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Lost Women of Science

Lost Women of Science

For every Marie Curie or Rosalind Franklin whose story has been told, hundreds of female scientists remain unknown to the public at large. In this series, we illuminate the lives and work of a diverse array of groundbreaking scientists who, because of time, place and gender, have gone largely unrecognized. Each season we focus on a different scientist, putting her narrative into context, explaining not just the science but also the social and historical conditions in which she lived and worked. We also bring these stories to the present, painting a full picture of how her work endures.

Copyright 2021 Lost Women of Science

For every Marie Curie or Rosalind Franklin whose story has been told, hundreds of female scientists remain unknown to the public at large. In this series, we illuminate the lives and work of a diverse array of groundbreaking scientists who, because of time, place and gender, have gone largely unrecognized. Each season we focus on a different scientist, putting her narrative into context, explaining not just the science but also the social and historical conditions in which she lived and worked. We also bring these stories to the present, painting a full picture of how her work endures.

Copyright 2021 Lost Women of Science

Part 1: Why Did Lise Meitner Never Receive the Nobel Prize for Splitting the Atom?

Thumbnail for "Part 1: Why Did Lise Meitner Never Receive the Nobel Prize for Splitting the Atom?".
September 7, 202326min 17sec

New translations of hundreds of letters explain, in a two-part episode of Lost Women of Science, why physicist Lise Meitner was not awarded the Nobel Prize in 1944 for splitting the atom. Instead, it was given to her long-time collaborator, chemist Otto Hahn.

Lise Meitner was born in Vienna in November of 1878 and moved to Berlin before the first World War where she started work with Hahn. When Marissa Moss came to research her biography of Meitner, The Woman who Split the Atom: The Life of Lise Meitner (2022), she found thousands of her letters in the Cambridge University archive, many of which had never been translated.

In this episode we're diving into one particularly illuminating aspect of Meitner's story: her letters with Hahn, which reveal not only that it was Meitner who discovered nuclear fission, when she interpreted experiments that Hahn could not understand, but also her fraught relationship with Hahn. She went to great lengths through her letters to understand his refusal to give her credit for her work before and after the 1944 Nobel Prize was awarded. This first episode takes us up to the end of World War Two.