This biography of Lise Meitner (1878-1968), the Austrian Jewish female physicist at the heart of the discovery of nuclear fission, also looks at major developments in physics during her life. Meitner was a colleague and friend of many giants of 20th century physics: Max Planck, her Berlin mentor, Einstein, von Laue, Marie Curie, Chadwick, Pauli and Bohr. She was the first woman to earn a Ph.D. in physics at the University of Vienna, a pioneer in the research of radioactive processes and, together with her nephew Otto Robert Frisch, an interpreter of the process of nuclear fission in 1938. Yet at the end of World War II, her colleague of thirty years, radiochemist Otto Hahn alone was awarded the 1944 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for the “discovery” of nuclear fission — a discovery based on years of research in which Meitner was directly involved before her secret 1938 escape from Nazi Germany to Sweden.
“A story of one of the half dozen most remarkable women of the 20th century.” — John Archibald Wheeler, Princeton University
“Patricia Rife’s biography truly brings Meitner to life, both as a scientist and as a woman... Rife weaves Meitner’s personal struggles into the social and political fabric of her times. For example, the story of Meitner’s early career is told against the backdrop of the development of the new physics, with plentiful illumination of the limited prospects for women scientists in the German-speaking world during the early twentieth century. When Meitner's story enters the Nazi era — including her escape from Germany — it is as riveting as the best novel.” — Catherine Westfall,Technology and Culture
“A well-written, thorough, readable and engrossing work.” — Gary Goldstein, Peace and Change: a Journal of Peace Research
“Rife has produced an exciting book, which reads like a novel and she gives justice to Meitner’s life full of science and human stories... [The] book is a beautiful tribute to an outstanding scientist; it has a lot to teach us about our world; and it is a great read. I warmly recommend it to everyone interested in science and in history.” — Structural Chemistry
“Lise Meitner comes to life as author Rife skillfully weaves social, political, and scientific events into a well-researched and documented work. Lists of Meitner’s awards and publications and an extensive bibliography complete this excellent book.” — Association of Women in Science Magazine
“The dramatic tale of the discovery of nuclear fission on the eve of WWII... not just a story of ideas... but also of the social and intellectual milieu in which these ideas were developed. It is also the story of how a shy, self-effacing young woman, through talent and hard work, became a world-class scientist... Rife tells this story very well.” — The Antioch Review
“The particular merit of Rife’s biography of Austrian physicist Meitner is that it places her life and work within the historical context... It is comprehensive, generally clearly written... and appropriate for undergraduate students. Just enough science is included as to make clear the significance of her work... Extensive bibliography, informative footnotes.” — Choice