Celebrating the Life and Accomplishments of Lise Meitner

Photos of the Month —November 2016

On November 7, 1878, Austrian physicist Lise Meitner was born. Best known for her discoveries and work on nuclear fission, her scientific career spanned roughly 6 decades and included numerous awards and honors in the fields of physics and chemistry, although she notably was never awarded a Nobel Prize.

She was the second woman to be awarded a doctoral degree from the University of Vienna and became the first female professor of physics in Germany when she accepted a position at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute. In the late 1930’s, she fled from Nazi Germany to live in Stockholm, Sweden where she continued her work but was not widely embraced by the scientific community there. In Sweden, she continued her collaboration with chemist Otto Hahn and co-discovered nuclear fission, but was not included in the 1944 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which Hahn was awarded for the discovery of nuclear fission.

Lise Meitner’s contributions to the scientific community were overlooked at the time, but will not be lost to history. This month, we are celebrating her remarkable life and accomplishments by featuring a selection of photographs taken throughout her scientific career.

If you are interested in finding out more about Lise Meitner’s accomplishments and the struggles she faced throughout her career, check out Ruth Lewin Sime’s biography Lise Meitner: a life in physics. For more photographs of Lise Meitner from the Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, type “Lise Meitner” into our Quick Search.

Formal portrait of nuclear physicist Lise Meitner, date unknown.

Credit: Photograph by Lotte Meitner-Graf, London, courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives

Lise Meitner and collaborator Otto Hahn working in the lab at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin, Germany, 1913.

Credit: Archives of the Max Planck Society, courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives

Attendees at the "bonzenfreie Kolloquium" (which translates to "colloquium without bigwigs"), a conference organized by Lise Meitner for Niels Bohr in Berlin, Germany, 1920.

Left to right: Otto Stern, Wilhelm Lenz, James Franck, Rudolph Ladenburg, Paul Knipping, Niels Bohr, Ernst Wagner, Otto von Baeyer, Otto Hahn, George de Hevesy, Lise Meitner, Wilhelm Westphal, Hans Geiger, Gustav Hertz, Peter Pringsheim.

Credit: Prof. Wilhelm Westfall, courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives

Emilio Segrè and Lise Meitner in conversation at a conference at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, 1937.

Credit: AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives

Lise Meitner on the day she received her Doctor of Philosophy degree in Stockholm, Sweden, circa 1950.

Credit: Keystone Press Agency, Inc., courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives

Lise Meitner converses with students at Bryn Mawr College, Pennsylvania in April of 1959. She delivered a series of lectures at Bryn Mawr where she discussed women in the sciences.

Credit: Photo by Heka Davis, courtesy AIP Emilio Segrè Visual Archives, Physics Today Collection