Today is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. At present, less than 30 per cent of researchers worldwide are women and unfortunately for gender stereotypes only around 30 per cent of all female students select STEM-related fields in higher education. Not many women are so enrolled in careers in ICT (3 per cent), natural science, mathematics and statistics (5 per cent) and in engineering, manufacturing and construction (8 per cent).

In order to encourage and foster girls like us to keep on study sciences and follow their dreams we want to celebrate a girl and a woman who tried, worked hard and finally succeeded in becoming a scientist when nothing and no one seemed to be at her side.

Lise Meitner was born on 7 November 1878 was an Austro-Swedish physicist who contributed to the discovery of nuclear fission. Lise Meitner was the first daughter of the Jewish lawyer Philipp Meitner and of Hedwig Meitner-Skovran. She finished her studies in middle school, as girls were not allowed in high schools. She later took the French teacher exam. In addition, she self-taught herself to high school, graduating in 1901 at the age of 22, which allowed her to begin her studies in physics, mathematics and philosophy at the University of Vienna in the same year. Already in the first years of her studies she dealt with the problems of radioactivity. With her thesis on Thermal Conduction in heterogeneous subjects, in 1906 she was the first woman to obtain a doctorate in physics at the University of Vienna. Immediately after graduation, she applied for a position at the prestigious Paris Radio Institute, where Marie Curie worked, but she was unable to obtain a position. In 1907 She moved to Berlin to continue her studies. It was in the German capital that she met the young chemist Otto Hahn, with whom she began a collaboration that would last 30 years, but in 1933 due to her Jewish origins, she was forced to withdraw from teaching, but she could continue her work at the neutron irradiation experiments with Otto Hahn. On the run from the Nazis, she took refuge in Sweden, where she continued her research until 1946 at the Nobel Institute. Two months later, on February 11, 1939, Lise Meitner published, together with her nephew Otto Robert Frisch, in the magazine NATURE, titled  Disintegration of Uranium by Neutrons: a New Type of Nuclear Reaction,
in which the theoretical foundations for the development of nuclear fission were laid. That is the possibility that uranium nuclei could break due to a neutron bombardment.

Lise Meitner came up with the idea of fission during a walk in the woods of southern Sweden, discussing it with her nephew Otto Frisch, a young nuclear physicist.

Lise Meitner was awarded with twenty-one scientific and public awards for her work and life In 1947 received the Science Prize of the city of Vienna. She was the first female member of the natural sciences class of the academy of sciences and honorary doctor of several universities. Although she had been nominated three times for the Nobel Prize, it was never awarded to her, since due to her escape she had not been able to continue collaborating in the research of Hahn, who was awarded in 1944 for the discovery of nuclear fission.

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Marta Gueli, Martina Cuttaia, Federica Ferro


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