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Lise Meitner

Lise Meitner was born in Vienna on 7 November 1878. Although she was both a woman and a Jew, Meitner overcame considerable obstacles to become one of Germany's leading physicists. She entered the University of Vienna in 1901 and received her doctorate in physics in 1907.

For the next three decades, Meitner worked with chemist Otto Hahn on radioactive substances. In 1917, the team discovered a new element, protactinium. She was then appointed to head the physics department at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry in Berlin.

As Adolf Hitler's influence spread across Europe, Lise Meitner's Jewish background put her future research at risk. Like many other scientists at the time, she sought refuge from religious

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persecution in other countries. In 1938, Meitner moved to Stockholm, Sweden to work at Manne Siegbahn's institute, where she established contact with her nephew, Otto Frisch, who was also living in exile. They expanded on Enrico Fermi's previous attempts to fission uranium, which until then, was thought to be impossible.

With the contribution of chemical innovations by Otto Hahn, Meitner and Frisch produced the first example of nuclear fission. The discovery of fission was critical to the creation of the atomic bomb, but Meitner took no part in the process of development and expressed concern about its use. Despite her opposition to its use, Lise Meitner is considered by some to be the "mother of the atomic bomb."

Lise Meitner was unable to associate herself with the discovery that earned Otto Hahn the 1945 Nobel Prize in Chemistry because of her religion. She did, however, receive some recognition for her contributions to physics in 1966 when she was awarded the United States Enrico Fermi Prize. Lise Meitner died in Cambridge, England on 27 October, 1968.