades, women still have to deal with biases against them in the sciences.

In April, National Geographic News published a story about the letter in which scientist Francis Crick described DNA to his 12-year-old son. In 1962, Crick was awarded a Nobel Prize for discovering the structure of DNA, along with fellow scientists James Watson and Maurice Wilkins.

Several people posted comments about our story that noted one name was missing from the Nobel roster: Rosalind Franklin, a British biophysicist who also studied DNA. Her data were critical to Crick and Watson’s work, but as several commenters noted, Franklin was robbed of recognition. (See her section below for details.)

Continue Reading

The Correspondent
  • The Correspondent
  • Allison Stock
  • Supercollision

THE CORRESPONDENT // This song is about Lise Meitner, a brilliant scientist who discovered nuclear fission and also happened to be a woman (a fact which shut her out of the notoriety and reverence she deserved). As always, this song packs a pretty significant punch in the sensitive spot where my sentimentality sits. Alliteration and emotions aside, I’m proud of this noise, and all the hard work we all put into it. And then, don’t even get me started on elementals’ perfect Joni Mitchell-esque vocals on this. I couldn’t NOT have her sing on this one. Some things just make sense. This is just one of those things.

music by me, lyrics by cleanwhiteroom, vocals by elementals, guitar by elementals’ son, mastered by elementals as well, the brilliant and tirelessly patient.

Lise Meitner

Lise Meitner was an Austrian-born physicist who is now known as “the mother of the atomic bomb” despite never being fully recognized for her contributions to the theory of nuclear physics and being denied a Nobel Prize. Lise was born in 1878, but because she was female was unable to attend university in Austria until 1901, when she attended the University of Vienna. There she studied physics under Ludwig Boltzmann, who inspired in her a great love of life’s mysteries - and the idea that physics was the key to unlocking them all. In 1907 she began work with Max Planck and Otto Hahn, studying the makeup and reactions of radioactive elements. Meitner and Hahn would continue to collaborate for 30 years. When Germany annexed Austria in 1938 Meitner, who was born Jewish but had converted to Protestantism, emigrated to Stockholm. There she was without collaborators or laboratory equipment, and so was forced to try to solve physics puzzles through little other than correspondence.

On November 13, 1938, Hahn met secretly with Meitner in Copenhagen. At her suggestion, Hahn and Strassmann performed further tests on a uranium product they thought was radium. When they found that it was in fact barium, they published their results in Naturwissenschaften (January 6, 1939). Simultaneously, Meitner and Frisch explained (and named) nuclear fission, using Bohr’s “liquid drop” model of the nucleus; their paper appeared in Nature (February 11, 1939). The proof of fission required Meitner’s and Frisch’s physical insight as much as the chemical findings of Hahn and Strassmann. (s)

In 1945, Otto Hahn alone was named as the recipient of the Nobel Prize for the discovery of nuclear fission, with Meitner’s tremendous contributions being either overlooked or ignored. Although she and Hahn were jointly awarded the US Fermi Prize in 1966, her exclusion from the Nobel Prize is noted as “one of the most glaring examples of women’s scientific achievement overlooked by the Nobel committee.” Meitnerium, element 109 on the periodic table, is named in her honor.

Unsung heroines: Five women denied scientific glory

In 1958, a team at the Trousseau Hospital in Paris, France, made one of the most important biomedical breakthroughs of the 20th century – the discovery of the genetic cause of Down’s syndrome. For half a century the credit was assigned to geneticist Jérôme Lejeune, who died in 1994. But now his 88-year-old colleague Marthe Gautier claims that she did the crucial work. Lejeune’s supporters say that she lacks evidence to back her claim. If she is proved right, however, she won’t be the first female scientist denied due recognition for her work.

Continue Reading