Lise Meitner Dead at 89, Nuclear Physicist Fled from Nazi Germany

Dr. Lise Meitner, the Austrian-born nuclear physicist whose pioneer work led to the splitting of the uranium atom, died in a Cambridge nursing home yesterday at the age of 89. Dr, Meitner was the daughter of a well known Viennese-Jewish lawyer and was the first woman in Europe to earn a Ph.D. degree. She is credited with having laid much of the theoretical ground work for the atomic bomb although she did not participate directly in its production. For 30 years, Dr. Meitner was the scientific partner of the late Dr. Otto Hahn, the Nobel Prize-winning German nuclear chemist. Dr. Meitner was born in 1878 and studied at the University of Vienna and later in Berlin. She was an unusually gifted mathematician and earned prominence in the field of radioactivity. One of her achievements was clarification of the relation between beta and gamma rays. She left Germany in 1938 as Nazi anti-Semitism rose, and took refuge in Sweden where she continued her work in nuclear physics for 20 years at the Nobel Institute. She was given Swedish nationality but came to England in 1960 so that she could spend her old age with relatives in Cambridge. Dr. Meitner was forced to flee Germany only nine months before Dr. Hahn announced to the scientific world the result of experiments carried out with Dr. Meitner that made it clear the atom could be split. Six and a half years later, the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. News of the bomb came as a complete surprise to Dr. Meitner who deplored the weapon and dissociated her work from it.

NEXT STORY