I’m excited to announce the release of my new book Fission Girl: Lise Meitner’s Escape from Nazi Germany and Her Role in the Manhattan Project. Get your copy of Fission Girl here.
Lise Meitner was a Jewish-born female Austrian physicist, working in Berlin at the time of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. Though she co-discovered nuclear fission, the process of splitting an atom, with Otto Hahn, she was written out of the history books and Hahn alone received a Nobel prize. In this book, I attempt to set the story straight.
When Lise Meitner visited the United States for the first time in 1946, she became the center of a media circus. She was cast as the “Jewish mother of the [atomic] bomb,” based on a story in the Saturday Evening Post by William L. Laurence, who was given nearly exclusive access to the scientists at Los Alamos, the seat of the Manhattan Project. In this 1940 piece, Laurence depicted Meitner as the discoverer of nuclear fission, the process by which nuclei split into roughly equal halves, yielding untold amounts of energy that the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki unfortunately experienced first-hand. Colonel Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., the pilot of the Enola Gay, the bomber that dropped Little Boy upon Hiroshima, already having flown eleven and a half miles away from the site by the time the bomb exploded, recalled, “observing a silver blue flash and experiencing a strange feeling in his mouth, the same feeling as if he touched the lead and silver fillings in his mouth with a fork.”