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Nuclear Fission Reactor
Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman
Lise Meitner
Leo Szilard
Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman

Two German scientists, Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman, demonstrated nuclear fission in 1938. They found they could split the nucleus of a uranium atom by bombarding it with neutrons, the uncharged part of atoms. As the uranium nucleus split, some of its mass was converted to energy.

News of the discovery spread through the scientific community. Other physicists noticed the fission of one uranium atom gave off extra neutrons which could in turn split other uranium atoms, starting a chain reaction. In theory, this energy could be harnessed to make a powerful bomb.

Lise Meitner (1878 - 1968)
Lise Meitner earned her doctorate in physics in 1905 and was a long time co-worker of Otto Hahn. She is best known for her research on the relationship between beta and gamma rays and for discovering several new radioactive substances with Otto Hahn. In 1939, Meitner first used the phrase nuclear fission or Kernspaltung in German. Meitner gave the first theoretical explanation of fission. It should be noted that Lise Meitner refused to work on the atomic bomb.

Lise Meitner's Life
Figures in Radiation History - Lise Meitner
A Battle for Ultimate Truth - Lise Meitner
In 1945, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry to Otto Hahn for the discovery of nuclear fission, overlooking the physicist Lise Meitner, who collaborated with him in the discovery and gave the first theoretical explanation of the fission process.
Lise Meitner
In 1992, several years after her death, physicists named their 109th element ‘meitnerium’ in honor of Lise Meitner, finally giving her the official recognition she deserved.

Leo Sziland
Nuclear Fission Reactor - Leo Szilard
Leo Sziland invented the nuclear fission reactor in 1955 - National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Related Information
Nuclear Innovations

©Mary Bellis

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