A snapshot biography of scientist Lise Meitner

Black and white historical photograph of physicist Lise Meitner standing in a garden. She is dressed in a long-sleeved dress with a high collar and a striped shirt underneath. On her head, she wears a wide-brimmed hat adorned with a ribbon. She is clasping her hands in front of her and looking off to the side, with a thoughtful expression. Behind her are large, leafy tropical plants.
Lise Meitner


It was the summer of 1938. For Lise Meitner, a Jewish scientist in Germany, the time had come to escape. Emigrating was no longer an option. A group of scientist friends who had become increasingly worried for her safety assembled a plan to smuggle Lise out of the country. 

On July 12th, with two small suitcases of summer clothes in hand and accompanied by a male Dutch scientist, she made it to the Netherlands by train. Then a few weeks later, to Sweden. Where she settled and, while struggling with adjusting to her new life, continued to work.

Approaching sixty years old at this time, she had dedicated her life to science and friendship. Shy as a child, she grew up enthused by math and science, a researcher in mind almost from the beginning. By eight, she kept records of observations in a notebook. And after years of private schooling, as her hometown of Vienna did not permit women to receive a higher education during most of her teenage years, Lise graduated college and then earned a doctorate in physics. 

After earning her doctorate, Lise became a physics professor. In the work she found purpose. And while she would deal with discrimination throughout her career, she became an essential contributor to the research in her field.


Click here to read a snapshot biography of another scientist, Rosalind Franklin.

Please consider supporting Historical Snapshots with a donation if you enjoyed this Lise Meitner snapshot biography. Visit our Patreon page to donate. Thank you for supporting us.

“A snapshot biography of scientist Lise Meitner” sources:

Portrait of Lise taken in 1906 / Image reprinted in Lise Meitner and the Dawn of the Nuclear Age with the caption “Shy Lise the doctoral candidate, 1906, Vienna. (Courtesy Master and Fellows of Churchill College, Cambridge, England) / Wikimedia Commons / Lise Meitner Wikipedia