Otto Hahn


Otto Hahn

Photo from the Nobel Foundation archive.

Otto Hahn
The Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1944

Born: 8 March 1879, Frankfurt-on-the-Main, Germany

Died: 28 July 1968, Göttingen, West Germany (now Germany)

Affiliation at the time of the award: Kaiser-Wilhelm-Institut (now Max-Planck Institut) für Chemie, Berlin-Dahlem, Germany

Prize motivation: “for his discovery of the fission of heavy nuclei”

Otto Hahn received his Nobel Prize one year later, in 1945.

Prize share: 1/1


The discovery of the neutron in 1932 provided a powerful new tool for investigating atoms. When Otto Hahn and Fritz Strassman irradiated uranium with neutrons in 1939, they created barium, which was far too light an element to be a decay product of uranium. Hahn's long-time colleague, Lise Meitner, and her nephew, Otto Frisch, tackled the problem from a theoretical standpoint and proved that the uranium nucleus had been split. The phenomenon, later called “fission”, proved important in developing nuclear weapons and energy.

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