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Einstein fondly referred to her as « our Marie Curie.» Meitner’s perceptive realization that atomic nuclei can be split in half was the first step in a cascading set of discoveries that would relentlessly lead to the atomic bomb.Fortunately, attention is gradually being refocused on this remarkable woman.Richard Rhodes devoted an appreciable section in The Making of the Atomic Bomb to Meitner’s work on nuclear fission.As with Curie (but rare for a woman at the turn of the century), the intellectual atmosphere that surrounded Meitner as a child nurtured her scientific proclivity.Only the second woman to obtain a doctoral degree in physics at the University of Vienna, she was soon drawn into the novel study of radioactivity.

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While this exile saved her life, it cost her the Nobel Prize and a prominent niche in many annals of physics.

Sime’s engrossing narrative shows how easy it was for so-called « good » Germans to rationalize their compromises and look the other way.

Dismissed from teaching, her name suppressed, Meitner hung on without protest, nervously hoping that the unpleasantness would be temporary.

They were an interdisciplinary yin and yang: Hahn, the chemist, Meitner,the physicist. Together, in 1917, they discovered a new element, protactinium.

Despite the terrible gender discriminations of the time (especially in Germany), Meitner’s deft abilities could not be ignored.