The Amazing Story of Lise Meitner (Hardback)
Escaping the Nazis and Becoming the World’s Greatest Physicist
The book describes how Lisa Meitner, of Jewish heritage, found herself working as a physicist at the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute in Berlin when the Nazis came to power in 1933; how she was hounded out of the country and forced to relocate to Sweden; how German chemists Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman continued with the project – on the effect of bombarding uranium (the heaviest known element at the time) with neutrons, a project which Lise herself had initiated, being the intellectual leader of the group.
It describes how Hahn and Strassmann, with whom she kept in touch, came up with some extraordinary results which they were at a loss to explain; how Lise, and her nephew Otto Frisch, who was also a physicist, confirmed what they had achieved - the ‘splitting of the atom’, no less, and provided them with a theoretical explanation for it. This laid the foundation for nuclear power, medical-scanning technology, radiotherapy, electronics, and of course, the atomic bomb - the creation of which filled Lise with horror.
It describes the crucial part that Lise played in our understanding of the world of atoms, and how deliberate and strenuous attempts were made to deny her contribution; to belittle her achievements, and to write her out of the history books, even though Albert Einstein said she was even ‘more talented than Marie Curie herself’.
The author is fortunate and honoured to have been granted several interviews with Lise’s nephew Philip Meitner – himself a refugee from the Nazis - who with his wife Anne, provided much valuable information and many photographs.
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Annie Buchanan
The book is layman accessible, and I found it a fascinating read. It's well annotated (and the chapter notes and index make for fascinating further reading) but doesn't get bogged down in overly academic language. The biography is straightforward and doesn't dwell too much on minutiae with a notable exception. The author is quite thorough in the chapter on the Meitner family connections which includes short one-paragraph bios on many of them which was interesting and gave some scope to the appalling losses during the war and how scattered families became during the early to mid 20th century.
The book is full of quotes from Meitner's own correspondence (she hints at lots of juicy academic gossip at the highest levels) as well as quotes from contemporary interviews and media reports on her and her work. What absolutely fascinating tales she could have told.
The chapter notes and bibliography are for papers and research many of which are presented in languages other than English (chiefly German) so readers who would like to delve deeper will need to read German or find translations.
Five stars. Heartily recommended for readers of science, history, and similar subjects. This would be a good choice for readers of science history who are not, themselves, physicists. Although the book is about physicists and their interactions and squabbles and politics, it's doesn't contain much actual physics (which is a plus for readers who don't have a strong maths or physics background).
This was a very enjoyable read about an amazing woman. At first, given the subject material, I was worried it would be very "science based" (as it was not my best subject in school!). But it wasn't. The author tells you just enough so that you have an idea of what's going on but the story is very much about Lise.NetGalley, Devon Stringer
Rating: 5 out of 5 starsNetGalley, Stephen Goldberg
I enjoyed this book. There is some great story-telling, especially about Lise Meitner's escape from Germany. It came across clearly to me that author Andrew Norman greatly admires Lise Meitner, but this book is not a fawning biography. I felt that it is an honest portrayal of Meitner’s personality and life.
Norman explains the science as he goes, with just enough detail to explain and no more. But this book isn't about science; science is the backdrop. The book is about friendship, rivalry, betrayal, and bigotry. At this, the book excels. Overall this book is well worth reading.