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Lise Meitner


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About the Author

Ruth Lewin Sime is on the chemistry faculty at Sacramento City College. She co-wrote and narrated a BBC-TV program on Lise Meitner, A Gift From Heaven, which was named one of the best science programs of the year by The Royal Society in 1992.


Lise Meitner (1878-1968), a pioneering nuclear physicist, codiscovered nuclear fission with Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman. Hahn continued at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute throughout World War II while the Jewish Meitner had to flee to Sweden in 1938, and he later received the Nobel Prize for the discovery. Even given the political nature sometimes associated with this prize, Meitner and Hahn's subsequent failure to credit her contributions perpetuated this egregious distortion of the truth. Although a fascinating book, it is also annoying at times‘particularly when it deals with Meitner's refusal to see what was happening in Germany until it was almost too late for her to escape, and later during her years in Sweden. Whether it is the author's interpretation or actually Meitner's personality, there is a near-whining tone throughout this period‘at the same time that the author is recounting innovative second starts made by Meitner's cohorts. Aside from this criticism, Sime has produced a thorough and intelligent treatment of an extraordinary scientist who received little of the credit she is due. Highly recommended for history of science collections.‘Hilary Burton, Lawrence Livermore National Lab., Cal.

"Sime has produced a magnificent biography that should help rescue Meitner from oblivion. . . . The story, especially in the lead-up to the discovery of fission by Hahn, Meitner, and Strassman, is absolutely gripping, full of twists and false dawns."--Tania Monteiro, "New Scientist

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