Lise Meitner flees to Stockholm

1938

Lisa Meitner
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Photo: Lise Meitner, Archives of the Max Planck Society.
Photo: Lise Meitner, Archives of the Max Planck Society.

Without a valid passport and carrying only hand luggage, Lise Meitner managed to flee Germany on 13 July 1938. As a foreigner, the Viennese scientist of Jewish descent had not initially been affected by the anti-Semitic laws in the early years of the Third Reich. This had changed in March 1938 with Austria’s annexation to the German Reich. Meitner’s flight ended almost thirty years of fruitful scientific cooperation. Meitner and radiochemist Otto Hahn had done pioneering work in the field of radiometry and, with Hahn, had led the Department of Radioactivity Research at the KWI for Chemistry since 1913. She had established her own Radiophysics Department in 1918. A few months after Meitner fled, Hahn and Fritz Strassmann discovered nuclear fission and informed Meitner about it. Together with her nephew, the physicist then developed the theoretical explanation. The Nobel Prize for this discovery later went to Otto Hahn alone, however.

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