Nobel e-Museum
National Academy of Sciences

Otto Hahn's Laboratory Bench

Otto Hahn: 1879 - 1968

Awarded the 1944 Nobel Prize in chemistry for the discovery of fission. He missed the award ceremony because, at the time, he was a war prisoner of Great Brittain.

Hahn and associates Fritz Strassman and Lise Meitner were working away in late 1938 and early 1939 bombarding Uranium atoms with neutrons. The result seemed to be multiple atoms of Barium, element 56.

Meitner assisted in the publishing of two papers, "Disintegration of uranium by neutrons: a new type of nuclear reaction" and "Physical evidence for the division of heavy nucleii under neutron bombardment", which used the term "fission" for the first time.

Leo Szilard, having read the Hahn-Strassman paper wrote to Lewis Strauss on January 25, 1939: "I feel I ought to let you know of a very sensational new development in nuclear physics."

Otto Hahn , Lise Meitner, and Fritz Strassmann

What is Nuclear Fission?