Lise Meitner's career is a parable of one scientist overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles.
Of Lise's childhood we have few details. Even her date of birth is not entirely certain. In the birth register of Vienna's Jewish community it is listed as 17 November 1878, but on all other documents it is 7 November, the day Lise herself observed.
Lise played the piano too; all her life music would be a passion for her, as necessary as food. But she was especially curious about mathematics and science, an eight-year-old who kept a math book under her pillow and would ask about the colors of an oil slick and remember what she was told about thin films and the interference effects of reflected light.
Lise Meitner, like Marie Curie, was not stopped by deficient secondary education. With the help of a tutor and incessant hard work, she passed the Matura, the university entrance examination.
The issue of women's attendance, and later of postgraduates lecturing in the universities, is at the core of education rights for women in the twentieth century. Lise Meitner's experience as the first woman admitted to the University's physics department reflects the broader cultural shifts then taking place throughout academia.
... enabled Lise Meitner to develop a broader sense of self in relation to her work. In her leisure, among other books she read Ovid's Metamorphosis, a revealing notation on her calendar, since her move to Berlin was a most marked metamorphosis in her own life.
... Fischer's Chemical Institute was off-limits to women. After negotiations, a compromise was reached whereby Meitner could use a basement carpenter's room that had a separate entrance to the street, but she was not allowed to go upstairs into the institute, even to Hahn's laboratory. If she had to use the bathroom, she needed to walk to a nearby restaurant.
...Lise Meitner, the theoretical physicist who did indeed come up with the concept of fission. She had been one-half of a thirty-year partnership with chemist Otto Hahn, but she was a Jew and forced to flee Berlin in 1938, leaving her uranium experiments behind for Hahn and his assistant, Fritz Strassman, to run.
Fermi and his coworkers performed the first neutron bombardment of uranium in 1935, but misunderstood the results. Not until 1938 did Lise Meitner and Otto Frisch, then in Sweden, and Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassmann, in Berlin, introduce the concept of nuclear fission.
Meitner figured that the barium was a product of an unknown process and stewed over the problem until she conceived what's known as fission. Hahn won the Nobel Prize for the discovery in 1944.