Lise Meitner

Lise Meitner and Otto Hahn in their laboratory, 1912

I’d like to write a quick post about Lise Meitner. Lise Meitner was an Austrian physicist who became the first female physics professor in Germany. She worked with Otto Hahn at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute, where after many years she was finally allowed out of the basement and rose to become head of the physics department. Einstein referred to her as “the German Marie Curie.” It is now generally agreed that Meitner should have shared the Nobel Prize with Hahn, but there were some issues in evaluating interdisciplinary chemistry/physics research.

Meitner and her nephew, Frisch, were the first to figure out and articulate what exactly was happening when Enrico Fermi bombarded uranium atoms with neutrons. Fermi had been trying to create trans-uranic elements; it turned out he was splitting uranium–the first step in making a nuclear bomb.

When she made this discovery, Meitner and her nephew had just moved to Sweden–because the Nazis had kicked her out of her job at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for being ethnically Jewish. (Even though she was a baptized Lutheran.)

Enrico Fermi fled Italy because his wife was Jewish, and at the University of Chicago he built the first self-sustaining nuclear reactor.

Nazi Germany did not recover, technologically, from the loss of its top scientists–men like Einstein, Fermi, and Bohr (technically Bohr fled Denmark after the Nazis took it over), women like Lise Meitner. They could have had the atomic bomb–instead they lost the war.


4 thoughts on “Lise Meitner

  1. It’s better this way, let everything burn.
    Let people see who won, and what they made to the world, to end up this farce once and for all, instead of letting any “what if?”.
    This time Europeans might face extinction, but humanity shall get rid of many of its ideas and usual suspects for good and forever.

    And still, maybe they will rediscover the real cause of the war. China already discovered it, you bloggers haven’t.
    You, Razib Khan, Gregory Cochran, Steve Sailer, Z Man, Spandrell… I’ve seen many trying to reason why, but not a single one has got it right and instead of listening to people desperately trying to tell you, you just go to a Nature article and think it was germs, or go to Quillette and think it was some Kabbalah rift, or then go to the Atlantic and think it was purely for cultural reasons.

    You’ll never know, because you guys are just too much snobs to look for it out of a nobody’s mouth.
    I’m not gonna explicitly tell you again now, but I’ll give you a lead:

    What does Kennedy, Hitler, the Romanovs, the Meiji, Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, Numa Pompilius, Lycurgus and Aristotle had in common in their ideas?
    Can you answer that?


  2. Nazi Germany also got rid of the street of pregnant hookers, and the prostitution of children.

    Better to lose with honor than win a victory without value.


  3. “Nazi Germany did not recover, technologically …” well, they had the first ballistic missile, they had the first jet fighter. The last one alone might have changed the course of war had they prioritized it over the former. And the A-bomb you alluded to played no role on the European theatre and so cost the Germans nothing.


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