Subscribe to e-news

Social networks


This project is funded by the European Commission. The content is the responsibility of the author and in no way represents the views of the European Commission.


* 7. 11. 1878, Vienna, Austria
† 27. 10. 1968, Cambridge, United Kingdom


A lawyer's daughter finished primary school in Vienna's Landstrasse in 1898 and then obtained private higher education, which she completed with a Matura examination at the Academic grammar school in Vienna. In 1901 she began to study mathematics and physics at the University of Vienna, where she also attended lectures of Ludwig →Boltzmann and Franz Exner and in 1906 became only the second woman to obtain a doctoral degree at the University of Vienna. During her studies, she met Stefan Meyer and Egon von Schweidler, who arouse M's interest in the exploration of radioactivity. Upon completion of her study, M. passed the proficiency examination, and in 1907 enrolled at Berlin University, where she studied theoretical physics under Max Planck. After finishing her education by 1910, M. was an assistant of theoretical physics at the Max Planck Institute between 1912 and 1915. During the First World War she served as a nurse in the Austrian military hospitals handling X-ray equipment. In 1922 she achieved her habilitation and was in 1926 appointed associate professor of experimental nuclear physics.
Between 1907 and 1938, M. worked together with Otto Hahn in the field of radioactivity at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Chemistry, which provided optimal conditions for work. Later she was given her own physics section at the Institute. From this period date the basic papers on beta-radiation and their other discoveries, which were the basis for subsequent research on nuclear fission. Already in 1911 they, together with Hahn and Otto von Bayer, using the magnetic ß-spectrograph found the first evidence for the existence of monoenergetic groups in the ß ray energy spectra, which were later proved as a y beam conversion electrons. Furthermore, M. dealt with the origin of y -rays, as well as with the Klein-Nishina formula on the absorption of y rays due to Compton scattering. Other research that she, Otto Hahn and James Franck conducted concerned the ∝ repulsion method, the movement of atoms, as well as the discovery of first long-lived isotope of the element protactinium and the improvement of Wilson Cloud chamber.
Due to her Jewish roots - even though she converted to Protestantism, being baptized in 1908 – she was forced to emigrate to Sweden in 1938. Initially she was active in the Technical University in Stockholm and at Nobel Institute for Physics, while in 1946 she took the lead of the department of nuclear physics at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Here M. worked together with her nephew Otto Robert Frisch on the research of physical interpretation of the fission process. Without a doubt one of her biggest scientific merits is cooperation with the team that discovered the first nuclear fission. She was also successful in the academic profession. Among other things, she taught Sigvard Eklund, later a manager of the International atomic energy agency, who is regarded as her most important student. The last years of her life this scientist, who up to her old age remained full of spirit and physical strength, lived with her nephew in Cambridge. She maintained close ties with her homeland Austria all her life. M. was awarded several times for her outstanding achievements. In 1948 in Vienna she was elected first female member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Already in 1924 she received silver Leibnitz Medal of the Berlin Academy of Sciences and in 1925 the Ignaz L. Lieben Award of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and an award of the city of Vienna for her achievements in the field of science in 1947. In addition to this she also received the Max Planck Medal of the German Physics Society in 1949, the Otto Hahn award in 1954 and the order of "Pour le Mérite" in 1957. Her importance was, however, increased by numerous memberships in national and international academies and associations, such as honorary doctorates at the University of Berlin and Stockholm. She was repeatedly unsuccessfully nominated for the Nobel Prize and finally, in 1990 her memory was honoured by naming the 109 element or the meitnerium after her. In 1958 she became honorary citizen of Vienna, and a street in the Wien-Donaustadt was named after her.

24. 05. 2011 - Opening of CESA in Košice

On 25th May, 2011 we will open the Central European Science Adventure in Slovak Technical Museum in Košice. The game will be accessible for school groups till 30th June. For more info ...

More >>

20. 04. 2011 - Opening of CESA in Budapest

On 4th May, 2011 we will open the Central European Science Adventure in Magyar Műszaki és Közlekedési Múzeum in Budapest. The game will be accessible for school groups ...

More >>

Izdelava spletnih strani:  Positiva